Link for pictures!
I don’t know how anyone explores Beijing without a fluent tour guide. When we planned this trip, I expected places such as Vietnam and Cambodia to be especially difficult due to the language barrier. Instead, those countries were easy, and as we learned throughout the trip, we’d be in for a rude awakening in China.
Luckily for us, Zac’s buddy, Danny, has lived and worked in Beijing for about five years, and is fluent in Mandarin. It just so happened that he only had to work one day of the whole week we were there, which was incredibly lucky for us. He lives right near Hoihai Lake, which is pretty close too the grimy and exciting action.
After a 24-hour train ride, Danny met us at the train station and helped us navigate the city with our ridiculous backpacks. In the evening, we headed to Wang Fu Ging St. for some interesting street food and a really fun night out.
We started the night off with some simple Chinese breads and meat skewers (“chuan’r” or something like that). We quickly progressed to lamb legs, fried scorpions, and some sort of a Bejing hot dog.
Our Beijing culinary journey later included a donkey meat burger, Peking duck, a Taiwanese hot pot, and a handful of successes and misfires.
Wednesday was the only day Zac and I were on our own, so we went to Tianamen Square, which is notorious due to the massacre by the Chinese government on citizens in 1989. We also checked out Beihai Park, Hoihai Lake, and wandered the streets for a bit.
Now it’s on to the very best part of Beijing: The Great Wall!
Hearing about a slide down the hill from the Badaling section, we headed there. Or so we thought. Our taxi driver took us to Jinshanling instead. We didn’t realize there was no slide until we were all the way at the top! Ah well, he kind of paid for it in the end when we took the bus back instead of riding back with him.
Even though our taxi driver sucked, we really liked Jingshanling, and I’m glad we went there. The hike up to the top of that section of the wall is pretty strenuous, and the views are really great.
We went to Badaling afterwards, but it was much more crowded with tourists, and not nearly as great of a climb to the top. The slide isn’t fast or intense, but it was still pretty cool, and probably a little dangerous.
For those of you that don’t know, the closest portion of The Great Wall is about an hour or so outside of Beijing, and there are several different sections of wall. Some are renovated to look the way they did during the wall’s heyday, while others are a bit dilapidated, untouched, and slightly dangerous. Both Badaling and Jinshanling are reconstructed sections, so it was pretty cool to see how it looked back it the day. It took us about an hour and a half to climb up Jinshangling, but just 30 minutes to get to the slide at Badaling.
Over the next few days, we climbed the pagoda that overlooks The Forbidden City, went to the viewing of Mao’s embalmed body (probably fake, just like Ho Chi Minh), got jostled on the subway, had drinks in a Reggae bar, went to a private rooftop terrace party, and bought cheap DVDs in the Silk Market. It was definitely a very successful and enjoyable stop on the trip, but I still can’t imagine doing it all so seamlessly without Danny. Thanks, Danny!
Also, we saw a lot of messy eaters.
We’re now finding our way around Shanghai for a few days, and heading over to Japan on Thursday morning!