Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beijing Day 1: The Itinerary

1. Eat a hearty breakfast at the hotel. 

Dimsum for breakfast in Beijing

As I explained in a previous post, we discovered that food in the capital city of China, leaned towards the bland side. So these dumplings and noodle dish are tastier to look at, than to actually devour.

After this quick meal, we headed out, for our first day of adventure in Beijing.

2. Tiananmen Square.

We could have walked from our hostel to Tiananmen Square, but then we had to swing by Wangfujing district to have our currencies changed. Still, from Wangfujing, the Square is within walking distance.

We just asked people for directions and they happily obliged with plenty of of hand gestures and apologetic smiles (for not being able to speak English).

Tiananmen Square, Beijing in winter

Tiananmen Square is just as its name suggests -- a square. It is located right at the very center of the city of Beijing, and is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Chinese people every single day.

Outside of Tiananmen Square, Beijing 

 When we were there on a Friday morning in 2011, in the dead of winter, and there were thousands of people lining up to enter. But the square is so big -- around 40 hectares -- that it felt large enough to fit every single one of the entire population of China.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing 

But it was also very stark and empty. I read somewhere that the square was designed to make you feel small, and yup, there is just this feeling of vastness that is completely overwhelming.

I know we alloted one hour to explore Tiananmen Square, but there was literally nothing to see, so we ambled on to the more promising grounds of the Forbidden City.

3. Forbidden City

To get here, we just kept walking north from Tiananmen.  At the entrance we paid the regular ticket price, opting out of the audio guide voiced by James Bond himself (Roger Moore).

Forbidden City doors, Beijing

We decided to go at it guerrilla style, just catching snatches of the nearby tour guide's explanations. In the picture below, I am eavesdropping on the tour group beside us, and following the guide's hand as she points out the area where ancient China housed its "HR Department." This was where screenings of would-be Forbidden City workers were held.

Forbidden City Beijing

But really, the Forbidden City is best explored on your own.

Forbidden City, Beijing

With your own vantage point, and pace, and inclinations. We took side trips on tree-lined paths that led to quiet gardens.

Forbidden City, Beijing

And met an especially ferocious cat, who snarled at us, as if he could sense that we were trespassing.

All in all, it was just lovely to relax and not be hell-bent on following a jampacked tour schedule.

Forbidden City, Beijing

4. Jingshan Park 

Jingshan Park is just a short walk across the street if you exit the Forbidden City from the North Gate. There's a short and somewhat steep climb up Jingshan Hill, and if you get there in time for the sunset, the panoramic view of Beijing is quite splendid.

The red-roofed complex of the sprawling Forbidden City from a bird's eye perspective was breathtaking.

Jingshan Park, Beijing China

5. Houhai Lake/Shichahai Area 

By far, the best part of the day was Houhai Lake and the way by which we we explored it.

You see, we had been around the lake area earlier on foot, when we were trying to find a bank that accepted Philippine pesos in exchange for a couple of yuans. It was a lovely little side trip that involved an angry street vendor, a would-be kidnapping by a rickshaw driver, and some sour strawberries in sugar glaze.

Houhai Lake, Beijing, China

But that night, we decided to borrow the hostel's bikes and to explore pretty Houhai, with its vast frozen lakes and twinkly lights, on two wheels!

Houhai Lake, Beijing, China

To cap off the exhilirating bike ride, we had two meals in the Shichahai area, and its rows of eateries.

We ate streetfood chicken, and something akin to our very own"fishballs." And we dined as the locals did, on tiny plastic chairs by the roadside.

Street food, Houhai Lake, Beijing, China

Then for dinner, we stopped by a restaurant in Houhai Lake, called Bikarouji (if I'm not mistaken). It was a bright shiny place, and we were the only foreigners around. 

 We ordered a sizzling beef dish that everyone seemed to be eating. 

Beef hotpot, Beijing China

It was very delicious, we polished the entire thing off, down to the very last tender, juicy bits. So delicious, in fact, that it was much, much later on that we realized we had paid RMB 108 for this dish, which is the equivalent of 700 pesos. 

What were we thinking? That's the price of one buffet meal at Sambokojin or a dimsum-all-you-can promo at the Passion restaurant in Resort's World. 

But we would find this out later on. At that time, we were happy, we were full, we were going on a merry bike ride all the way home, and we were looking forward to climbing the Great Wall of China the next day. 

All was right in the world. 


  1. Hi there, happy happy blogging time once again. I'm excited :)

    - B

  2. Thank you for always encouraging me :)


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