So our fifth and final stop on the Trans-Mongolian led us to Beijing, the capital of China. As the capital of the most populated country in the world, it was quite crazy. When you walk through the streets, there’s so much going on. It is worth visiting as there’s a balance between modern skyscrapers and old ancient sites which date back 3000 years.
By the time we arrived in Beijing we were all quite tired so it was nice to be in one place for more than a few days. Wendy also has a few friends, so it was nice to be shown more of the local places.
The Great Wall of China
One of the new 7 wonders of the world and it’s not difficult to see why. A wall spanning 5,500 miles from Dandong in the East to Lop Lake in the West. The wall originated in the 5th century and was finished sometime in the 17th century. Nowadays, many parts of the wall have been restored especially those sections closest to Beijing. These sectors are filled with coach loads of tourists and are very popular with the Chinese who are visiting from other cities. As a result, they are often cramped and lacks authenticity, most so in the summer. It’s better to get further out to enjoy parts of the wall which hasn’t been restored. We hired a private driver who drove us to Gubei water town, which is where the Simatai wall is located. It took about 1.5 hours to drive from central Beijing to the water town and about 2.5 hours on the way back due to traffic. It’s worth going here as when we were walking we hardly saw any people. Here you have the option of getting the cable car up/down from the wall or just walking along the wall. The walk from tower 1-8 is about 5km to do the loop. Some parts of the wall are quite steep and the original steps are quite uneven.
We didn’t spend any time in the water town, but if you have the time it’s worth spending 2 nights, 1 day there. It’s a very beautiful town and you could spend 1 day on the wall and the next walking around the town. There’s very little English spoken here so using a translation app helps or have something written down already if you are doing it solo.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven situated in the southern eastern part of Beijing is probably one of my favourite temples. Once you walk into the grounds, the beeping, honking and general hustle and bustle disappear. We also went on a sunny day so it was nice to wander around the grounds. As we had just come from Mongolia with low, sub-zero temperatures, walking around 0 degrees was like being in the tropics. This temple was used during the Ming and Qing dynasties where the Emperors would visit to pray for good harvest for the country. The unique, circular shape of the main temple makes it very aesthetically pleasing and different from many other temples.
We decided on watching a kung-fu show in the red theatre, situated near the temple of heaven. It was a show made for tourists and the story is spoken in English with Chinese subtitles. It’s more of a story rather than ‘kung-fu’ but there are still cool elements to it. Our seats were pretty good, 6 rows from the front.
We didn’t go to Forbidden City. We attempted to on a Monday, when they are closed (Doh!). However, after listening to some negative reviews, Mike didn’t think it was worthwhile. Wendy has been to it before, and thinks Summer Palace is much prettier and nicer. We did, however, get to go to the lego version to see some of my people. ?
Wangfujing Shopping Street
The famous shopping street which is home to several malls and the ‘traditional’ food street, where you can encounter random food on sticks.? ?It’s quite touristy here so do watch your bags/pockets.
We stayed in the Capital Hotel, located perfectly in central Beijing. It’s a 5-7 minute walk to Chongwenmen Station (line 2-loop) and about 30-minute walk to Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square and a 20-minute walk from Wangfujing shopping street. The staff are friendly and the room was clean and spacious. English is limited here, but they do the best they can to help.
And here’s what we consumed….
We shall see you soon from our next stop, Xian!