Here we go! We are off to write our experience in Beijing again! And this time, we are focusing on “traditional” China.
When one thinks of Beijing, it’s not just a simple immersion to the Chinese culture, but rather a walk to their rich past. According to the people we got to talk to while we were roaming around the city, the places to be in China is Shanghaii and Beijing. They also added that Beijing is much more “traditional” than modern Shanghaii.
With that being said, we made it a point to explore places that would immerse us into their very rich history, namely: The Forbidden City (Meridian Gate), Great Wall, Hutongs, and Summer Palace.
The Forbidden City (Meridian Gate)
Our trip to the Forbidden City was a memorable one. It was the first landmark we visited, which is accessible by their train (Line 1). Basically, if you look at the train routes, you’ll never get lost looking for the Forbidden City, ’cause it’s the only landmark that’s drawn on the train map.
Honestly, we never went to the “Forbidden City” per ce, because we just visited the Meridian Gate. We got too lazy to cross the street, and we were already in awe of the Meridian Gate, so we just decided to stay put and chill at the gate before we went looking for Wangfujing (disscussed in our previous post).
We were in Beijing the same time as Pres. Duterte, so their security was extra strict. Or we don’t know, maybe they are really strict about the place because it’s a very important landmark for them.
A lot of Chinese from different cities and territories pay a visit to the Forbidden City in order to see the big picture of Mao Zedong. We even noticed that we were the only none-Chinese people there that time (well, SC is part Chinese, but that ain’t counted ahahaha).
Despite the large number of visitors, we were amazed with how clean the landmark was. The atmosphere was very different, maybe because they really respect the place, considering it sacred due to their love for Mao.
The Great Wall
THIS. HAS. BEEN. THE. BEST.
Yes, seeing this magnificent wonder made our eyes glimmer in awe. It was so beautiful, so wonderful, it amazed us how they did it. It was built in a time with no technology and not much machines, and it was so huge that we opted not to walk far too long because we were overwhelmed by being there.
We left our hotel early in the morning (6am? We can’t remember…) because we were only commuting. The train was nearly empty, and we made our way to 东直门 (Dongzhimen) station where the busses headed to Mutianyu would depart.
The Great Wall is very long that it was divided into segments, with Badaling as the most popular portion of the wall. We don’t like lots of people so choosing the portion with less tourists was our main priority. At the same time, we were only using public transport, so we needed a part of the great wall that is reachable via commute.
We chose Mutianyu for such reasons. It is not that popular so we won’t have problems with photobombers, and at the same time it’s nearer Beijing (ergo easier to commute).
Most tour guides would say that the Great Wall is far off Beijing, so it would be better to take a tour instead. This is true, yes, but we were adventurous enough to try public transport on our own. Not to mention, tours to the wall are really overpriced relative to commuting. We just did our research and made sure we had written Chinese phrases on our phones to show locals when we are lost. Thus, we proved how friendly and hospitable they are to tourists. Ihihihi! (We even had a selfie with one of them!)
It was also a good idea for us not to join such tours because we got better views in our photos with no photobombers due to the large crowd of guided tours. Add to that the idea that we were there early in the morning! The crowd gets too many when afternoon comes!
We were confused with what hutongs were when we were searching the internet about things to do in Beijing. But the simplest way we can describe a hutong is that it is a little area or street in Beijing that retains the “Old China” vibe. This means that it isn’t as modernized as most areas in Beijing because it was preserved to still look like how old Chinese residences look like.
It isn’t as grandoise as the other landmarks, but it still pays a visit for cultural tourists like us. This was also where we found traditional Chinese street food, most importantly our favorite 煎饼果子 (jianbing), which we discussed in our previous post.
It was kind of hard to walk around hutongs because we got lost in translation. Not to mention the silent ebikes who suddenly surprised the hell out of us for showing up behind us all of a sudden. Lol. Nonetheless, it was one hell of a great adventure!
We also got to see some temples along the way! Hihi.
We weren’t supposed to go here anymore due to limited time (okay, we had time, but we were always a chill couple when we travel. Lol…) but we went here on our last day and good thing we did.
Surprisingly, it was a very picturesque place. We were half-hearted to go because we initially thought it was just another palace/temple to go to, but apparently it had the best scenery during autumn (we went there late autumn, nearing winter).
Once again, we’ll be honest. We did not roam the place that much. Night was crawling and the sun was about to set so we really needed to go. We walked a few flights of stairs towards a certain temple, but we stopped and opted to go home already to avoid the Chinese rush hour of trains.
Nonetheless, we were able to visit a very special area in Summer Palace, Suzhou Street. It required another couple of yuan to enter this street built around a lake, but it was well worth it (plus the student discounts in China were a winner!!).
Suzhou street was very beautiful, and much more so in pictures. At times it was scary to walk around due to how close the lake was (there were no rails or whatsoever, so we really needed to walk around with confidence on our balance and that we won’t fall onto the water).
All in all, Beijing was a blast! We would love to live there, actually. People were very warm and approachable. The weather was more for us than a tropical one, and it was actually clean and safe. Hopefully we get to visit again. Soon, we really hope!