Beijing is such a beautiful city. It is like the Rome of China, full of ancient sites to see. This was the first stop of the trip and we spent 3 days at the start of our trip with our fantastic English speaking tour guide Loong. If you are ever interested in visiting Beijing, ask me for his contact. It is so hard to tour China properly without knowing the language or someone there. This tour guide was awesome! Hong’s Uncle is also amazing and has many connections in China. He organized everything for us and took us everywhere. Here is a picture of Hong Tao at his favorite place in China (not in Beijing.. but coming up in a later post):
Day 1 was Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City, the Hutongs, and a temple with a great view of the city.
The first time I went to China 3 years ago we toured Beijing so these were all places I had been to before. This time was much better with an English tour guide and a whole lot less people. The first trip was during a Chinese holiday and there were just so many people everywhere. So I was glad to be able to experience Tienanmen Square with less tourists and more free space.
From left to right: view of the square from the gate, my parents in the center of the square in front of the monument, and Mao’s mausoleum with some pretty flowers.
Forbidden City was next after we walked through the square and the gate. The Forbidden City is quite large and has a bunch of museum and displays in it. One was the clock and watches museum and it was fascinating! These were all clocks that had been given as gifts to the Emperors by different countries and royalty. Most of the clocks were elaborate fancy looking pieces with a smallish clock face on it. The one that stood out though was a very old clock that worked by water flowing through it.The water would flow into a basin where a boat would float pointing to the time.
From left to right: buildings in the Forbidden City, Hong with the water clock, one of many lion statues next to a rock carving.
After a quick lunch – supplemented by some meat on a stick – we next did a tour of the Hutongs. These are very old neighborhoods in the center of Beijing that have been protected by the government. They are not only the houses of some lucky families (they’re worth a lot of money) but also serve as an interesting tourist attraction. We had our little tour by bicycle rickshaw – these guys are lots of fun!
Some families still live in these houses, but one family has allowed tour groups to go through it and see the original structure of Beijing neighborhoods and houses. The houses are always 4 buildings facing into a square courtyard. Feng Shui is the rule here and everything is placed in a certain direction. You can tell a family’s social status by the color of their roof, the number of steps & beams at their entrance, and the lions at the front. It was pretty busy in the courtyard of the house we visited as you can see in the middle picture. Tao is holding up his hand.
We finished the day with a short hike up a hill to a nice temple overlooking the city. You can see Forbidden City and the smog. There is some blue sky above that smog though! Actually there were some sand storms in the distance that may have contributed to the smoggy look, but Beijing is definitely polluted.
Day 2 was the Great Wall, the Olympic Village and a Kung Fu Ballet Show
The Great Wall is always fun if you’re a foreigner. You become a celebrity and people actually stop you for a picture. Some Chinese people just love seeing Caucasians and wanted to have their picture taken with us. This happened a few times and made the day quite hilarious. Here are my Mom, Dad and I taking pictures with random people. My Dad sure didn’t seem to mind 2 cute girls following him around.
I love the Great Wall because of the gorgeous views, the nice feeling of having done a hike (it’s steep!) and the sheer size of it. When you’re up there you just feel like throwing your hands up in the air. From left: my Dad, Hong’s Dad (Tommy), Hong’s Mom (Min), Hong, Hong’s Uncle Tao
One last gorgeous view:
The Olympic Village was nice to see but pretty underwhelming after visiting the Great Wall. We saw the Bird’s Nest and the Cube and took some pictures. They’ll be on Facebook, not really worth posting here :). The show we saw was a ballet and stunt show about Kung Fu. It was pretty darn good! The little kids are the craziest with their tricks. Unfortunately no photography allowed..
Day 3 was the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace
The Temple of Heaven is set in a beautiful area where lots of people go to spend the day. Groups come to dance together, play games and write calligraphy on the walkways. I love visiting places like this in China because it gives such a feeling of community and friendship. People actually spend their time doing fun, healthy, outdoor activities together.
The Temple itself was pretty nice too:
We ended our 3 days in Beijing with the Summer Palace. I love this place it is so beautiful! It was built as a summer getaway ‘outside’ of the city but is now actually quite close to the modern Beijing downtown. The lake is entirely man made. There’s an outdoor corridor for walking along the lake and a temple high up from which to get a nice view.
Next post in the China series will be about Beijing food…