Sunday, 12 October 2014

Beijing & The Great Wall

Back to my China adventure today. After leaving Shanghai bright and early on Monday morning and spending five hours on a super-fast train (the first class ticket being well worth it for the free biscuits) I was in Beijing.

Beijing has a very different feel to Shanghai - its bigger and flatter and I don't know if it was the polluted smog, the lack of a Pearl Tower-esque landmark, the number of G&Ts consumed or the fact that my friend P speaks Mandarin which took away any effort on my part of getting around but I never really felt like I got my bearings in Beijing. It's a huge, sprawling city with numbered ring roads forming concentric circles. Taxis are super cheap and the Metro is fast and efficient but speaking Chinese definitely felt like far more of an essential (or at least something which made life far, far easier) here than it did in Shanghai.

My first day in Beijing was a wet one - typical! After a not-so-Chinese lunch of burritos (required after an evening of gin and KTV...) we headed to the Lama Temple and then to 798 Art District. The temple was beautiful, even in the rain. I love the smell of incense and wandering around the temple buildings was a lovely calming escape from the hectic city. The 798 District is a definitely must-see for art lovers, there are so many galleries to explore - some of which are free to get into - and art works adorn the streets of the district. The galleries tend to close around 6ish - everything in China shuts so early which does not mix well with late nights! Art fans should visit early in the day to have enough time to see everything.
The largest statute carved from a single piece of wood - it's in the Guiness Book of Records!

Breton stripes!
On day two the rain had stopped and despite waking up to a very smoggy "non-view" of the city, a nice day was promised. Before my trip to Beijing I hadn't been too fussed about seeing The Great Wall but I'm so glad I did - it really is amazing and the trip out the city is well worth it to see something so iconic. Also, it's the thing that I guarantee everyone will ask you about if you tell them you visited Beijing! Skipping the very touristy Badaling (which can be reached by train) we opted for Mutianyu - hoping that it promised an authentic-ish experience without it being too treacherous. If you (or a friend) cannot speak Mandarin then I'd definitely recommend taking the train to Badaling or going on an organised bus trip as despite Mutianyu being set up for visitors to the wall it was a bit of a nightmare to get to (a public bus for an hour, followed by a slightly terrifying mini-van ride). Don't be put off by being greeted with Burger King - once you are through the car park area, and have taken another bus ride to a second car park (this one with a Subway) there's a cable car to take you up to the wall. Yes, it's all a bit of a hassle but its worth it once you're there!This part of the wall was well-maintained and nice for a leisurely walk - there are areas where you can do more serious hiking but I am not in any way a serious hiker.




The view! And the sheer 50m drop...

Ski-lift down, an ever more terrifying experience when not on skis... Not that having a "how are we going to get off this thing" panic halfway down spoiled the view.

Pineapple-ing. Always.
Perfect end to a hard days' walking - gin and kitty time!
What have you been un-fussed about visiting and then loved?


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2 comments

  1. This looks INCREDIBLE, I am jealous of your trip!

    Maria xxx

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  2. We went to Badaling as we did a coach tour and can't speak any Mandarin. Didn't do the cable cars and just walked instead so I was shattered!! Lama Temple was awesome, I sneaked a pic of the tree Buddha too! We spent 9 dats in Beijing so got our bearings pretty well by the end, but it's certainly manic when you first arrive and definitely takes some getting used to!
    Cx

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