Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Labour Day in Beijing - Part 1

Date of travel: 30 April 2011

AirAsiaX to Tianjin = RM383 + RM154 baggage,meals,pick-a-seat,conv fee etc = RM537
Hotel (Novotel Peace Beijing) = CNY478nett/night (no breakfast) via ctrip.com = RM433/pax
Group Size = 2 adults and 2 senior citizens
Reminder to self: Never travel to China on Labour Day again

30th April:
The day started innocent enough, with us landing at Tianjin and catching the shuttle bus to the train station (CNY10/pax). Unfortunately, the train station was under massive renovation and we got dropped off 1km away. With luggage in tow walking on uneven tar road up and down sidewalks, it soon took its toll on mum and Aunty Nessie. We got a huge shock when we reliased that we needed to wait 1.5 HOURS for the next available train to Beijing, eventhough trains departed every 20 minutes! CNY69 for 1st class tickets or CNY58 for 2nd class. Major difference is either 2-2 seating for 2nd class or 2-1 seating configuration for 1st class. Finally arrived Beijing South Railway station, and caught a taxi (CNY30) to Novotel Peace Beijing Hotel. Thankfully, this hotel turned out to be the most perfect place to stay for us. Down the road from the hotel towards Wangfujing, is the best meal I had in Beijing.
Novotel Peace Beijing Hotel, CNY478/night

Best meal in Beijing! Haidilao hot pot

Fish and lamb slices

I would fly all the way back to Beijing just for this restaurant

Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
Store address: Beijing 88 Wangfujing Avenue, 8th Floor, Intime Lotte
Reservations, please call :010 -57620153, 57620741,57620742
This place is a MUST-VISIT if you are in Beijing, they have many branches all over the city. CNY200 for a very filling Shabu-Shabu dinner for 4 of us.

1st May:
Whose "brilliant" idea was it to visit Forbidden City today? Oh yeah it was mine. Stupid stupid stupid. Luckily for Aunty Nessie, she decided to stay in today to rest. We tried for 30 mins to hail a cab from our hotel to the Forbidden City. For some reason, none would stop for us. We tried getting help from the concierge but no taxis would stop for him either. Nevermind, Forbidden City can be reached with a quick 1-stop journey on the subway. But Nooooo ... on Labour Day, everything changes. We got our tickets and went down to the platform. Every train that came by every 3 minutes, was FULL OF PEOPLE! But that didn't stop 20 people from pushing into the train at every door opening. Some even got regurgitated out as passengers tried to exit the train. Sorry, I wasn't in the mood to be squashed today.
All of these people actually managed to push their way in

Every 3 minutes, this scene repeated itself

Finally at the entrance, we got herded through the gates like school children by guards with whistles.

What do we do? Walk 2kms all the way there. When we approached closer to the Forbidden City, i got squashed more and more as if I was walking into a sardine can. FINALLY after 1 hour of walking under sardine circumstances, we arrived at the ticket counter. And this is what we saw.
There are no "lanes". If you want tickets, you gotta fight for it.

Beside the barricade is the actual "queue", or lack of it. Looked like a sea of chaos.

The counter indicating the number of tickets remaining. Cost: CNY60/pax

Every day, the Forbidden City sells up to a maximum of 40,000 tickets. With a queue like this, tickets would be snapped up by 2pm. We were just about to give up, when someone approached us and sneakily asked us if we had tickets. It was done in a very hush-hush manner, but he wanted CNY80 per ticket. Nevermind about the extra CNY20, but what if they didn't work? So he suggested for me and mum to enter using 2 tickets first, and then call HH to let her know that we're in and she would then pay him. It took us yet another 30 minutes to navigate ourselves inside, and having our bags scanned. Whilst waiting for us, this guy explained how he had to start lining up at 7:00am to purchase 300 tickets for the day. He sells it now for CNY80 each but once the tickets are all sold out, he would then sell it for CNY150. He was shocked to find out that we were foreigners; had he known earlier, he would have charged us CNY150 on the spot. Thank you to HH for being able to speak the Beijing accent very well indeed.
The Forbidden City is large enough to absorb the 40,000 crowd for the day

For the faint-hearted, use the side staircases on the left and right

World Clocks on display, for an additional fee

The Forbidden City is an amazing sight, yes. It covers a huge area, yes. It has a lot of history behind it, yes. Unfortunately to someone like me who did not really cover Chinese history, it is also a very boring place, yes. A must-visit is actually the hill at the back of the Forbidden City, called Jingshan Park. It overlooks the entire Forbidden City in one shot. If you don't have time to do the Forbidden City, then just head to this park for CNY10/pax.
View from Jingshan Park
Moat surrounding the Forbidden City

If you think getting here was a major problem, getting back was far worse. Taxis, full. Buses, full. Trains, full. Trishaw-like-contraption = Deathtrap. So we walked the 3km back all the way to the hotel.

For dinner, we had researched a restaurant specialising in Chinese Dumplings. Amazingly enough, we took the public bus here for CNY2 per person. Beijing's public bus system is very impressive and very well connected. Now this restaurant is special as they do not charge by the number of dumplings, nor the sizes of the plates, as in small or large. They charge by weight! How many dumplings can you fit into your tummy? Mine was about 20 hahaha
Xian Lao Man at An Ding Men. Reservations not allowed

Be prepared for a 30 minute wait

From steamed to fried, choose the type of fillings inside. About 10-12 pieces in 1 pound of dumplings

Szechuan chicken, very spicy

You gotta have your veggies in every meal

This is one gigantic meat ball!

Xian Lao Man

Dōngchéngqū āndìng Mén Nèi Dàjiē 252 Hào
+86 10 6404 6944 

Do try the following:
- Sweetcorn and Pork Jiaozi
- Cabbage and Peanut Jiaozi
- Da Ban Cai
- Jiemo Dun (cabbage in a pungent mustard sauce)

Read Labour Day in Beijing - Part 2

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