Thursday, November 25, 2010

China Recap Part 1: Beijing

Warning: this post is long, and quite picture-heavy!

We're back from China! It was a perfectly amazing trip, and we had a great time. I have lots of stories to write about and even more pictures to share, so I'm slowly going through and getting things together. I think I'll end up doing 4 separate posts (one for each city we went to), so I'll start now with the first part of our trip:


Beijing was awesome sauce, I must say. We spent a total of 4 days here, plus one extra at the very end of our trip. We arrived (after a 4 hour flight from Tokyo, after a 5 hour train journey from Misawa) to an amazing hotel in one of the hutong districts- the traditional coutyard homes laid out in a sort of communal fashion in a network of alleyways with little restaurants and shops along the streets. So much character in these neighborhoods.

The alleyway leading up to our hotel, The Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel
Down the alleyway from the entrance to our hotel in the hutong. The area was so interesting and I'm sooo glad we stayed here instead of at one of the more standard hotels (even with the occasional whiff of sewage in the alley).

We love, love, loved our hotel (Beijing Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel). It was beautiful, convenient and the staff was unbelievably helpful and friendly. We had so much fun here, and it was by far our favorite hotel of the whole trip.

The courtyard of the hotel

2nd hotel room
After our first 2 nights in a regular room, we were upgraded to this GORGEOUS suite. I loved that canopy bed!

First off, let me say: Beijing is HUGE. Things that look totally walk-able on a map are miles and miles apart. Even on the subway, it easily took an hour to reach various destinations in town. That being said, taxis were relatively easy to come by, and the subway system was super easy and cheap (2 RMB to go anywhere in the city, which is about 30 cents). So it was really easy to get around.

The first day we made our way to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Again, this place was giant. We had no clue just how big it was when we got there. We spent the entire day there and still didn't even see everything. Corey loved it. I loved it too, but was a liiiitle Forbidden City'ed out by the end of the day. It was fantastic to see though.

The next day was our big Great Wall hike. Unbelievable! We booked with Beijing Backpacker's Association to go on a hike of a largely unrestored section of the wall which is much less touristy than other areas (from Jinshanling to just before Simatai, which is closed right now). In fact, we only saw maybe 10 people (other than our group of 16- who were awesome people we really enjoyed meeting by the way) during the whole 3-hour hike on the wall.

Gorgeous views- the wall wound across the hills as far as the eye could see.

Many areas were literally crumbling away. Made for stunning scenery!

It was incredible. The views were gorgeous, we saw passed through 22 towers, and while I was pretty pooped by the end, it was well-worth the experience. Definitely something I'll remember doing forever!

Over the next 2 days, we visited the Temple of Heaven park:

Temple of Heaven

Lines of people sitting along the benches playing cards and dominos.
This park was great for people watching. All over there were groups of people sitting around playing cards and dominos, other groups were practicing ballroom dancing in large groups, doing martial arts, playing various games and large group exercising. I could have spent all day here!

Saw an acrobatic show:

The show was ok... Corey likened it to watching a high-school talent show. One of the kids didn't look like he could be older than 10...

Went to Olympic Park:

The Bird's Nest

Toured the Summer Palace (which was our favorite sight other than the Great Wall, and wish we had devoted an entire day to exploring it rather than the 3 hours or so we were able to. It's absolutely stunning, and absolutely gargantuan.):

View in the Summer Palace

Performances at the Summer Palace

and took a cooking class (in the hutong home of a great lady and her family who helped us make braised pork ribs, 2 different beef stir frys, and an eggplant dish. YUM! and so much fun!):

Unfortunately, my knee has been a little wonky lately, and all the stairs on the great wall hike combined with all the miles and miles we were walking every day did a number on me. I ended up hobbling around with an extreme limp for most of the rest of the trip. It was not ideal, but luckily we were still able to do just about everything we wanted to (albeit with more pain than I would have liked). Going to the doctor next week...

Anyway for more pictures of our trip (there are gazillions; for each picture on this blog there are 30 more on my picture page, and for each of those pictures there are 30 more which are just staying right on our hard drive), visit the China album on my picture page.

Next up... Xi'an!

1 comment:

LizzyB said...

Yay! Love the idea of dividing up the posts. Love the pictures as usual. I can't wait to see China and I'm glad I can reference your blog before I go someday to see the best sights. Looks like you guys were busy seeing everything there was to see. So awesome.