November 12, 2013

Our Trip to Beijing

Our cabin on the way to Beijing
In the evening of October 24th Susu, me and our mums took a train over night to Beijing. We left Shanghai at about 9.30 p.m. and arrived at 9 a.m. the next day. When we decided to book a train instead of a flight on the way there we all agreed that this is one of those things that are worth doing in life and I’m very glad that we did since it was a great experience that I would always recommend. The four of us could share one cabin with two loft beds that were pretty comfortable. Against all expectations we were able to sleep almost just as if we were spending the night at some kind of hotel. An hour before our arrival we got woken up by nice Chinese music, the light got switched on and people started to get ready. After that good night of sleep we were well prepared to explore the city so that we decided to just take a shower in the hotel, drop off the luggage and start walking the streets of China’s capital right away. For the first day we had planned to meet up with our friends in Beijing and wanted to visit the Forbidden City that is known as a former palace of the emperor which the public wasn’t allowed to enter until 1920. Frauke and Nora did a good job guiding us through the city with its different places, gates and buildings of which most were named or at least contained the word harmony in some way. After about three hours of strolling through the different parts we were ready to leave and climb the “Kohlehügel” from where we had a great view on the Forbidden City and on Beijing. It was nice to have been to this highlight of Beijing but it wasn’t very impressive to me. Maybe my expectations beforehand were a bit too high but what I really did enjoy is the view on it in the end. After this side trip to the top my mum and I walked through the surrounding streets of the Forbidden City, visited Tiananmen Square, some old parts of the city with antique and artists’ stores and we had dinner at really fancy Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant. As we knew that air quality in Beijing is very bad so that many days are foggy we checked the weather that night to find the best time to visit the Great Wall and decided that it should be the next day. 

We got up early in the morning and were almost the first ones at the breakfast buffet in our hotel, where I had the best breakfast in a very long time. After strengthening for the day we took the metro, then a bus and taxi to get to the Great Wall where we arrived about 2,5 hours later. In Beijing there seems to be a lot more traffic than in Shanghai so that we were mostly stuck in some traffic jam on the way there. The part of the Great Wall that we went to is called Mutianyu, about 70 km north east of Beijing. We could take a cable car on the way up and a coastal slide to go down in the end. We were really lucky that the weather turned out to be as great as forecasted, so that we spend about three hours walking on the Wall, taking great pictures and enjoying the view on the beautiful trees that had started to change colors. I’m sure that this must have been one of the best times during the year to visit the Great Wall as the trees made the whole scenery especially beautiful.  

On our third day in Beijing we visited of the so-called Summer Palace, which was build 1750 and rebuild several times since then. When we got off the metro station that was closest to the entrance I asked two Chinese guys for the right direction. They also happened to be on their way to the Palace and told us to just follow them. At first they didn’t talk a lot and we weren’t sure if they had really understood what I had asked them for but after only a few minutes we were standing in front of the entrance, the two guys bought water bottles for all of us, they helped us to buy tickets and somehow we ended up spending almost half of that day together. Due to a lot of smog we were not able to see as much and take as many nice pictures as we were hoping for. But instead we had gotten to know these very nice Chinese with who I could practice a little bit of their language and they also seemed to enjoy speaking English and asking questions about Germany. It is not easy to get in touch with locals, especially because of the language barrier so that I am very happy that I got to know Tim and Joseph. In the afternoon my mum and I took the metro to a newer part of the capital, where we went to a shopping center and visited “The Place” with its big impressive LED screen where we looked at different pictures and also saw some kind of short movie in the evening, which summarized the development of life on earth. For dinner we tried Hotpot with coconut and satay, which is somehow similar to Fondue. Typically there is a pot at the center of the table, there are different ingredients like vegetables, meat or fish that can be ordered and those are placed in the boiling pot so that the food can be cooked right at the table. 

On our fourth and last day in the capital of China we visited the Hutongs, which are narrow streets with traditional residential buildings that are commonly associated with northern Chinese cities such as Beijing. After walking those streets and looking at different stores, we used the rest of our remaining time to take a Rikscha through the area. We had actually already seen everything that we wanted to and realized that three days would also have been enough in Beijing so that we were ready to get back to Shanghai. Still we were lucky that our flight was scheduled for the evening since our metro station closest to the hotel was the one at Tiananmen Square where the car accident or attack happened that afternoon. If we would have left from there an hour earlier than we had planned to we might have been one of those people who got injured that day so we really were very lucky and decided to take a taxi to the airport instead. I was happy to be back in Shanghai that evening, but my mum and me actually only stayed there for one day and went on another short trip to Hangzhou, which I will write about next time. 

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