07.05.2016 – 12.05.2016
Beijing. Wow. We loved every moment of our stay in Beijing, and we did so much, its worthy of 2 posts.
So here is Part 1.
Beijing was our first stop on our trip so far, where we had actually stayed in hostel dormitory’s. Usually it’s the same price to get a private room with shared bathroom for the 2 of us than to have 2 beds in large dormitory. However, to try and keep to budget in Beijing, we opted to stay in bunk beds in a 4 bed dormitory. The hostel we stayed in was located within an old Hutong. There are currently 23 Hutongs, old Chinese communities, in Beijing and all are protected by the government. They are so interesting and full of culture and history. Every detail on the building is symbolic of something, or someone. These traditional communities are still lived in, but generally only by the elderly. Young people are not keen for shared public toilets, limited power and weekly showers. Our accommodation was fully inclusive; we didn’t need to share with the oldies!
As in most of Asia, most of the public toilets are squat toilets. So after a few months in Asia, we are pretty talented at using the facilities, and not surprised or expecting of the luxuries of a Western toilet (Oh how we long to but our bum to be on a seat!). Here in Beijing they bring new meaning to ‘PUBLIC’ toilets. It’s just a room consisting of 4 or 5 holes in the floor with no privacy, and you staring at the person opposite doing their business. VERY PUBLIC. Bianca got some serious stage fright!
The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square was out first stop in Beijing. We opted for an audio tour of the Forbidden City, as it is so big, and full of many interesting buildings and temples. It was fascinating to learn the history and significance of each building. We wandered around for half a day and still only saw part of the whole temple. The audio tour was amazing as there is a GPS tracker in the headset that triggers the next set of information when you move close to the next monument.
One of the stand outs of our time in Beijing, was a walking tour we did of the city. The tour centres around the three best preserved Hutongs, including the Hutong that used to house all the Eunuchs (men with missing penis’s) that worked in the Forbidden City and Mr Lou’s house. Mr Lou, located in a Hutong, excitedly showed us his extensive insect and animal collection. His prized possessions are the crickets, which he uses to fight. He showed us all the tools and procedures, and we even became spectators of an event. It was super bizarre, but intriguing to see this ancient form of Chinese entertainment. He labels himself as a celebrity within the community, as he has made it into many magazines, and interviewed serval times. After visiting the Beijing Drum Tower and Bell Tower we finished by walking to the highest point in Beijing City, Jingshan Park, which gives an incredible view over the very dark Forbidden City and the rest of Beijing.
Although our evening walking tour was incredible, our morning spent at the Summer Palace, was a bit of a letdown. An underwhelming experience. The Summer Palace houses some beautiful temples and located on a mountain includes views over the lake, but in our opinion, your money in Beijing could be better spent. Still worth a visit though if you’re looking to explore China and Beijing’s history. Finally, one of the hardest aspects of our time in Beijing was finding food. We think it had something to do with our location and our lack of experience in China. The Hutong we stayed in was more inclined to serve ambiguous Chinese food (think intestines) or very expensive food with McDonald’s and KFC wedged in between. If you staying in a ‘foodie area’ or closer to a shopping area, it may have been a lot easier! We did however discover “Beijing noodles” – amazing, and some amazing grilled skewers.
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- Walking tour of the Hutongs, Drum Tower and Bell Tower with Beijing Walkers. Our guide was first class.
- Forbidden City
- Getting an audio guide for the Forbidden City. A must! So much to learn, and its super easy to follow along, and super interesting even if you’re not into history.
- Staying in a Hutong and walking through others. There are a few significant Hutongs north of the Forbidden City.
- Always holding extra cash with you in China. For example, hotels always require deposits, tourist attractions always have extra options for you to purchase, metro tickets sometimes need coins along with other things. It’s not a completely card friendly country, so carry cash – it’s just easier.