Beijing Trip – Day 3 (29 April 2013)

Our day 3 program:
» Summer Palace
» Silk Store
» Foot Massage Centre
» Niujie Mosque
» Tea House
» Acrobatic Show

First destination: Summer Palace

The first thing you’d notice when entering the area was the lake. It was huge! And it was the more impressive because it was man-made! Yup, the whole Kunming Lake was dug up and the excavated soil was used to build the Longevity Hill upon which the palace complex was located.

That was from Wikipedia. Hahaha

But the area was really beautiful. And very windy. I mean, very very windy. Quite warm, too.

Beijing Summer Palace

It was too bad that we spent such a short time there. I would’ve loved to visit the palace itself and see what’s inside, but again, the guide seemed to be really in a rush to get us to the next destination. I reckon he got a commission for every purchase made by the group he brings in.

Next destination: Silk Store

It’s another of those compulsory places tour groups have to visit, I think. And it’s just next door to the Summer Palace. We were briefly told the story of the silk larvae and how they sacrificed their lives so that the humans can wear silk. It was all very touching et cetera et cetera, right until the salesgirls brought us to the upper floor so that we can spend more of our money buying silk stuff. Hehehe… Ancient Silk Gown

In the end, one guy bought a silk pillow for his mother and another a couple of silk quilt sheet sets for himself. I was thinking of buying silk cloth for my mother and sister but the designs were so awful and old, not to mention the exorbitant price, that I decided to just buy them from the arcades at Jalan TAR in KL. At RM 70 a meter, it was really a cut-throat price, don’t you agree?

I even gave the salesgirls some tips on the latest designs of fabric for baju kurung in Malaysia. Well, I hope they were the latest. Hehehehe… They really should do some googling just to stay current.

Next destination: Foot Massage Centre

Again, it was another one of those government-owned, compulsory-to-visit places. It was a totally pointless stop-over which offered nothing of what the place was purportedly for. More like a place to rip off people’s money.

Foot massage?

My foot! Hmmph!

Next destination: Niujie Mosque

Niujie (which means Ox Street or Cow Street) is well known for its highest concentration of Muslim people in Beijing. The Niujie Mosque is the oldest mosque in China, built in the year 996. The architecture style is the standard pagoda, similar to most old buildings in China. I have never seen a mosque with red interior, though. Quite refreshing, I must say. Very chinese.

Niujie Mosque

We spent some time there praying and taking photos.

Next destination: Tea House

The tea house was also government-owned and a compulsory stop-over, but it was a much more pleasant visit than the foot massage centre. We got to taste 4 different types of tea in their original brew. That is, without sugar. I remember one lychee flavour, one Oolong tea, one slimming tea and another one I can’t remember the name. All taste very good.

Beijing Tea House

The ones in the photo above are actually tea, preserved for 20 years or so, on average. The older it is, the more valuable it becomes. And the more expensive, of course. They even gave a certificate to the buyer of this tea, which can be returned on the next purchase for a discount.

I did not purchase any since I am more of a coffee person than tea.

Last destination: Acrobatic Show

The final activity for the day was the acrobatic show at the Chaoyang Theatre, I think. The itinerary did not mention where the show actually was. Some of the acts were awesome, especially the one where they put 5 bikers inside a huge metal globe.

It started with one rider… then 2… then 3.. and the audience were beginning to ooohhh and aaahhh. Then it was 4 riders and everybody was at the edge of their seats. Then it was 5 riders and the theatre was overwhelmed with the sound of everybody shouting in appreciation. It was just awesome! One slip in timing and the whole show could end up in a disaster. But kudos to the skills of these acrobats. Everything was done perfectly.

No wonder they put this as the last act for the show.

Beijing Acrobatic Show

It was dinner time after that at the same uninspiring restaurant as the day before, with the same uninspired food. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest.

You can view the photos for day 3 here: Beijing Trip 2013 – Day 3

Beijing Trip – Day 2 (28 April 2013)

Our day 2 program:
» Jade Museum
» Crystal Centre
» Great Wall of China
» Burning Cream Centre

First destination: Jade Museum

I was expecting the Jade Museum to be exactly that, a museum, but after a short briefing and some viewing of jade carvings, the place turned out to be a jewellery shop after all. Sigh…

A note aside, have there been too many Malaysians already visiting China? It seems that every salesperson there can speak Malay.

“Murah, murah!”

“Dua ratus lima puluh yuan!”

Urrrgghhhh!!!

We learned how to differentiate between real and fake jade, high and low quality jade, the easy way. It all based on sound. Yup, it’s the sound the jade gives when hit. High quality jade (jadeite or hard jade) gives clear ringing sound. Fake ones give you a dull sound. Also, the greener the jade, the more expensive it is. Jadeite can easily scratch glass or metal surfaces, like diamond. I don’t think it’s as hard as diamond, though.

I was very lucky because they did not have the jadeite bangle design that I want. Otherwise, I would’ve spent about RM1,000 on one, like my friend, I-zharul Afiz did. What a rich guy.  Hahaha

Jade Bangles

Next destination: Crystal Centre

Yup, another jewellery store. I can easily buy the items there at the Downtown night market here. Needless to say, we were quite bored there and wanted to leave immediately, but apparently we were required to stay there for 45 minutes. Something about a tour requirement. Ah well…

Next destination: Lunch! Hehehehe…

Again, I have no idea where the place was, but it was near the abandoned Beijing Wonderland Amusement Park, along the way to the Great Wall. I wonder why no one wants to complete the construction of the park. I reckon the number of visitors per year could easily beat the Disneyland in the USA. How many people are there now in China?

Lunch was at this big building of a hotel/shop/restaurant, although the hotel seemed to be no longer in operation. The food was again unappetising. No Peking duck or something like that.  Uwaaa!!

Meat Balls

Next destination: The Great Wall of China

After the Forbidden City, the Great Wall was another of China’s landmarks which I really wanted to visit. There are a number of places where one can climb the Wall. The one we went to was the Juyongguan, about 50 km north of Beijing. I must admit, looking up from the bottom of the pass, it really was a daunting climb, even to get to the first watch tower. The stairs were practically vertical!

Great Wall of China

We climbed up to the 6th tower, I think, where only a few hardy souls went. Hehehehe.. It took us about half an hour to get there, with shaking knees and all. I almost gave up at the 4th tower, but upon seeing 2 grandmas still climbing ahead of me, well… I don’t need to say more, do I?  Wekkk!!

After taking some ANTM shoots with the models, it was time to get back. Man, it was more difficult going down! The whole leg were shaking every time I put my foot down. But at least I can say that I have been to the top (or something like that), unlike some people I could name. Hehehehe… Kannn Pakcik Shak  Wekkk!!

Next destination: Burning Cream Centre

No, it was not a place where people burn cream, or the cream burns you when you put it on your skin. It was where they produce and sell this cream which can prevent your skin from blistering when you get burned. The girl who did the briefing even did a demo where she touched a metal chain just out from the fire. It was really really hot. We could smell the scent of burnt skin after she put her palm on the chain. She applied the cream and about half an hour later, she showed us her palm. Nope, no blister. Pink and still painful, but no blister.

The shop sells other items as well, mostly traditional medicine made from herbs. I bought this herbal drinks for general health and also to increase energy. Ehem! Wekkk!!

Next destination: Dinner!

This time the food was much better than the previous meals. Everybody was starving and the plates were cleared in record time.

Beijing CCTV HeadquartersIt was free and easy after dinner. I wanted to go to the Beijing Hard Rock Cafe to buy some souvenir items for my friends. Looking at the map, the cafe was not that far from our hotel. I was thinking of actually walking there. Fortunately, the other wanted to follow, so we took 3 cabs. It turned out to be quite far! It was kind of weird when the cab drivers did not know where the Hard Rock Cafe was. I mean, Hard Rock Cafes are big all over the world, right?

When we got there (it was next to the Landmark Hotel) and asked the guy at the hotel door where it was, he said, “No open, no open!” We thought he meant the cafe was not open that night. Then we found out that it was actually closed for good. Wow! No wonder I couldn’t find it in the official Hard Rock Cafe website. Even the one in Shanghai was closed down. Apparently, the business was slow and the cafe was making big losses. Ah well… there goes your souvenirs, my friends.

In the end, we took the bus and went to area near the China Central Television Headquarters building to take some photos. Quite a unique building, the CCTV HQ. There was a big hole right in the middle of the building and the top part of it is like hanging, without any support at the bottom. Scary, actually.

We took the Beijing Subway back to the hotel. Very cheap, only 2 yuan per trip. Quite extensive too the network. There are 17 lines, covering 456 km of tracks. It’s the second longest subway system in the world after the Seoul Metropolitan Subway (according to Wikipedia… hehehehe…). Anyway, they are expanding and will probably take over the rank by 2020.

You can view the photos for day 2 here: Beijing Trip 2013 – Day 2

Beijing Trip – Day 1 (27 April 2013)

It was actually an unplanned trip, to be honest with you. For me, at least. The others in the group have been saving money since last year when the “big chicken mother”, Pakcik Shak, came up with the idea to travel a bit further than the usual trips to Indonesia and Thailand. At that time, I was not that keen to join. Which was why I did not participate in the installment program to pay for the trip.

But then, one month before the travel date, that “big chicken mother” implored me to join the group. His exact words were:

Aku tak paksa tau… tapi aku merayu.

Chicken shit! tongue

Fortunately, I got some extra money to spend, so Beijing here I come. Hehehehe…

KUL-PEK Boarding Pass

The flight to Beijing took about 6 hours and, as usual, I spent my time sleeping rather than watching the in-flight movies peace

This was my second time to China. The first time was to Shanghai in 2009. But that was for work. This was for leisure. I was really looking forward to visiting some of those places like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the olympic stadiums.

We touched down at the Beijing International Airport around 7 am. KLIA could probably fit into it 3 times with rooms to spare. It was huge! Immigration was a breeze and by the time we got our bags, the guide was already waiting for us outside. His name was David and he speaks good English.

Apparently the weather was perfect for a spring day. It was bright and sunny, with refreshing wind to cool you down. “You are very lucky. It was very very cold the past few days,” said David.

We hopped onto the bus and went straight away to our first destination: the Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square Beijing

It was really packed with people. Well, hardly surprising since it’s one of the must-visit places when you are in China. Interestingly, though, the majority of them were Chinese.

We walked through the Gate of Heavenly Peace (the Tiananmen Gate) to enter the Forbidden City. And I finally set foot at the famous place which I only saw on tv or in movies before. The place was huge! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enter the buildings since our guide seemed intent to get us to the other end in the shortest time possible.

Forbidden Palace Beijing

It was then lunch time at this one Muslim restaurant God knows where. The food was totally tasteless and unappetising but, since everybody was famished, the plates were left clean in no time.

Lunch

Majesty / Long Ding Hua Hotel BeijingAfter the uninspired lunch, we checked in at the hotel: Majesty Hotel or locally known as the Long Ding Hua Hotel in the Chaoyang District in Beijing. It was a nice hotel. 3 star rating, I think, but comfortable enough. Very near to public transports like bus and train. Apparently the fare for the train is very cheap in Beijing. Only 2 yuan per entry, which is approximately RM1. There was also a supermarket behind the hotel, which sells fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, clothings and all sorts of other things. There was also some halal food outlets nearby. So quite a convenient place, this hotel.

After we have checked in, we went to another restaurant, still God knows where, for dinner. The food was only slightly better than lunch. I was hoping that we would get the same Chinese food I sometime eat here in Malaysia but I might as well dream of having a bbq chicken for dinner.

After that, back to the hotel and it was free and easy, so we decided to explore the area a bit. We went to the supermarket (called Ding) and I bought some strawberries there. Man, they were just divine. Very sweet and delicious, not like the ones grown in Cameron Highlands. Very sour and small.

Strawberry

We then lepak-lepak at the Muslim food outlet next to the hotel for a while, ate some strange food, before turning in for the day. All in all, it was a good first day in Beijing, although personally, I would prefer to spend more time at the Forbidden Palace to see more of the place.

You can view the photos for day 1 here: Beijing Trip 2013 – Day 1