Arriving by bullet train to Beijing was fun. The cleanliness and efficiency was admirable. The highest speed we noted was 308Km per hour. On arrival as our guide was running late, we were met by our driver, who introduced himself as ‘driver’. I thought he had said ‘Trevor’. He did not speak English but was very courteous and smised with his eyes. Tyra Banks would have been pleased. Long very funny story short, our guide Rocky, very common Chinese name NOT, later asked us why we kept calling the driver ‘this word Trevor?’. We explained, and he translated to Trevor Driver and we all laughed and laughed.
0.8km from our lovely Beijing Novotel Peace hotel that night, we found a fantastic restaurant called Yuan-Xin. A little English was spoken so this was helpful. The food was amazing and we had a lovely beef claypot dish along with our yummy beans. Portions were generous. I declined turtle soup as I’ve tried it in New Orleans. I didn’t realise they actually ate turtle here. Silly me as anything goes in China. Not tonight Josephine. They scared me sitting in their tank stretching out their long necks, saying pick me, pick me. Little did they know they were going in a hotpot. Ugh.
The next night we couldn’t get a table alfresco at Na Jia, the restaurant next door, which looked lovely, so we returned to Yuan-Xin and tried the Peking Duck. Good move. It was delicious. Even hubby agreed and he isn’t into duck. It was carved by the chef in front of us and presented on beautiful plates. We got a demo of pancake assembly before we hooked in.
The next day we visited Tiananmen Square. Arriving super early meant diddly squat. Apparently people queue here overnight. When in China, it’s about being first. It was ok but we liked the gardens and enjoyed The Forbidden City more over the road. Our guide gave us a very good overview, so this helped us appreciate the history. The views were stunning.
We then got to enjoy a fabulous 30 minute ride in pedicab through the hutongs. These are narrow lanes/alleyways in the traditional residential area of Beijing. This was fun and really interesting. Our guide followed us behind, yelling out facts. Later we meandered near the riverbank and through the markets which was so enjoyable. We bought ourselves a cool square ceramic teapot.
A delicious lunch followed which was included in our package. The restaurant was buzzy and the food divine kind of tapas style. Famous for dumplings so yes please along with spicy beans (of course) and a few stirfrys. This was the real deal with no English menu but no worries.
We chose to squeeze in the Temple of Heaven to end the day. It was alright but we kicked ourselves as we forgot to ask to go to the Olympic Stadium instead, which did interest us more.
Our third day we headed to the Sacred Road; a huge open garden area with animal statues lining wide promenades. Nice but not amazing. Next the Great Wall. Once at the Mutianyu entrance, naturally it was commercial with American restaurants and gift stalls. We enjoyed the cable car ride up and were then really surprised at how strenuous the walk actually was. We did marvel at the history and got some great photos. It was really hot but not too overcrowded. Of course we steamed ahead leaving our young guide behind, shocked at how fit we were. Was it worth it? Yes. Was it mindblowing? Not really for me. Hubby really enjoyed it as he’s really into history however I was a little disappointed. I just couldn’t pinpoint why however I was grateful to have visited.
Lunch afterwards was average in a touristy local restaurant. It was a bit dirty and service poor but the best dish (see photo) was the Chinese pizza. Yes way. Spicy mince wrapped in nice pastry with a dipping sauce.
BTW, toilets are generally outside restaurants in Beijing and at public sites they have been upgraded to a rating system. Some feature one European toilet or the traditional squat toilets. 99% of the toilets during our whole trip were very clean. Nice to see you get this China, like Rarotonga does. New Zealand’s public toilets are so not up to par so we need to focus on that.
Herein lies the end of our tour. It was fantastic to say the least and it’s really up there with my No 1 trip; South America. I’d highly recommend China Odyssey tours. I’d return in a flash, however there is too much more of the world to see at the mo.
Check out next week’s final post on the most amazing hidden, and one of the top-rated restaurants, in Asia. This is a NOT to be missed.