Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Labour Day in Beijing - Part 2

Date of travel: 30th April 2011

2 May:
Having had enough of historical buildings, we brought mum to enjoy the culture of the city. At Hou Hai Lake area, you get to ride a trishaw through many small alleys, a.k.a. hutongs, and each hutong has a tale of its own. The trishaw was generous with his explanations of how each houses' main entrance signifies how rich that family is. Do bargain with the trishaw rider, as the opening price was CNY150 per person. We eventually settled with CNY80 per person.
This is the Hou Hai lake. At night, many bars and restaurants will light up the area

Peaceful trishaw ride in the early morning. Trishaw-traffic-jam towards noon

On the left, refurbished houses that are now restaurants/shops

Someone famous used to live here (i think)

Simple lunch near the lake

After a quick lunch at the Hou Hai area, we headed to the famous shopping street known as Xidan. Many taxi drivers will refuse to take you here because of the massive traffic in leaving this place. The shopping was not too bad, about 10-15 huge complexes all on one street. Getting back to the hotel wasn't funny though.

Buses to our hotel = Very crowded
Subway = Very crowded
Taxi = All occupied
Walk = Too far

So what do we do? We hopped on any random bus that looks empty, rode 3-4 stops, then hopped off at any random bus stop in hope of finding a taxi there. Luckily, the bus stop turned out to have a bus directly to our hotel. But unluckily, we had to pass by the Forbidden City before reaching our hotel! We made sure mum & aunt got a seat, thankfully. 1 stop before Forbidden City, a throng of people forced their way into the bus, and HH & I stood securely at the back door. We braced ourselves when the bus stopped outside Forbidden City, and we got SQUASHEDDDDDDDDDDDDDD to the back door. I remember my elbow crushed HH's stomach and all the air went out. When the bus moved on, we were so sandwiched that you no longer need to hold any handrails, there is no opportunity for you to fall anymore. I could only look at HH and laugh.

3 May:
Today we hired a driver via the hotel, to bring us up the Great Wall at Mutianyu section. This section is supposedly less crowded compared to Badaling, but it is a farther drive. The driver was due to arrive at 9:30am. Since HH wanted to see more historical sites, and the senior citizens didn't, we woke up at 5am and started our morning early at the Temple of Heaven. Many many other senior citizens were here for their morning exercise at 6am, and we kinda felt out of place. Lovely park to explore. After which, we headed to the Confucius Temple (Guojijian) for a quick visit, and made it in ample time back to our hotel.
At the park of Temple of Heaven

We couldn't get in the Temple of Heaven, as it only opens at 9am (though the park opens at 6am)

At the Confucius Temple (Guojijian)

At Guojijian again

Pillars with names of scholars

Arriving at Mutianyu, you will need to climb quite a bit in order to reach the cable car station. This short climb made mum and aunt totally exhausted. But once you're in the cable car, it's a smooth ride to Tower 14 where you get marvelous views. If you're adventurous enough, take the cable car to Tower 14, then hike down to Tower 6, and take a toboggan ride all the way to the bottom! How cool is that??
Cable Car at Mutianyu, to Tower 14

The "Bird's Nest" Stadium, thanks to the Olympics 2008

Something we really wanted to try was Beijing Duck. We had researched beforehand and many people argue on who is now the best. At the Great Wall, we met a tour guide who recommended us a very authentic Beijing Duck for reasonable prices. She had just gone there the week before, and often bring all her guests there and they love it. Who were we to argue. Our driver dropped us off at the restaurant at 4:30pm.

Outside the Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant

Nervously locating my way to the toilet

Ta-dah, Beijing's toilet for you

When we walked in, the place transported us back in time to a typical chinese village from the 1900s. The walls of the corridor were lined with photos of celebrities having dined here before, so we were really looking forward to it. The dining area turned out to be at an open courtyard within the interior of the house. A cupboard full of ducks stringed together, were keeping an eye on us. After sitting and waiting for our duck for 1 hour, the place gave me the creeps.
Our dining area inside Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant

Duck Cupboard. The chef came to carry one string of them, and part of the leg dragged on the floor!

There were options to have just the duck, or combination of duck + duck soup, or duck + duck soup + Fried duck. Not wanting to eat deep fried duck, i chose option 2 = duck + duck soup. Boy was I in for a major disappointment. When the duck was finally served, it was 2 platters containing the skin of the duck, and some pancake and condiments to eat it with. The soup was truly clear soup with no ingredients inside and a rather bland taste of the duck. I kept asking, "Where's the rest of my duck" and they insisted that in Chinese tradition, it would be rude for them to serve you the rest of the duck. This package of duck + soup came out to be CNY224. Honestly, I love eating duck and not just the duck skin.
Final product: Duck skin with condiments
4 May:
Today we were scheduled to depart from Tianjin at 4pm. Having asked several locals on what time I should depart Beijing, all of them responded 8am. I was baffled, why would it take 8 hours for a 30-minute train ride to Tianjin? We decided to follow along and left at 9:00am, dragged our feet a little here and there, and arrived at 11:30am. How else to waste our time till 4:00pm? We negotiated with a tout at the railway to bring us to the Tianjin Snack street, wait for us in the car with all our bags, and then send us to the airport for CNY160. We probably overpaid, it was totally unscrupulous a deal, and I probably wouldn't re-try this again. Thankfully, it worked out well, and we had a nice final meal at Tianjin before flying home with many stories to tell our grandchildren.
Tianjin Snack Street restaurant: Pork ribs with corn

Steamed Scallop, CNY6 each. Yummy!

Conclusion: We still love Beijing amongst all the cities in China

Read Labour Day in Beijing - Part 1

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