23.01.2017 - 03.02.2017 -13 °C
So we arrived early morning in Beijing to the temperature being a freezing -13 degrees. Yes, that is a minus symbol there. Luckily our hotel allowed us to check in at 8.00am after a long journey flying over night. The place where we stayed (Kings Joy Hotel) was like a Palace compared to our last place and it was in the heart of Beijing. We both woke up at midday after taking a snooze and decided to venture out of the hotel to pick up a hat, scarf and gloves as it was pretty essential, believe me.
We were directed to a Walmart by reception at the hotel. Eventually after walking, which seemed forever (45 minutes) in the cold, we finally found Walmart. We spent almost 1 hour there, in which half an hour was spent queuing up to purchase our things, with China being so over populated queuing for long periods to buy food or tickets was in fact the norm and they are not very good at it either. Prepare to be pushed aside and for people to blatantly just push in front of you. Whilst British people have a reputation for managing queues well, this was crazy. There was no sense of personal space and people were not afraid to put there arms around you to pull you backwards.
Finally after being served we walked back to our hotel with our new pollution masks, hats,scarfs and gloves. When we left Beijing, we gave the thermals to some homeless people and they were so pleased 😆 we wouldn't be needing them again after all. 🖒
We also stocked up on noodles, breakfast bars and fruit to save some extra cash, as we could prep them in our room. 😀
Once back at the hotel we decided to relax at the hotel as the 15 hours travelling the day before had taken its tole and tired us out.
The next day we woke up bright and early and decided to go and see The Forbidden City. Which was a 15 minute walk from our hotel. We set off at around 10am. When walking towards the Forbidden City we couldn't help but notice how many Police and Armed Forces littered the streets, they were literally at every street corner. At certain points there were 'Check Points' which were like going through airport security but on the street. Although we both felt it was a little intimidating with everyone having to show ID and be scanned at the check points to cross the street, at least we knew it was extremely safe security wise.
After passing the check points we saw several famous land marks these being:
Momentum of people's Herod
Chairman Maos Mausleum
Great Hall of The People
We were both looking forward to entering the Forbidden City which cost 40CNY each(£4.00) we also opted to take the audio tour which also cost 40CNY. We both thought it was a bargain entering such a famous land mark for so little.
When entering the grounds there was a sense of humbleness. Looking at the Chinese architecture of the Emperors buildings. It was the style that Melissa had been hoping to see a lot of in Singapore & she was in her element here. The buildings were incredibly detailed.
However, neither of us would recommend the audio tour as the voice was monotone and failed to catch our attention. We ended up talking to each other about the buildings instead. There was also plenty of signage which told you about the history.
In the evening we decided to book The Great Wall Tour, we did look at going ourself without a tour guide but when pricing it up and after a lot of research it was the same price to be picked up from our hotel have a traditional Chinese lunch see the The Great Wall with a guide and get dropped back off at our hotel as it would of been to go ourselves with no lunch or guide. We chose to visit the Mutianyu section of the wall, because we had taken a look at loads of reviews and found this to be, the most beautiful part of the wall, without too many people overcrowding it.
So the next morning we set our alarm for 6am and were to be picked up at 7am from the front of the hotel. This is where we met Chan our guide for the day. The 12 seater mini bus turned up on time and Melissa went back to sleep on the two hour journey to the wall.
Whilst driving to The Great Wall I could see the pollution smog which was thick and dirty over Beijing and I could now understand why Beijing had such a bad reputation for pollution. We were pleased to have our pollution masks. They also helped with the cold weather as a bonus ☝🏼️One thing we did notice was the amount of people who spit in Beijing. Now, it's understandable that the pollution may be the reason for needing to do this, but they could learn to be a little more discreet about it to say the least. The sound of people viscously hurling phlegm surrounds you in Beijing. It is disgusting.
At 9am we arrived at The Great Wall and Chan took us all to a map at the side of the road and explained the different parts of the wall which we were at. He mentioned we had two options. Either, walk up to the wall (up a mountain) which would take 1 hour 30 minutes or get the cable car up and down for 100CNY (£10.00) we opted for the cable car as when being at a world wonder we'd rather spend our time on the wall than walking up to the wall.
After taking the four minute cable car to the top we stepped out of the cable car to a freezing -10 degrees and noticed we were above the clouds and could see snow in areas at the top. We strapped the go pro to my head on top of my hat to make a time lapse video of our walk and then set off for what was one tough walk!!!
We were informed by the guide that over 500,000 people died whilst building the wall and that there bodies were buried in the wall every meter or so as it was too difficult to bring the dead bodies back down the mountain, so they buried them there.
Whilst at the top we both couldn't believe how steep the wall was in places and how many steps there were. Whilst walking to the highest point of the wall we both had to take several breaks as it was exhausting and once we reached the highest point we could, Millie had a touch of altitude sickness.
After getting back to the bottom we enjoyed a traditional Chinese Lunch which consisted of rice, noodles, chicken balls, stir fried veg and sweet and sour sauces which was beautiful.
It was Chinese New Year whilst we were in Beijing and we asked around for any fire work displays or parades which may be on around midnight. The answer was simply 'no'. The Chinese celebrate the New Year with their families at home, along with a big feast. They let off their own fire works at home. So we both decided we would take a walk towards the Forbidden City where it was a big open space to see if we could get a glimpse of any fire works being let off. Midnight struck and whilst we could hear them coming from miles away as they were so loud, we barely saw anything. As we headed back to our hotel, we saw a few in the street which were on ropes and are lay down on the road. They were very loud and seemed pretty dangerous, but the police didn't seem to mind at all. The point of fireworks at Chinese New Year is not to make them as big as possible, but as loud as possible. This is to warn off evil spirits. All in all, we were both disappointed.
On one of the days, we decided to catch the metro to Beijing Zoo. The metro was super cheap and very easy to understand, with a similar set up as the Singapore or London metro.
The Zoo was crazy busy. We saw lots of different animals, including panda's, birds, tigers, lions, bears, monkeys, giraffes, elephants, zebra, crocodiles, polar bears, reptiles and even a two toed sloth!!! It was such a shame as he was all cuddled up facing away from us and so Neil missed out on his photo opportunity. We weren't too amazed with the Zoo to be honest as it seemed to us that, they had one of each animal to pretty much market the variety available. They also didn't seem to accommodate the animals very well. The elephants looked like they were going crazy for being placed in a tiny space, the polar bear looked like the saddest polar bear in the world, as well as the warmest. They just generally didn't look too happy and it left us feeling sorry for them more than anything.
With the weather being as unbearable as it was in Beijing, we decided that we would use here as a location to have some downtime, plus we had a decent hotel to chill out in. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and whatsapp are not available in China. You also aren't able to access Google, Netflix, YouTube, Gmail or google maps provided by Google. This would have made things pretty difficult, however, like most residents in China, we downloaded a VPN to our iPad and were able to chill out and watch Netflix and speak to family. Seemed pretty petty to us and quite ironic that in order to find a search engine available in China, Mel asked her mum to google it. 😂😉
Well anyway, we decided on one night that we wanted to go out to eat, as the smell of noodles started to make us both retch, after a week of nothing else. So we went on the search for some traditional Chinese grub. Well, let me tell you, the experience that we had when trying to find anybody who spoke a little English was no fun. We understand that English people can be quite ignorant when it comes to learning another language and that we seem to expect places around the world to know English, but this was impossible. We couldn't even find anybody willing to try and use body language or anything. In the end, we tried McDonald's and were told that they could not accept visa or MasterCard. We also had no cash and needed a cash point but they would not accept Visa or MasterCard either. Nobody spoke enough English to direct us to one, even at our hotel reception 😒 people were really rude to us. It was a particularly busy night and we were getting pushed around everywhere. One place even told us that we would need to wait an hour to have food. We asked to take away and they said that they were too busy to cook take away. In the end, we found a Pizza Hut and settled there. In an attempt to stick to our goal, we enjoyed a Peking Duck Pizza. It was actually really good.
After that, we ended up finding a cash machine which allowed us to withdraw, but generally found that people remained to be very hostile towards us. Apart from the days when we went to typical tourist spots, we didn't enjoy Beijing at all. We wanted to speak to people or try out some of their culture and food, but it wasn't possible. Neither did anything at street vendors look like something we could attempt if either of us wished to remain well. We try to be open minded and obviously with the trip we are on, want to give each place a try. Well, we tried Beijing and we didn't like it. It goes to the bottom of the list. Now, let's go somewhere else please....