China 2016 Part 2 – Beijing

Posted on January 29, 2017

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The transit from Shanghai to Beijing from the very start was the journey from hell. I left my hostel with a throat infection and feeling feverish, dripping with sweat as I boarded my Metro train to catch my scheduled Bullet Train. Time is running against me to catch my said Bullet train with barely minutes to spare and I’ve still got to queue for my ticket, go through security checks and have my ticket inspected to get on board. It proved to be a tall order as I miss my train despite arriving 5 minutes before scheduled departure, as passengers must board 10 minutes before the train leaves the platform. Fortunately it wasn’t all bad news as I was able to change my ticket, free of charge at a desk for the next train to Beijing. Two hours later I boarded the next available train and in six hours I was at Beijing South station.

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First impressions of Beijing? Loud. Intense. Densely populated. And that was just the train station at rush hour. But after finding my hostel in the Sunlitun district of the city, I immediately unpacked and planned my five-day stay in the Chinese capital. I paid for a trip to the Great Wall the following morning and headed straight for bed, being literally too sick and tired to make new friends for the time being.IMG_1895.jpg

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I woke up at 7am ready for a bus to take us to the Great Wall, which was around a 2-hour ride from Beijing. We visited the Mutianyu part of the Wall, which can only be accessed either by Cable Car or a chairlift. I chose the latter as you were also able to go down via a sled. In hindsight, I made the correct decision.

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The Great Wall itself is just as hard to walk down, as it is to walk up as the ancient monument has unleveled steps, which confused my legs heaps. Couple that with the sun beaming its summer rays and flu to fight off and it was quite a task. But the sled down the wall more than compensated for this. A once in a lifetime moment I will remember for the rest of my life.IMG_1925.jpg

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That evening I headed for the famed Wanjujing Food market, where it’s known that scorpions and all matter of multi-legged insects where available for human consumption. I had a crowd of other tourists surround me as I was about to take a bite into a small scorpion. Risking death, I ate it and it didn’t actually taste too bad. A bit wheaty in terms of texture, but decent enough. I then played it safe and tried some spicy lamb skewers before watching some Chinese street opera.

Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City were my next destinations of my whistle-stop to-do list of Beijing. I had been warned prior to going by fellow travellers that Tiananmen Square had no shade whatsoever and it was advisable to wear a hat. Fortunately it was a humid, hazy day with no harsh sunlight. Whether that was down to pollution or cloud, is down to your own interpretation. The Forbidden City itself is a vast, empirical fortress that has stood the test of time. It’s an imposing place, almost a city within a city as dynasties and civilisations have come and gone throughout the centuries it has been around. To really discover it would take at least the entirety of a single day, so arrive early.

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I couldn’t come to Beijing and not go to the famous Hutong alleyways. It was a Saturday so it was especially busy weaving around narrow streets full of shops, places of residences and eateries. It was a fascinating look at how people live their day-to-day. For a city of 22 million people, Beijing, or any other city’s, main attraction/star of the show are its people. This is a must if you plan on visiting the capital if you want to see the real city.

On my last full day, I visited The Temple Of Heaven and the surrounding Tiantan Park, which was might I add, quite a titan sized park. Sorry. So big in fact, that there were places where one area had marriage adverts – a dedicated section of parents advertising their offspring’s suitability for marriage. Another for people that want to practice Tai Chi, one for exploring the temples, just to name a few.

In the evening, feeling quite exhausted, I went around the corner from my hostel to a Chinese Football game, with the local side Beijing Gudon playing a home game. I paid around Y150 (£15) and had been tipped to buy a ticket 5 minutes after the match commenced as the price would drop significantly. I took a risk by purchasing one from a tout and it paid off. I could sit anywhere I liked within the stand and had a seat in alignment with the centre circle – perfect! I also sat next to a fellow compatriot. Unfortunately, the game itself wasn’t great and the standard on display wasn’t on par with that of League One in England. And that’s putting it mildly. It ended 0-0.

After cramming in Beijing in a short space of 5 days, it was time to head to my next destination – Xian.

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