Monday, 18 April 2011

April 6th to 10th ~ Beijing, China

Our journey to Beijing began with flying. Lots and lots of flying. 17 hours (with a 3 hour stop in Kuala Lumpur) to be exact. The long, mostly sleepless, flights resulted in tired bodies and sore backsides (note to self: Malaysia Airlines have hard seats - bring a pillow to sit on!), but we toughed through it in anticipation of reaching China!

The pretty impressive looking Kuala Lumpur airport.

The girls making use of the stop over to get in a quick nap (using the carry on luggage as makeshift foot rests).

Anisa is writing this post for Beijing but I feel that I, (Lisa) must add a small entry regarding flying, as my experience with this mode of transport was soooo horrific! I have mentioned before that I don't enjoy flying as it is boring and cramped and my sinus and ears don't fare well and that is just with my experiences of flying 2-3 hours. So I now officially hate, loathe and fully despise flying! I cannot sleep unless heavily drugged (KL to Beijing was drug induced sleep!), my feet and ankles swelled up to hideous proportions, my head, sinus and eyes felt like they were going to explode, and twice on landing I thought I was going to vomit copious amounts of grossness. I won't mention how I looked and the insipid colour of my face when I finally made it to Beijing. Please, please, please can I have Genie powers so I can blink myself from country to country?! But now back to Beijing...

Once we landed in Beijing we were greeted by Peter, our private tour guide, and Mr Cho, our driver. Peter assured us he was the "best tour guide in Beijing" (a title that we came to agree with!) and that Mr Cho was a "masterful driver". And a masterful driver he was, having to navigate the chaos that is the Beijing roads! In China it's pretty much a free for all when it comes to the roads. Seeing an indicator light is a rare sight, lane lines are a guide, rather than a rule and the sound of car horns fills the air, not to mention that pedestrians simply walk out on the roads whenever they feel like, weaving between cars.

Peter, the best tour guide in Beijing.

Mr Cho, our masterful driver.

After a quick but thrilling ride we reached our hotel, the beautiful Intercontinental. As we were so tired from all the flying, we spent the afternoon lounging in our rooms (Anisa had a separate room - which she enjoyed thoroughly) before ordering room service for dinner.

The view from Anisa's hotel room showing a very busy China, even late at night!

Lisa and Anisa going Asian with Hainanese Chicken as their first meal in China.

Kieran not as ready to dive into Asian cuisine, instead opting for a burger with fries.

The next morning, after a delicious buffet breakfast, we were picked up by Peter and Mr Cho to begin a day of sightseeing. Despite being Autumn, it was quite chilly (the exact opposite weather of when Anisa came to Beijing last year during a hot and humid Chinese Summer). We began the day with Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. As soon as we got out of the car, the hawkers (street sellers) descended on Kieran. Unfortunately, as the only "100% white guy" (an actual quote from a Chinese man we met on the street) of our family he could hardly walk 50m before having goods thrust in his face with the sellers promising "I give you good price!". Most of the time Anisa and Lisa could blend in with the crowd - Anisa even had quite a few people speak to her in Chinese.

Tianamen Square with the Forbidden City in the distance. Even though there was people everywhere, Peter told us this was an off day!

Inside the Forbidden City. It was huge and so ornate!

In front of a copper male lion statue inside the Forbidden City. It is paired with a female lion statue (which is out of frame). These statues are found all throughout Beijing and show that the male should have power (represented by the ball under it's foot) and the female should look after the family (represented by a lion cub under it's foot).

The love tree in the royal gardens of the Forbidden City.

After enjoying a lunch of authentic Beijing noodles in a local restaurant (and thanks to our local guide, Peter, he took us to the real local restaurants, not the westernised Chinese restaurants), we went to the Temple of Heaven. Lisa's footwear of choice (the classic Aussie thongs) were somewhat of an oddity in Beijing as the Chinese only wear open toed shoes inside their houses. It's "not healthy" remarked Peter when he noticed Lisa's uncovered feet. Her toes were also painted bright red so this explains the many looks, from her face, directly to her feet!

The Temple of Heaven

We then headed to the fake markets, where they sell everything from fake Prada to fake Converse at next to nothing prices. In these markets (as with most markets around China), no prices are set in stone; everything is up for bartering! Rule of thumb is whatever price the shopkeeper says, offer a fifth or sixth of the price. So that D&G bag they want for 1000 yuan, offer 150 yuan. It may sound crazy, but it works! As much as they beg and plead (we got a lot of "You take the food from my mouth!" and "Haha, no, that is your joke price! No more joking, give me your real price!"), you'll end up getting that bag for 180 yuan (and they'll be getting a decent profit too!). Luckily, Anisa was already a seasoned barterer from her last trip to Beijing so, after some hard tactics she left with 2 pairs of Converse shoes for 155 yuan ($11 each) and a pair of Ray Ban sunnies for 33 yuan ($5),

Before heading to our next destination, we took a brief pitstop at a local convenience store. There were a number of weird and wonderful products, our personal favourites being Cucumber Lay's Potato Chips and Seaweed Pringles.

We ended up leaving with 6 bottles of water, 4 cans of softdrink and a packet of biscuits all for a measly 22.80 yuan - only $3.45! Everything in China is so cheap!

We then headed over to the Beijing Red Theatre to see 'The Legend of Kungfu', the story of a little boy who, through the practice of Kungfu and Zen, becomes a master and reaches the sacred goal of enlightenment. The performance was a flurry of Kungfu expertise including the usual stunning kicks, jumps and gymnastics but also other kinds of amazing entertainment like metal plates being broken on performer's heads and one particular performer lying on nails while bricks and even other performers were piled on top of him.

One of the young Kungfu artists that starred in the show who greeted us as we entered the theatre.

After a busy day of sightseeing it was finally time for dinner where we enjoyed the world famous Beijing Peking Duck. The chef came out to our table where we watched him carve the duck with speed and skill. We were then taught the traditional way to eat Peking Duck using thin crepe pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and a special sauce. It was delicious!

The chef carving our duck with a massive cleaver.

The waitress showing us how to make the Peking Duck wrap.

Getting into the delicious duck!

The next day began with one of China's most famous attractions, The Great Wall of China! And for some reason Peter thought he should take us to one of the steepest parts of the Great Wall! A part of the Great Wall that wound up and along a mountain. A part of the Great Wall that was so steep that it was known as the 'hero climb'. The sign at the base of the Wall declared that you were not a true Chinese hero until you had climbed the Great Wall. As we got out of the car we stared up at the wall in almost horror at the huge feat ahead of us. "Peter!", Dad said, "Why did you take us to this part of the Wall? Why couldn't we have had the nice, flat Great Wall!" but Peter only shepherded us towards the entrance saying "Go! Go be hero!". And so we did. It was long and hard and Lisa thought her "gammy knee" was about to fall off, but we made it! There was even a little store at the top selling 'Hero certificates' for making it so far. But what was even more astonishing than the steep climb was seeing local Chinese seniors, some looking around 80 years old, and young Chinese women in 5 inch heels trekking up the Wall along with us!

At the base of the Wall with the sign declaring that we would not be true Chinese heroes until we climbed the Wall!

Taking a break from the climb.

So steep and still a ways to go!

Looking back on how far we've come.

After an exhausting morning, it was over to the Jade Factory for a tour and lunch. We saw intricate Jade pieces being carved and were shocked to discover that jade comes in a rainbow of colours (not just green!) including orange, red and black. We were then led into the showroom where you could buy everything from jade necklaces and earrings to jade statues and bowls.

The very bright and shiny jade showroom.

Lisa bought these jade bracelets (one dark green and the other red).

The next stop was the Summer Palace, a beautiful palace named the Summer Palace because that is where the Chinese royalty would stay during the hot Summer months. The entire palace is based around a half man-made lake. Half man-made, because the original lake was too small, so the ancient Chinese dug around the lake to make it larger and with the leftover land they made an island in the middle of the lake. After walking around the lake through 'the long corridor', we reached the Dragon Boats which took us across the lake to the man made island. As we walked across the large bridge that connected the island to the mainland, we were introduced to extreme kite flying, a pastime enjoyed by many Chinese. The clear skies over the lake was perfect kite flying terrain, and we watched many men fly their kites overhead. Some kites were so high, they were just a speck in the distance.

A part of the palace set into the mountainside.

'The long corridor', a seemingly endless corridor on the lakeside. Every square inch of it was painted with intricate drawings that told different stories.

The Dragon Boat, modelled on the original Dragon Boat that would take ancient Chinese royalty across the lake.

Extreme kite flying, Chinese style. This man's kite was up a whopping 1km in the sky, but there was room for more as his spool contained 1.8km of kite string.

Our final sightseeing stop of Beijing was the Olympic Village where we walked across the huge grounds to get our photos in front of the iconic Water Cube and Bird's Nest Stadium.

We had such a great time sightseeing in Beijing and our guide, Peter definitely enhanced our experiences and gave us a more authentic tour of the city. Some of our conversations with him are quite memorable. One that we love in particular was when he told us what the local Beijing boys say about trying to marry a local Beijing girl. "If you want to marry a plain looking Beijing girl you must have 3 A's…an Apartment, A car, and an Account! If you want to marry a beautiful Beijing girl you must have 5 C's… a Car, a Castle, a Credit Card, a Condo, and….Cancer so that you die early and leave her all the money!" We laughed so hard. He was very funny.

And that brings us to the end of our short, but busy time in Beijing! The next morning after the Great Wall we flew out to Shanghai to continue our adventure. But that's for another blog post. Stay tuned.

The Guys xx

1 comment:

  1. YAYAYAYY omg i have been waiting for this anisa, CHINA LOOKS AMAZINGS :D ahhh i want to go! :D and that is a really good idea having a tour guide and someone to drive you because it would have taken me 3 days just to find my apartment if i went :s hehehehehehehhe oooooooo converse AND raybans, .....any transformer stickers around? ;) heheh post and fbbbb :) and i read that whole thing just so you know, i didnt scan, i read, so be proud of me and proud of yourself for writing such a riviting blog, heheh keep me posted <3