Tuesday, March 29, 2016

China/Korea 2009: day 5 (Beijing)

Beijing day 2: Friday 10/2/09
Map of my Beijing stops, this day in cyan; here are the photos from today. Yellow highlights in the text correspond to flags on the map.

Parts of the city and the metro are still closed off, so I had to play it real-time to see if what I wanted to do was available. I did the Ming Tombs and Great Wall tour. They pick you up from your hotel and take you out. My tour first took us about 2 hours to a jade factory which, while impressive, I had read that you shouldn't buy from there since the prices are marked up, but you should still look at what they've got so you can get ideas on what to buy later and get an upper price range for what it costs. Stayed there about 45 minutes, with a 15 minute drive to the next stop. We went to the Ming Tombs which was really cool but we only had time for a cursory stop of an hour, not enough time to even read much of the placards in the exhibit halls. They took us to an Eastern medicine "hospital" where they diagnose your "ailments" and recommend that you buy their "cures". That wasted an hour, then they took us back to the jade place for lunch (which was included in the cost of the trip).

60 km to tombs. Picked up at 8:05. Royal pagoda view. Driving in city, see hutongs. 5 hrs N to S. Pleasant day, great vis. Stop at govt Jade store, quick pass of sights then get to showroom, 9:15-9:45. Longevity tomb 600 yrs old exactly. More animals on roof is more important. Tomorrow is full moon ceremony. Walk around negative gate, thru positive gate. Ghosts can't climb over step. Wish we had more time. Concubines home into nursing home. ​Herbal spiel. Group consists of people from Australia, China, Italy, Russia, Belgium, US (9 of 14). Done w/ lunch 12:30. Thai Disneyland mistake. ​

After that was the Great Wall at Badaling. We had about 3 hours to ourselves. Tips: bring lots of water for the climb, I drank 3 bottles and needed my 4th that was on the bus. It's very tiring and remember that as far down as you go, you have to come back up, and there are some very steep sections. As I mentioned, there was no haze so I could see to the horizon, which was very unusual (I learned later that they shut down roads and factories to minimize pollution for National Day).

Walking on the Chinese wall. Compare to Uluru. Steep vs shallow parts. Done w/ wall 3:30, more than 2 hrs is a lot. Squat toilets with BYO TP.

On the way back, you could tell the bus driver where to stop as long as it was on the way, so a few of us got out at the Beijing Venture Plaza (don't know what that is, but that's where the stop was) right near the Olympic Stadium around 5pm. The stadium stops selling tickets at 5:30 and it closes at 6pm. I went inside the Bird's Nest stadium but forgot to stop at the gift shop before it closed at 6 also. The plaza is open til late, and I got there before dusk so I got to see the stadium and the Water Cube at sunset and then at night with all the lights. 

Wanted Peking Duck for dinner, all the guidebooks recommend Qianmen Quanjude Restaurant. Took the following Metro lines: 8 to 10 to 13 to 2 and get off at Qianmen station, which is the south entrance to Tianenman Square. There's an outdoor mall there to the southeast, the restaurant is somewhere in there. It took about 90 minutes to go on the subway (half of which was transfers between lines at the stations), but it's cheaper and probably faster than a cab. Took another 45 minutes to get to the restaurant after wandering through the mall, and my dinner (Peking Duck) didn't arrive until 10pm. Took a pedicab back to the hotel.

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