Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Beijing Adventures & Misadventures: Day 1

At Lama Temple

May 10, 2009 - Arrival

A day of hitches!..and blessings!

Left Manila at 11am and arrived Beijing at almost 6pm. Waited for about 2 hours for our delayed baggage. The Dragonair flight was quiet impressive serving food with rice and Haagen Dazs ice cream for dessert! They even beat Cathay Pacific's pathetic tuna sandwich!

Our first glimpse of Beijing was that of its humongous airport. 5X London's Heathrow they say! To go around the airport, you need to take the train.

Our first impression of Beijing? Well, yes! not everybody understand and speaks English---so it was sign language most of the time here. But, we were able to get by taking the airport shuttle to the City--albeit a little worried if we get lost.

Arrived the City past 7pm. By this time it was already dark. Sunset in Beijing is around 7pm. Tried to hail a cab but nobody wants to take us, despite a chinese printout of the name and address and map of the hotel. Either they do not understand us or they think the hotel's location is just very near---hmmm, so very Philippines don't you think?

To validate, I asked a street sweeper who could not understand me. Good thing someone overheard me and offered his help. Oh what a God send! At first I was wary but he seems sincere in
Comfortable room @ Grand Mercure Xidan
offering that he walks us to the hotel because it is really very near. He was the first Beijinger that can speak and understand English very well. Thank you, Nick! You are such an angel...

Another blessing was the upgrade our hotel (Grand Mercure Xidan) gave me & Gia. We were given a bigger room with a living area and a separate bath and shower! It was a great way to end our stressful yet "fun" day.

 May 11, 2009 - First Hand Immersion in the land of Mao

My good friend Irah and her sister, Tisha, arranged our itinerary while waiting for me. (Oh! they too had more interesting and funny stories to tell about their arrival in Beijing!)

We hired a taxi for the day to take us to sites that were not included in the tours we took. This is our first glimpse of Beijing...

Places Visited in order:

Olympic marker
a 6-star hotel
1. The 2008 Olympic Village:
The Nest
The Cube

Bird's Nest - the National Stadium, 91,000 seats, used for football and athletics and the host to the opening ceremony.
2. The Cube - the National Aquatics Center, 6,000 seats but can accommodate 11,000 more standing, venue for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming.

3. Lama Temple - home of the Tibetan monks and the 18-meter statue of Buddha carved from a single sandalwood tree (which landed the Guinness Book of World Records).

4. Lunch at a Hutong area - Beijing's disappearing 700-yr-old alleys and courtyards.

- Where we had a hard time asking for ice for our drinks..hahaha

5. Bell & Drum Towers - built in 1240 to announce the time (drum at night and bell during daytime)

6. Beihai Park  - surrounded by Beihai Lake, with an island that has a White Pagoda where Kublai Khan's palace used to be. A refreshing site in the city.

After the tour, we went to the Silk Market where Irah got harassed by vendors and where we found bargain costume jewelries. You have to bargain well though...say, the amount should be at least 15-20% of the original price only! yes, you read it right!

Dinner time was hosted by Irah's friend Lin who took us to a Schezuan restaurant for authentic dishes. We had such an animated time we were the last to go---we had to take the service/employees elevator you see---haha. We had coffee at our hotel's lobby until around midnight.

Such a full day of adventures, misadventures and kilometers of walking...
Lama Temple
In a Guinness Book of records
Colorful souvenirs outside Lama Temple
Rickshaws in a row
A road that leads to the hutongs
Store in a Hutong
Door detail
Beihai Park
Bell Tower

Why we are impressed:
1. Wide (very wide! 4-6 lanes per way), clean, orderly streets, plus 2 lanes for bicycles---so you can just imagine how wide their streets are! Makes you wonder how impressive their urban planning is!
2. Roses (peach roses) on the islands on the streets, colorful blooming flowers on the side of the streets together with the weeping willow trees! Mini garden, parks everywhere!
3. The city is built around the Forbidden City---so main   thoroughfares are named "1st ring", "2nd ring",etc.
4. Most of their lamposts are solar-powered!
5. A very modern, very huge international airport!

Unimpressed by:
1. Difficulty in communicating. (Oh we had a funny experience when we ordered some ice for our drinks! LOL..)
2. The peoples' habit of s*&%$ everywhere and anywhere!! ( no insults meant but I just find it disgusting especially if you hear it several times in a day!)
3. We know we are in China, but their toilets need a little bit of adjusting to for us who are used to the western way. (Not all tourist attractions have western toilets).

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