Brilliant Beijing

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Mar 01, 2011

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Flag of China  ,
Saturday, August 21, 2010

As the local Irish bar manager stated; "you are staying in the Mayfair of Beijing – and it is very nice too". Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes showrooms were our immediate neighbours as we walk down the road every morning. I (Nick) have been doing a fair bit of window shopping and the odd, walk in confidently ask many question and be shown round the cars…… as if I could actually afford one! Apparently they are all here for the second generation Chinese, whose hardworking parents made it big or inherited large factories from the state and have left their offspring vast wealth, which they love to spend and flaunt. We were in the Rolls Royce showroom when a young twenty something female was getting the VIP treatment and a test drive, she could hardly see out of the windscreen!

Beijing had vastly changed since we were here in 2001, mass development, huge shopping malls and high skyscrapers. Tourist numbers appear to have increased both national and international and there is still many great sights old and new to visit.

Beijing (old Peking) Duck – Dadong banquet.

No trip to Beijing would be complete without sampling the famous crispy (Peking) duck. We had read good reviews about restaurants named Dadong, so armed with our maps and guide book we headed to our hotel concierge to ask for directions. Our hotel staff did not speak great English so I was little confused when they took me by the arm and led me through the main front doors and just pointed across the road, to my surprise we were staying just across from one of the very restaurants!. So saving on the cab fare we crossed the road for lunch, arriving much earlier than planned. As we stepped out of the lift we were greeted by a line of waiting staff and chefs' all welcoming us loudly and speaking in Chinese, Anne was so startled and shocked she tried to reverse back into the closed lift doors. The restaurant was a bit of a theatrical show kitchen; one can personally select their own duck, and watch it being roasted by the chefs in the open centre of the restaurant in one of four huge wood burning ovens. Our meal consisted of:

- Half a super lean roasted duck, with all the condiments, including sesame buns and pancakes

- Sautéed scallops with sweet corn

- Charcoaled grilled neck fillet of pork

- Sautéed venison with pineapple

- Sautéed baby bean sprouts

- Steamed rice.

You will see from the photos that it is customary to serve the split duck head and brain as a delicacy, Piglet was a bit squeamish (or should that be squealish…!) so I did the honours. The taste was not as bad as one may think, a little like duck pate, and another first to add to my growing list.

Forbidden City now re-branded Palace Museum.
The Forbidden City has been re-named the Palace Museum; I guess the original name did not exactly encourage the local population to visit. It is still extremely impressive and well worth visit, it was very busy and weather was overcast the day we went.

Tiananmen Square – lowering the flag ceremony at sunset.
Another must see when in Beijing, we waited twice with the large crowds to watch the lowering of the flag ceremony at sunset. A very formal military parade, a bit like the changing of the guards, happens every evening to lower and escort the flag to bed.

2008 Olympic Birds nest stadium and the Water Cube.
Much of Beijing's development was for the 2008 Olympics and still many of the signs and displays refer to those games. We had a great day visiting the hugely impressive Birds nest stadium and iconic Water Cube. The stadium is open to paying visitors and has video footage of the 2008 games playing on the huge screens as you stroll around. Part of the Water Cube has been turned into the biggest and most impressive water park we had seen, slides, rafts, water shoots, water cannons, wave machines, video wall and cafes – most of the locals were wearing bright orange life jackets, we assume not many can actually swim. The main competing pool was currently boarded over and hosting a Russian ballet theatre, so we could not get to see it.

Great wall at Mutianyu.

We had visited the Great Wall previously on a tour in 2001 but had been disappointed with the small touristy section to which we had been taken. This time we did our own research and booked a car with driver to take us to the Great wall at Mutianyu, and wow was it impressive!  Our driver advised us to leave early (well 7.00am - early for us travellers…) to beat the crowds and miss the midday heat, this turned out to be excellent information. We arrived at the wall around 8.30am whilst the stalls and hawkers were still setting up, even they seemed surprised to see us and tried hard to sell us their wares that weren’t yet unpacked. We were the only people on the open ski type chair lifts as we glided peacefully in glorious sunshine above the stunning scenery to the top of a restored section of the wall. For about an hour it felt as if we had the wall to ourselves, until the rest of the visiting hordes caught up with us, - the views and scenery were breathtaking. We walked, hiked, climbed and struggled for about three hours across the top of the wall - some sections are extremely steep and have inexplicably huge steps for such a short nation. By midday the weather was extremely hot and the wall had far more visitors then when we had first arrived. It was then that the realisation set in that I had purchased the lift up pass, but the downhill toboggan run back to the bottom. Trying not to show our nerves (stiff upper lip and all that) we waited at the side of the stainless steel polished run for our purpose made plastic toboggans to arrive. Push the central lever forward to go and pull back to brake – and we were off! It was a fantastic and thrilling way to get back down to our waiting driver; videos of the run are on YouTube if you would like to make the virtual experience – I would have taken video, but was far too busy hanging on for dear life!

We danced with locals in the parks at the temple of heaven, played a type Badminton with funny hard bats and a feather shuttlecock, caught and threw weighted sand balls with special soft covered rackets, played "keepy uppy" with a local plastic weighted puck with feathers out the top. It was fantastic to see how the Chinese utilise and use their open spaces and parks much more than we seem to in England. They appeared to be open-air clubs and gatherings for the retired and elderly with grand children, they always welcomed us when we asked to join in.

We also visited - The Temple of Heaven, Bell & Drum Towers, The old local Hutongs (old traditional Beijing dwellings), Houhai Lake Area, Silk Market, The Summer Palace and the very pretty Beihai Park.

We also had a great authentic Xinjiang Muslim meal at the Crescent Moon,which can be found down an interesting Beijing Hutong; we ordered excellent chunky mutton & lamb kebabs served with home made yoghurt and nan bread, with a spicy green bean dish that nearly blew our heads off!

A great stay was had in Beijing, as we packed and prepared for Tokyo, Japan.

Nick on behalf of varnamtravels.

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Big sis on

Fabulous photos. the one in for a penny You look like you have a tail hehe always was a little devil xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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