15 – 19 April Beijing – China
We arrived in Beijing After the last spectaculair China landscapes from the train.
In Beijing we stayed in the hotel Xin Yuan Inn, located in the middle of the Hutong area (Hutongs are area’s with many narrow streets). Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
The start of our stay in Beijing was good; we had some beers with our train-friend Marouan. The view of the rooftop pub was fantastic. On the left we had a big lake and on the right we could see a beautiful temple. We didn’t check the menu before we ordered the beers. A few beers and the check later, we had to pay 60 euro’s for a few beers. After those drinks we had dinner a few blocks further – we had lots of food for the three of us for 8 euro’s.
Saturday morning was – again – an early one. We booked a tour to the Great Wall with Chinahiking including a camping overnight next to the wall. The hike on the wall was amazing; I was more impressed than I expected. This wall has a length of 6.000 km. We had beautiful views; the wall was always around us and the most special part was that we hiked an abandoned part of the wall. We didn’t see any other tourists.
The thought that people worked on this wall for more than 2000 years made me realize how impressive this place is. All the hard work to win the fight against the Mongolians.
After a 6 hour hike and just before sunset we created a small tent village next to the wall (to use the wall as cover for the hard wind). We enjoyed the view with Hans – a man from Norway – and our guide Heidi. Heidi is born in Mongolia but lives with her Belgium husband in Beijing. They are the owners of Chinahiking. Heidi’s English is perfect, she is sweet and most of all; very funny. Heidi brought a ‘white wine’ to keep us warm. We took a zip from this ‘white wine’ and we understood what she said about the wine keeping us warm. This wasn’t white wine but pure alcohol; hello 46%. Heidi told us this is the Chinese white wine, they drink it during dinner or in the morning as breakfast;). Crazy Chinese people.
Unfortunately finishing the white wine didn’t help us sleep – the ground was rocky and it was cold. Waking up seeing the sunrise made us all forget about the cold and the bad sleep; it was a fairytale. The birds woke up, the sun showed up behind the mountains and shined her light on the great wall. Ready for a new day.
In the afternoon we walked home through Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng District (near Lama Temple) for a coffee at Kitchen & Co. You can compare this street with the 9 streets in Amsterdam. Lovely shops and lots of great coffee places and restaurants. We ended this day in a hipster bar/restaurant called 4Corners. Great food (including sweet potatofries), all different kind of beers and a very nice owner.
Monday we traveled to the Summer Palace with thousands of other tourists. The only difference between us; we were blond, tall and didn’t have a selfiestick – even men were walking proudly with their pink selfiestick. Walking was a challenge; there was a big change you’d be hit by a selfiestick and people wanted to make pictures of us. We found out there are two types of Chinese paparazzi.
1. The sneaky ones. They do a small run so they are in front of you, grab their selfiestick and make a picture. They smile carefully to you and run away – cheering.
2. The ones with currage. They ask if they can make a picture. After permission they aare as happy as a kid. Don’t expect only children asking this, we got this question especially from people above the 40.
Kasper thought about asking an euro for every picture that was made, we would be rich by now if that would have worked ;-).
Tuesday we prepared ourselves again for the paparazzi because the Forbidden City was waiting for us. They told us to be on time; they have a visitors maximum. They only allow 80.000 people (80.000 people!!). Despite all those people everything went super smooth. The Forbidden City is great to see and eveywhere you walk you see something beautiful. The Chinese love small details.
We didn’t expect anything of Beijing and it was the first time in China for the both of us. After a few days in this city we can tell we fell a bit in love. For everybody who is planning to go here; please do! The people are amazingly friendly – a bit weird though due to their habits but that’s just because we are not used to it -, the food is super tasty and the thing I liked the most is the variaty of this city. You want real Chinese? Possible. Are you looking for Western places? They have plenty. Rather have a hipster place? They have enough. You love crowded streets? Or you like to have no people around you? Seriously, they have it all.
A bit difficult is the Chinese language and the fact they don’t talk any English. Difficult with ordering in a restaurant – always a surprise what dinner will be – but also when you are looking for the toilet. The word toilet or wc isn’t in their vocabulairy. Luckily they have public toilets on every corner (notice; there are no doors between the toilets)- seen the fact I need to pie a thousand times a day, this is totaly my city.
So this is not a goodbye but a see you soon. Beijing thanks for beiing so great – Kuala Lumpur here we come!