Beijing: I Hate Steps – Part, The Second

In which I recollect my second trip to Beijing

13th February 2012 – After landing, I took the airport express train to the middle of Beijing, which then allowed me to change onto the Beijing subway to get to my hostel. It took me maybe an hour and a quarter after getting my bag to get to the hostel, which is pretty good. I managed to find the hostel easily, as I’d prepared my map and directions beforehand, always handy. Had a nice chicken burger in the hostel and went to bed pretty early as I needed to get up early and buy my ticket back to Ordos the next day.

14th February 2012 – I was very stupid this morning. I got up early and caught a taxi to Beijing West station, but forgot my passport so I couldn’t buy a ticket! I knew that I had to devote as much of that day as possible to getting one so I headed back to the hostel to pick up my passport and try again. I went to the taxi queue, but it was ridiculous. I decided that I’d head to the bus station to try and find a bus that went relatively near where I wanted to be. Luckily I’d been paying attention to my surroundings in the taxi on the way over and had seen the number 52 bus near Tiananmen Square and it was in the bus station! I caught it and ended up getting off at one stop to take the subway, which was next to one of the bus stops. I nipped quickly back to the hostel, took the subway back to the stop I’d got off the bus at and caught the bus to the station again. I hadn’t lost out in any way ticket-wise thankfully. Before I was being offered a middle bunk hard sleeper, and when I got back I was offered the same. Phew, ticket bought I headed for some breakfast, as by this time it was around 10am. I got on the 52 bus again to head to the Drum Tower, as the bus passed relatively near to it. It was next to the Bell Tower.

Bell Tower, Beijing

Bell Tower

Just like in Xi’an they were together. They were in the middle of hutongs, which are old Chinese streets, however there were more steeps steps to get up to the drums themselves.

Drum tower, Beijing


Darn steps! I was rewarded however, with one of the drum demonstrations they do during the day. I have to say it was very noisy!Drum tower, Beijing

Drum tower, Beijing

After the Drum Tower I wandered into more of the hutongs and saw a frozen lake and a nice bridge

bridge in Beijing

Nice bridge!

and a bunch of Chinese dressed as clowns

Valentine's clowns, Beijing

Valentine’s Day clown

who seemed to be delivering bouquets of flowers for Valentine’s Day! I ended up eating more pizza at a place that was recommended in my Rough Guide. It was pretty awesome as you can see.

Pizza in Beijing


Saw some funny signs as per usual.bad translation in Beijing


bad translation in Beijing

Nooning is a word in the OED however…

bad translation in Beijing

I still don’t know where they got ‘nooning’ from and who thought that bikes were coaches.

I wandered over to Beihai Park after lunch, which is one that Morgan and I saw last time but didn’t go in.  I saw lots of dragons, what with the Five Dragon Pagodas

Five Dragon Pagodas, Beijing

Five Dragon Pagodas

and the Nine Dragon screen

9 dragon screen, Beijing

Nine Dragon Screen

 (which aside from the 9 big dragons had over 600 other dragons on it too!) and is mostly comprised of water, although obviously that has changed state to ice at the moment. I also saw a crazy amount of stray cats. They were everywhere and seemed to be fed by the locals who frequented the park.

Ducks in Beijing

Cute ducks

Drunk e-bike

Now listen kids, no smocking, it’s bad for you…

Beihei Park

I had a nice stroll round and went back to the hostel for a break. I was going to ask them a good place to eat duck, and also a good place to get a massage, but as I walked back, and was not more than 5 minutes from the hostel, I stumbled across a nice looking massage place. I walked in and was immediately hooked by the smell. I booked for a body and shoulder massage for two days later, which at just under £17 I thought was a bit of a bargain, despite being more expensive than other places, which just didn’t look as nice. After some lunch, I headed to the Temple of Heaven, which is situated in a park south of the main area of Beijing. I took the subway (honestly, I hate calling it the subway, I hate other things about it, but I will save that for one of my travel articles, so watch this space) to the East gate of the park. I wandered around and saw all the locals playing a card game I think they call it bridge, but I’m not too sure.

Temple of Heaven (sepia)

I then went to the Temple of Heaven, which is a gorgeous structure. The sun and blue sky really helped set it off in my photos

Looking like a BBC foreign correspondent again, Duncan?

 though I did end up playing around with all the effects on my camera too.

Negative effect

 After heading back I went for Beijing Duck (bei jing kao ya), the hostel had recommended one not 10 minutes walk from there. It’s a more expensive meal, even more so in some areas of Beijing, but it being Valentine’s Day, and me being the most important person in my life right now, I knew it was a no brainer. I had an absolute feast and probably ate enough for 2 and a half people

bei jing kao ya

 but it was delicious and at ¥139 for it and 2 beers, I was more than happy, but couldn’t walk, oops. The waitress and I had a laugh about it anyway. That’s one thing to note, I knew more Chinese this time compared to the last time I was in Beijing, so that really helped. Another early night as I was getting up early to do the Great Wall the next day.

15th February 2012 – Another early start, with a breakfast included in my tour price so that was a bonus. We got on the bus which took about an hour and a half to drive to Mutianyu, the part of the Wall that we were visiting. David and Morgan had recommended the section when they went to Beijing in November. We had a guide who told us a little about the Wall and its history, and told us where we would meet to have lunch. He gave us our tickets and most of us then bought tickets for the cable car, to give us maximum time at the top of the Wall. In the queue for the cable car, I met Urszula from Poland, but lives in London, who was travelling around China for 3 weeks or so. She was lovely and we spent the day together. Just like with Alex and Russ at HuaShan, it was great to spend the day with somebody, especially doing something as amazing as HuaShan or the Great Wall, as you were sharing the experience with someone else. You can go “wow, isn’t that view amazing?” and someone will answer you. It enhances the experience in my opinion. Anyway, it was just like this when we got to the top of the cable car. The view across the Wall was amazing and we couldn’t wait to get started walking it. We’d been warned by the guide that it wasn’t an easy walk, and many other people have told me the same, but I didn’t want to believe it until I saw it. It was difficult in places and my poor legs were having HuaShan flashbacks. I don’t think I really need to go into much detail, and just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Urszula and I

Displaying the colours! This is now my token photo for anything.

There were however, a couple of funny things we saw on the Wall. One was a sign, which I’m not sure what it was trying to say

Erm, what?

 and the other was a donkey. We’d walked up one section and on the way back there was a donkey. I couldn’t get the image of it having used the cable car to get to the top out of my head.

What are you doing here?

Anyway, to get down from the Wall, you could either walk, take the cable car, or there was a third option, a toboggan run. This made me laugh; I wondered whether Hazel would take the toboggan run after the incident in Germany all those years ago… Urszula and I chose the toboggan of course, which was really fun. We got to the bottom and headed to the restaurant we would be eating at. It was like lunch at the Terracotta Army, where we had the lazy Susan in the middle and lots and lots of Chinese dishes to share. Around the table there was myself, Urszula, a couple from Spain, a couple from Italy, two brothers from France and a mother and daughter, who were definitely foreign, spoke good English but didn’t find out where they were from. One of the brothers was on crutches, so he did fantastically well to do the Wall. He lives in Shanghai and his brother is over to visit him, so between us we were the experts on China, whilst everyone else had spent little time in China so far. It was a good meal and shortly afterwards we headed back to Beijing. Urszula and I swapped emails which is great. Was chilling in the hostel writing postcards when who should I bump into but Nico, the guy I met in the Xi’an hostel! I’d told him I was staying at this hostel when he mentioned that he needed a hostel in Beijing, but didn’t expect him to choose it. We had a nice catch up and he was looking forward to going to Hong Kong after Beijing to meet up with his girlfriend who he hadn’t seen for 5 weeks.

16th February 2012 – I woke up fairly early as I had booked my massage for 11am and I wanted to get a visit to the Ancient Observatory in before that. It’s an old building in the middle of the city which is odd, but nice.

Ancient Observatory

 It had a fantastic selection of different astronomical instruments and was fascinating. There was even a picture of Tony Blair visiting the place in 1998. I went for my massage and it was divine. The hour passed by so quickly and my back and shoulders felt like they were glowing. I decided that as I was on holiday, I would book a foot massage for the next day, to treat my horribly tired feet! I grabbed some lunch at the hostel and then headed onto the Military Museum. It had looked pretty impressive from the outside when I had passed it on the bus going to and from the railway station, so thought it worth a look. It was free to get into as well, which was a bonus, especially considering that once I’d seen the tanks

Tank, obviously.

and the planes in the hangers outside, the inside was a little disappointing. There were some nice exhibits

Nice picture

 but it seemed like they were doing a lot of work to the place.

Anyway, I now knew it was time for me to let off some shopping steam, so headed to Xidan which I knew would have an H&M because I went there last time. Got a few things there, more summery clothes what with the move down south and then headed for the Silk Market, as I was in need of new shoes (what with various holes and sending my walking boots home, I was only going to be left with 2 pairs of shoes and my flip flops!), and a raincoat for the weather down south. I came out with three pairs of shoes, a nice Jack Wolfskin rain jacket and some headphones, so I did pretty well in not straying too far off my list, which can easily be done in the Silk Market. You must go in with a list and be prepared to bargain your arse off! Went back to the hostel to pack all my stuff and then went to the free dumpling party the hostel holds every week. As I’d managed to make dumplings before, I was seen as a pro and my dumplings were ok if I say so, though not all of them if you look at this picture.

Our efforts…

The staff made a better job of it, of course

… the staff efforts!

 and put a couple of coins in the dumplings – if you found them you got a free beer! I met an Argentinean couple and a guy from Chile whilst making the dumplings. They spoke good English but also spoke a lot of Spanish and kept apologising to me. I didn’t mind, I told them, as we all want to use our own language when we can! We ate the dumplings and I managed to find the coin, lucky me! By this time I was also chatting to a guy from London called Paul, who was spending his first night in China. We had a great chat about anything and everything then saw the time was 1am and decided to hit the hay.

17th February 2012 – Got up fairly early to go to the Planning Exhibition. Steph had recommended it to me because of the model of Beijing they have.

Planning Exhibition model

It was well worth going to have a look at, though afterwards, my feet were utterly grateful for the foot massage! Felt like I was walking on air, it was lovely.

Headed to the Forbidden City after lunch, as although I did it last time I was in Beijing, I didn’t do much of it, having just walked straight through it, not realising how much else there was to see.

Arty farty attempts

So this time I stayed on the right hand side and saw the clock museum that again Steph had recommended. Most of the clocks were pretty gaudy

One of the many over the top clocks.

but I did like the small sunflower clock.I also wandered around the Treasure Gallery, but wasn’t too impressed with that. I did manage to find a book called “101 Stories for Foreigners to understand Chinese people.” It’s brilliant. It discusses many things I have experienced out here that people will not believe. I can’t wait to bring that home at some point and explain it to everyone. I left the Forbidden City and headed up to Jingshan Park. It’s got the great view back across the Forbidden City and it may be my favourite view in Beijing

Back across to the Forbidden City – though the sun was being a pain in the arse so not a great photo

 as you can see 360 degrees around. I sat at the top for a while, as I was in the sun and out of the wind. I wandered around the park at the bottom of the hill

Jingshan Park

 and just as I was about to leave, I bumped into Paul, who I’d met at the hostel the previous night. I’d told him to go to the park, and I went back up to the top of the hill with him, having a good chat all the while. He’d been to the Forbidden City that day too. We headed back to the hostel and ate together, all the while I was giving him ideas of what to do in China, go to Xi’an, HuaShan and he said that every time he meets new people they give him new ideas of things to do, which is a great way to travel I think. Nico came in and I introduced the guys to each other. I’d told Paul about Nico so it was good for him to put a name to a face. I soon headed to Beijing West station and back to Ordos.

About to get on the train home!

 I had a good sleep on the train back, I will certainly not mind getting a hard sleeper again, though hopefully not a top bunk as I had enough trouble trying to get into my middle bunk, I don’t have the body strength needed it seems.

A final photo from Beijing, an advert:

Yao Ming, famous basketball player, is 7″6′. This picture is how I feel in China too!

Anyway, once I got back to Ordos I had lots of post waiting for me, a new USB stick (after I’d accidently binned my old one!) and a dress I’d ordered off taobao and finally a parcel from Grandma and Grandpa, yay! I posted a parcel home with stuff I didn’t need/want in Zhangzhou and also a parcel to myself to Zhangzhou, saving me carrying it.

I had an amazing holiday and met some fantastic people. Though now I have to begin saving to get my flight home for the Olympics in July/August and my flight to New Zealand, whether I go in September or December. That’s yet to be decided!

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