PART 1 – BEIJING
With only 10 days holiday break approved, I’ve decided to jump into an opportunity to visit Beijing and Shanghai with my family. To be honest, 8 days (considering it takes 2 days flying alone) to visit the other side of the continent is really a bit too short. But working in a really busy office, you really won’t get that many holidays in a row, at least. The good thing is, a guide and a driver was hired in advance to suppress the lack of time.
This trip report is only a summary of places I’ve visited. I will post a separate entry on my favourite sights.
We’ve arrived in Beijing’s Terminal 3 early in the morning. A 16 hour flight via Abu Dhabi and a screaming baby throughout an overnight flight really does not help with the amount of rest I really need. The thing is, the day before, I’ve been working on a really long 20 hour day shift, and the week has been very hectic and tiring.
Anyway, Beijing Airport is pretty impressive. Terminal 3 is large and airy and signifies China’s huge ambitions. We were greeted by May, our local guide at the arrivals.
At the time of the trip, the weather was very hot and hazy. Temperatures were consistently at 32-35°C. Not really good for a photo opportunity I’m afraid.
After refreshing at our hotel and having a full lunch at a nearby street, we took our time and then headed straight to our first destination – The Temple of Heaven.
Temple of Heaven
Built in 1420, The Temple of Heaven also known as Tian Tan is the largest temple complex in China. The temple was built for Emperors to pray and make sacrifices to the Heavens. As the Emperor is also called as Son of Heaven, the Emperors didn’t dare to build the Forbidden City (Emperor’s dwelling) bigger than this temple. The temple is built within a large park and has 4 main entrances.
On our visit, thousands of locals were seen using this park for recreational purposes which includes tai-chi classes, dance sessions and other martial arts. The main attraction is the Qinian Dian, the temple where the Emperor prayed for good harvest. This vast park is large and has various buildings. There are shops and smaller stalls selling snacks and drinks.
Day 2 was actually equally relaxing, to say the least. I’ve actually slept a lot and woke up in the afternoon! talk about tight scheduling! After having a full lunch late in afternoon, we were introduced to the Beijing Metro. The Metro is a modern and fairly extensive network covering vast areas of Beijing. the trains are long and clean and as usual packed with people.
The biggest square in the world, and a place full of history. Tiananmen square is named after the Tiananmen Gate which separates the Forbidden City and the square itself. A portrait of Chairman Mao could be seen hung on the Gate. This square is always full of people no matter which day you go. There are several attractions within the 400,000m. This includes:
1. Mao’s Mausoleum – where the embalmed body of Chairman Mao is located. Queues are very long!
2. The Monument to the People’s Heroes
3. China National Museum – exhibits regarding Chinese History and the Revolution
4. Great Hall of the People
5. Tianan Men – the Tiananmen gate itself
We visited what supposed to be a famous jade centre just outside Beijing. However it seems that the focus is more on selling rather than jade making.
Burning Cream Centre
Next stop was the burning cream centre. The highlight of this visit was when a presenter touched for a few seconds a real burning metal, which he subsequently applied the burning cream to heal himself quickly. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed to be taken.
The Great Wall of China at Juyongguan
This was my highlight of this China trip. There are many sections still preserved on the Great Wall. Our guide May, brought us to the Juyongguan Gate which is situated about 37 miles from Beijing. According to her, this gate is less busy than the slightly overrated Badaling section of the wall. Only a small section of the Juyongguan wall was open to the public. Nevertheless, most of the crowd only climbed halfway up, therefore once I was at the top, I’ve managed to get the whole Wall all for myself! Spectacular indeed.
In the evening, we went to this fantastic acrobatic show at the Jin Shia theatre, Beijing Workers Club. A cast numbering to hundreds performed world-class acrobatic acts onto the always sell-out crowds. Though might not suit every taste, I’m actually recommending this.
Drum and Bell Towers
I was really captivated the first time we drove past these towers. The Drum and Bell towers was the official timepiece of China. The drums were used to signify the hour of each day.
Hutongs are traditional Beijing neighbourhoods which contains narrow streets or lanes. The lanes contains lines of residential courtyard houses. There are various hutongs in Beijing. I’ve only managed to visit the one surrounding the Drum and Bell towers. If you look carefully, there are some places where you see residents relaxing onto the street and sometimes socialising with their neighbours.
The Bird’s Nest and the Olympics Park
Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics and at the centre piece of the Olympic Complex is the magnificent Bird’s Nest by architects Herzog and De Meuron. Today, the complex acts as a recreational space for Beijinger’s. Families visit the stadium to socialise and marvel at this beautiful stadium. Kids were seen playing kites and some even had a go running on the olympic tracks.
Lowering of Chinese Flag at Tiananmen Square
This is a symbolic event attended by thousands of Chinese people everyday. The flag is lowered just before sunset everyday where there is a small ceremony by a group or army men. They’ve marched from the Forbidden City to lower the flag and bring it back there. The Chinese are a patriotic lot. Never have I’ve seen a country where their citizens are so proud of themselves.
Wangfujing is Beijing’s liveliest street. The road is lined with ultra modern air-conditioned shopping malls where young Beijingers come to flock. There is a part of the street which is fully pedestrianised. Cafes and shops spill onto this street. The Wangfujung Market is situated next to the street. This place is typical of a Chinese night market. You can find souvenirs and the Revolution memorabilias (Read this: albeit very overpriced), aswell as hawker stalls selling anything including fried scorpions!
Besides the Great Wall, this is the only other place I really want to go prior to coming here. I’ve heard quite a lot about it, from the scale to the grandeur, and the rich history spanning from The Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. All of this was true and it really exceeds my expectations.
CCTV and the CBD
Shanghai’s long financial dominance has prompted Beijing to create a new Central Business District (CBD). The new CBD is impressive, well-connected and has a large network of shopping malls to cater the new generations of Beijinger’s. The centre piece of this CBD is the CCTV tower designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA.
Flight to Shanghai
In the evening, we proceeded to the airport to fly to Shanghai. The quickest and easiest way to get to the airport is by getting the Beijing Airport Express train. It costs 25Yuan one way.