Thursday, May 12, 2016

China - Beijing

In what turned out to be a complete surprise to me, I've now been to Beijing twice and will likely end up there again next year. I didn't plan it that way, but I've certainly enjoyed using my visa. We were so lucky to get one right after the extension was made from only a few months' validity to ten years. There is so much to see and do in China that I think it's worth the hassle and just getting one. You may end up using it more than you think. We had planned to see the city and the Great Wall when we first went to mainland China in 2015. It did not disappoint.

Beijing is such a massive place. We arrived in the city by train and used the extensive metro to get around.
It was a lot more crowded than this in the morning!

Although I wouldn't really recommend Beijing as a walkable city, we did do a ton of walking around.

We stayed in an one of the few old sections of the city that has been preserved. This area, Nanluoguxiang, is really a nice place filled with hutongs - little alleyways that are often lined with houses but also many shops and restaurants. I had a lot of fun just strolling around this area.
Our hotel was called Courtyard 7 and was fabulous.

 I took these photos there. I loved the staff, the dogs they have there (two huskies) ..
..and the feel of the place, full of courtyards and lovely decor. There were some interesting photos displayed throughout, such as one of Angela Merkel taking a tour of the place.

The view from the start of our hike on the Great Wall of China.
We took a daytrip to the Great Wall of China with Wild Great Wall tours, and we absolutely loved it. After picking us up, the private driver took us to an area that isn't visited by tons of tourists, Jiankou, to start a hike of a few kilometers.

Some parts of it were pretty steep!

This challenging section luckily didn't last too long, and it was pretty fun.

There were lots of grand vistas on the hike.

 Parts of it are in advanced states of decline and disrepair but it wasn't long before we got to a section that has been preserved and partially reconstructed.

We continued our hike until we arrived at Mutianyu.

Apparently this part gets insanely crowded during some times of the year. You can get a shuttle here to where taxis await but we chose to walk it. There is a little local neighborhood here with a cool relief mural, seen below.

Then we headed back to the city.
I strolled around the neighborhood, which has a big restaurant section.

Near our hotel, my husband discovered a street food stall he loved. It was basically a thin omelet made fresh on a griddle and filled with stuff like a piece of fried dough, various sauces and green onions, then folded into a square and handed off to you.

I just loved this neighborhood.

We would have liked to visit the Forbidden City, but on our last day I was getting tired. We'd been traveling all over China and were about to go home. We took a metro ride to a camera shop my husband wanted to see. What it actually ended up being was a huge building housing many tine camera shops. We loved seeing the guy sleeping in his shop, below.

Afterwards we walked across the city and took some photos.

I'll take a second to commend Beijing on the wide availability of public bathrooms, one of which is seen above. It's amazing to me that more cities don't provide for what is quite simply, a total necessity. It's a good feature of this huge metropolis.

We saw so much while in Beijing, and still barely scratched the surface.
Our trip to the Forbidden City would come a year later when we were visiting Taiwan. We had a layover in Beijing and took that time to see the Forbidden City.

It was a lot of fun to visit this old piece of human history.

It was much colder this time because it was January, and before the Chinese New Year so crowds were delightfully sparse. One our previous trip we were there in March.

We enjoyed it very much. I was so glad to see it. 

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