A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about sightseeing

Beijing Blog: Qing Ming

National Holiday in the Capital

rain 10 °C

With the arrival of April, Beijing has finally started to melt and after a week of HOT weather, the long weekend brought with it a relapse in the weather resulting in a very wet and cold few days. Not exactly the glorious holiday weekend I had been hoping for but after starting the long "weekend" with the crisis of a missing passport and a very wet journey to the hostel, by Wednesday we were ready to hit the ground running.

After a distinctly average breakfast at out hostel, our first destination was the Temple of Heaven. It was my first time visiting and i was really surprised by the size of the temple’s gardens and all the different parts of it. Unfortunately, a lot of the English descriptions were a little hard to follow and so I wasn’t really sure of the significance of all of the buildings on the complex. Nevertheless it is an impressive and very beautiful piece of architecture that we spent a good few hours exploring. When we left, we realised we were very close to Beijing’s ‘Pearl Market” - or fake market - and curiosity got the better of us. Although I had no intention of bargaining or buying, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and modern it was, especially compared to Shanghai’s underground fake market (aka maze).

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As it headed towards sunset, we crossed the city up to Beijing’s Olympic Park. It’s the second time I’ve been, but on the previous occasion it was freezing cold and the stadium was not lit up. This time, determined to see the Bird’s Nest in all its glory, I mustered up my best Chinese to try and find out what time it would be lit up. The first person I asked said “soon” the second person gave us the more accurate time of 7.30pm and sure enough, at 7.30pm there was light. We took a long walk all around the stadium and found some quieter spots with the stadium reflecting in the lake. It was very beautiful indeed.

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Day two was also packed full of tourist activities. I had managed to reserve Forbidden City tickets for the afternoon online so to fill the morning we went for a stroll around Beijing’s CBD, Guomao and saw the CCTV headquarters, a distinctive building which looks like a pair of trousers. We spent the afternoon getting cold and lost in the Forbidden City. The skies started to clear as we got to the exit gate and we decided to go into Jingshan Park, which has a big hill in it that over looks the entire Forbidden City - perfect for photos. We fought our way through the crowds to get some snaps but by this time we were in desperate need of food.

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Next stop was Wangfujing Street and we decided to try our luck at a Sichuanese restaurant which turned out to be a fantastic choice. The food was good value and delicious. It was already quite late in the day and we were supposed to be meeting some of my friends for some drinks in Sanlitun which was a fair distance from where we were. So we jumped on the bus back to the hostel for a quick refresh and then headed out to the bars.

We didn’t get back to late, but having been reunited with REAL BEER, the next morning, Will was feeling a little worse for the wear. The weather was much better so we sat on the rooftop of our hostel in the sun, nursing our heads before we went to explore Sanlitun by day. We took the bus and got dropped of in an unfamiliar part of the district which worked out quite well; we found a little shop selling delicious fruit selections and found some warm sun to enjoy while we ate them. We had a wander around the Tai Koo Li centre, which is like an outdoor mall - very new, very glam and very big before settling for some brunch in one of my favourite coffee shops, Baker and Spice. Unfortunately, due to the distance between Beijing and Shanghai, Will’s train was booked for the early afternoon, so it wasn’t long before it was time for us to get on the subway back to the station.

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I really enjoyed exploring Beijing’s touristy side. Having lived here for over six months now (?!) I feel more of a resident and less of a tourist, meaning that it’s too easy to tread the same path and feel like i’ve seen all the sights. Being a tourist for the weekend was a bit of a tonic and left me feeling refreshed and grateful for the opportunity I am living.

Posted by amysblog 02:09 Archived in China Tagged temples china olympics beijing sightseeing asia nightlife forbidden_city sanlitun Comments (0)

Gubei Water Town

Beijing Day Trips

storm 27 °C

As we are approaching the end of our time in China, our priorities have changed from trying to see as much as possible, to trying to save as much as possible. Our travel plans are coming together and with all the excitement, there are underlying nerves about whether or not we can *actually* afford to hit all of the amazing places on our bucket list. So recently we have been trying to strike the balance between still seeing new things without spending our (hard?)-earned salaries. Now that Will has visited Beijing a fair few times, we have more or less hit all of the sights, so when local travel agency CET advertised a day trip to the “nearby” water-town of Gubei, we were both keen to sign up.

The trip set of at the sociable hour of 10am. Unfortunately, we got caught in weekend traffic heading out of the city, meaning that the journey was slightly longer than we expected - around 3 and a half hours, if I remember correctly. It was a very hot day and unfortunately the pollution was relatively high, which meant some of the mountain views were a little on the fuzzy side. Gubei is a very interesting little place, it has a few large resort-style hotels, but aside from the workers, I think the village is basically uninhabited. It is completely pedestrianised and there are hundreds of tiny winding streets that you can get lost in. There are beautiful canals and the whole place is very quaint and picturesque.

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We were starving by the time we arrived so food was, of course, our first priority. We found a small canal-side courtyard selling reasonably priced noodle dishes and tucked in, before heading further into the town to explore. We tried to stay away from the main streets that were exceptionally busy. Sticking to the back streets we still came across the main attractions, such as the silk museum, opera stage and food streets, as we made our way towards Gubei’s section of the Great Wall.

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It’s a good few months since I last went to the Wall, and this is the third section I’ve visited. It was also possibly the steepest! Even with the pollution, we had great views of the wall winding into the distance and we were up there right towards the end of the day so it was quite quiet in places. I was surprised how rugged this section of the wall was. It is one of the restored sections (as are most of the ones you are *allowed* to visit) but - I don’t know if for effect - some parts were very definitely crumbling. The tumble-down effect is perhaps more striking, in terms of realising what a huge feat the building of it was, back in the day! (Even more striking having recently learned that the cement they used to hold it all together was made out of rice?!?!?! - shout out to Lou for that questionable piece of knowledge)

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It was getting dark as we arrived back at the bottom of the wall, and Gubei was starting to light up, it was beautiful with all the lights reflecting in the water. We stopped for a much needed drink at William Bar. There was a live band playing and it was a really pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. It was finally starting to cool down too. We didn’t have long left until we were due back at the coach, so we went in search of some more food, just as the first crashes of thunder happened. Most of the tourists started to panic and as a mass evacuation back to the coach park was underway, Will and I decided to take advantage of the diminishing queues for the Chinese hamburger stalls to get some grub.

When the rain finally started to pour, we too headed directly for the coach. I’m so pleased that I finally got to see Gubei, even with the high pollution levels. Our last view of the town saw it completely lit up with the Wall - also lit up - shining on the tops of the mountains in the distance. It is probably the last time I will see the Great Wall, and so it was fitting that it was so spectacular.

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Posted by amysblog 01:27 Archived in China Tagged china summer beijing sightseeing great_wall asia day_trip tefl gubei Comments (0)

More Shanghai Shenanigans

My Penultimate Shanghai Trip!

sunny 25 °C

I’m currently on a (very loud) train back from Shanghai, where I have spent the weekend with Will and some friends who are visiting from the UK on their way to Bali. I arrived earlier than expected on Friday night - early enough to catch the last subway up to Jiading for the night, which was a pleasant surprise. We headed straight from the subway to a bar to have a couple of very strong drinks with some of the other teachers in Jiading.

Matt and Abby were due to arrive some time early evening on Saturday, so Will and I headed into Shanghai centre. We made a quick detour to People’s park, where the marriage market was once again in full swing. We grabbed some delicious cold noodles and then jumped back on the subway and went to check into the hotel we were staying in. The hotel was in a rather central location, so we decided to check out 1933 Millfun while we were waiting for the others to arrive. 1933 Millfun is… weird. It was, in 1933, Asia’s largest abattoir. It has now been restored into a strange commercial hub / photo shoot destination. It was really tricky to navigate and we must have gone round in several circles on our way up to the sixth floor and back down.

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I’m glad we had the opportunity to see something different in SH but it really is a strange place. Possibly one of my favourite parts was seeing a young girl wearing a minion balloon suit, image to follow:

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We decided to go back to the hotel and wait for Matt and Abby to arrive. In the end, they were much later than expected but were in pretty good spirits when they finally arrived. We gave them some time to freshen up and then headed straight for the subway. First stop was West Nanjing road for some quick and tasty noodles. We then walked absolute miles! We walked all the way down to People’s Square, East Nanjing Road and arrived at The Bund. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the lights were still on, despite how late it was. After the night’s adventuring, we were all slacking and so headed back to the hotel so we could all rest before today.

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Up relatively bright and early on Sunday, our main priority was to get a good, cheap breakfast. Cue JIAN BING (煎饼). This Beijing snack is a type of savoury Chinese crepe, made with pancake mix, an extra egg, coriander, onions, red bean sauce, optional chilli and a cracker. We found a hole in the wall selling them at 5rmb each, an absolute steal, also absolutely delicious.

Determined to show Matt and Abby as much as we could before lunch, we strolled through the french concession and checked Xintiandi and Tianzifang off the list. These two areas are a little over a mile apart from each other but they really couldn’t be more different. Xintiandi is restored ancient style streets. Pedestrianised and very glam, the area attracts loads of western tourist for its chic bars and sophisticated vibes. Tianzifang is more gritty. Also pedestrianised, these alleys are packed full of trinket stores and stalls selling the latest food and drink crazes. This week it was super fries (extremely long chips) and drinks sold in a blood bag, because, why not?

I think these two areas give a really good visual insight into the different characteristics you can find in China. On the one hand, you have very developed and modern areas which are very aesthetic, and on the other hand, you have raw, urban china which is charming in its own way.

For lunch we went towards Jing’an, as the temple was also on the day’s itinerary. After a quick look around a huge mall, we decided to sample one of my favourite shanghainese delicacies, Yang’s Dumplings. It’s quite a fun meal to eat, especially the first time you do so, because these dumplings are filled with soup, which usually means it gets MESSY. Different to Xiao Long Bao, they’re pan fried, so slightly dough-ier and slightly oilier. Still, they’re absolutely one of my favourite foods in China and are also a bargain, so I was very happy to pass on this Chinese treasure to our friends.

Unfortunately, having left my luggage at the hotel, and with my looming departure, after lunch I left the others to continue exploring Shanghai. This weekend has gone ridiculously fast, I hardly feel like I’ve had chance to catch my breath and I do not feel ready for school tomorrow, AT ALL. This week is going to be an easy one however, exams are starting which means quiet classes. There is also the Gaokao at the end of the week (A-Levels Equivalent) , which means the school goes into lockdown, so I have Friday off. So on Thursday I’ll be back in Shanghai for a long weekend! I guess I’d better start working on the itinerary for my LAST TRIP TO SHANGHAI BEFORE I LEAVE CHINA… Unbelievable!

Posted by amysblog 13:31 Archived in China Tagged cities travel city china sightseeing cityscape shanghai nightlife skyscrapers teaching the_bund tefl Comments (0)

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