Badaling, Beijing, Beijing Subway, Bianyiang Restaurant, Big Mac, China, Cloissone, Dr. Tea, Forbidden City, Gray Line Tours, Great Wall, Gu Gong, Guang Chang, Huairou, Jasmine Tea Ice Cream, Mutianyu, Novotel, Olympics, Scorpions, Seahorse, Silk Street, Starfish, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tian Tan, Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing, Yi He Yuan
After 4 months of waiting, I’ve finally arrived in Beijing. We only had two whole days to explore the Chinese capital so we really had to maximize our time there. This entry will be about our first day in Beijing so here goes…
DAY 1 – 第一天
Since we arrived in the early morning of our first day in Beijing, we only had little time to sleep before going to our first destination – the Great Wall. I have already told Arman and Ate beforehand that we should go to the Mutianyu (慕田峪) section of the Great Wall rather than the more popular Badaling (八达岭) section. Why? Because according to my ‘research’, the Badaling section is overcrowded and over developed to the point that it loses its historical appeal. During peak seasons, it becomes the Great Wall of Tourists. Mutianyu, on the other hand, is also restored but not overly so. It also offers better views though it is a bit farther than Badaling.
I woke up at around 6 AM. I barely had 5 hours of sleep but I was full of energy because of the excitement brought about by the sheer thought of me being on the Great Wall in a few hours. I sprang up from my bed and took a shower while my sister and Arman were still asleep. They were sleeping oh-so-soundly and I have this thing against waking people up.
At around 7:30 AM, ate and Arman woke up already and they started preparing. Arman told us that there’s a buffet breakfast downstairs but it costs an extra 113 RMB which is roughly 700 PhP. Since we were in a hurry, we decided to eat there rather than go scavenger hunting for a nearby restaurant. Before going to the breakfast buffet, we booked a guided tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The tour is handled by Gray Line Tours. It costs 420 RMB (~3000 PhP) inclusive of the English speaking tour guide as well as the tour bus ride to Mutianyu. It also includes a side trip to a Cloisonne Factory and a government-owned tea house. Oh, there goes my 445 RMB pocket money. I initially told my sister and Arman that we should go for a do-it-yourself tour but they were afraid that we might get lost. According to the people on PinoyExchange, it would only cost around 120 RMB to go to Mutianyu if we rode the public bus.
After our breakfast at Novotel’s Citrus Cafe, we waited for our tour bus to arrive. The tour desk at Novotel told us that the bus would arrive at around 9:20 AM but it was late by a few minutes because of the traffic in Beijing. Anyway, I thought we plus two other guests from Novotel were the only ones on the tour. Apparently, there are other people from other hotels as well.
After picking us up, we went to another hotel to pick up two other tourists. If I remember correctly, they were Spanish tourists. Our bus headed for the expressway once we were complete.
The journey to Mutianyu was a fun experience. Our tour guide, Liu, was very funny. He didn’t run out of stories to tell about Beijing, China, USA, and his experience with touring people of different nationalities. Also, the sights along the way were fantastic. In Beijing, even the expressways look nice. We were heading for Huairou by the way, it is where the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is located.
We stopped at a Cloisonne Factory on our way to Mutianyu. It served as a toilet-break and stretching stop as well. By the way, Cloisonne are certain decorative objects made from copper. If you missed the link I gave a while ago, here it is again. We were toured around the factory by an English-speaking lady and she lectured us on the process of creating cloisonne goods.
After we’ve finished looking around the cloisonne shop, I went to the convenience store just outside it. I had this feeling that the prices of beverages at Mutianyu would be insanely priced since there are a lot of tourists there. Again, I used my limited Mandarin skills to buy 2 bottles of distilled water.
Me: “Zhe ge duo shao qian?” (How much is this?)
Manong Tindahan (speaking in normal Chinese speed): “Wu kuai”
Me (with a super confused look): “Hah?”
Manong Tindahan (speaking slower): “Wu kuai” (Five RMB, they use kuai instead of yuan in day-to-day conversations)
Me: “Hao de, liang ge. Gei ni shi kuai.” (Okay, two pieces. Here’s 10 RMB)
Me (MT gives me the two bottles of water): “Xie xie!” (Thank you!)
You can just imagine how happy I was that I was able to communicate with the person in charge of the convenience store. Again, Arman was quite amazed with what just happened and I was literally beaming with pride. We hopped on our bus again and continued with our trip to Mutianyu.
On our way, Liu asked us some random questions just to break the ice. One of which was… How do you say ‘good morning‘ in Mandarin? I knew the answer but I didn’t want to be an excited show off so I just waited for others to answer. When no one was answering Liu, I softly said “Zao3 shang4 hao3″. Liu heard this and asked me to repeat it. He said that I was correct, even the tones. Yey! Did I win a prize? No. Because of that, he told me that I must be a Malaysian. I’m so sorry but I’m proudly Filipino. 🙂
Just 15 minutes after our cloisonne factory stop, we arrived in the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall. I was very giddy at that moment because I would be realizing one of my dreams in just a few minutes. Yes, I’ve been dreaming of getting to the Great Wall ever since I found out about it.
From the photo above, you can see that there are steps leading to a hole to the Great Wall itself. The hole wasn’t big and we were told that when going back, we should be extra careful not to go past that hole. And now, for the moment of truth (hah?)…
As exaggerated and dramatic as it sounds, I felt really fulfilled when I stepped on the Great Wall. It’s one of those places that you must visit before you become bacteria feed (or fertilizer). I walked with my sister and Arman until the 4th tower from the starting point before they told me that they were tired already and they wanted to go back to the platform. I asked my sister if I can go on even only until the tower before the steep ascent. She said yes so I off I went to explore the rest of the Great Wall.
When I reached my goal, I saw the next tower and told myself… I’m already there, why not go further up? I checked the path and it didn’t look that steep so I went for it.
Boy was I wrong, big time.
It was very difficult to go up. The high altitude plus the steepness of the incline just made it very hard to climb the path towards the next tower. Halfway through the climb, I stopped to take a breather and thought of going back. But when I looked down, I saw that I’ve come so far already. When I looked up, I saw that I’m already near the next tower… So I guess you know what I did.
When I got to the top, the first thing I did was to drink all of the water I had left in last bottle. My heart was pounding very fast and I just had to rest. I suddenly remembered that we were supposed to be back at the tour bus at around 1:50 PM. I checked my phone’s clock and… Oh my God… it was 1:30 PM already. I immediately composed myself and headed back down.
On the way back, I was literally shaking and I had to hold on to the sides of the wall. I could already imagine myself lying on the bed later that night with every inch of my lower body aching. I was also scared because I know that my sister would be very worried about me. I was running along the Great Wall just to make sure that I get to our tour bus on time.
True enough, when I got to the platform where we entered the Great Wall, my sister and Arman were waiting for me. She said that she was extremely worried especially that Liu told us in the bus that there was someone who fell down the Great Wall just recently and is now in a vegetable state. I apologized to my sister countless times on our way to the tour bus. And yes, we were the last team to arrive. Good thing we weren’t on the Amazing Race or we would have been booted out of the competition.
When we got on the bus, I felt absolutely exhausted but extremely happy. I sat on my seat and slept through the entire ride back to the city. When I woke up, we were passing by the Olympic Park where the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube are located. Liu was telling some facts about them including the cost of having them built as well as the designers of the two sporting venues. Sadly, we didn’t stop by the area.
Our next stop was the Dr. Tea tea house which is owned by the Chinese government. Our group was lead to a room and an English-speaking guide was assigned to us to explain the different kinds of tea as well as the proper way of preparing and drinking tea. They made us taste 4 different kinds of tea: Jasmine, Oolong, Pu’er, and Black Tea.
After our crash course on tea stuff, we were given time to shop at the store in Dr. Tea. Arman bought a canister of Pu’er tea. I wanted to buy one as well but as I’ve mentioned, I was short on cash.
When we boarded the bus, Liu told us that it was time for us to go back to the city proper. Each of us were given an option to stay at the hotel or be dropped of at the Silk Street (Greenhills-like mall). We opted to be dropped at the Silk Street since my sister wanted to do some shopping. Before going inside the mall, we decided to have lunch first at the McDonald’s branch in the building across Silk Street.
Inside, the place reminded me of 168 Shopping Mall in Divisoria. Stall after stall selling random goods. The entrance level were full of stalls selling clothes. My sister was looking at some dresses and the salesladies were aggressively asking her to buy one. Because of Silk Street, I have developed a fear of salesladies with a calculator at hand. When you ask the price of something, they’d tap the price on the calculator and shove it on your face. If you don’t like the price, you can haggle or walk away. When you walk away, they would shout “Lady/Mister! Come back, give me your price!“. I find it hard to explain. It is something that MUST be experienced first hand.
After doing some ‘window‘ shopping, we headed back to the hotel. Again, I was able to use my Mandarin in talking to the driver. Wee. We went straight to our room upon arriving at Novotel. We were supposed to have dinner together but ate’s body was aching all over so we just rested. At around 7 PM, the sky above Beijing was still bright. Ate was asleep, Arman was watching television, and I was doing nothing. I asked Arman if I could go out for a bit just to walk around. He said yes so off I went to explore Beijing at night.
I started walking to the left of Novotel. I had the map of Beijing with me and the block where Novotel is looks small so I decided to walk around that block.
Boy, was I wrong (for the nth time).
The block was heeeeyuge. Seriously. I was just walking and I ended up in some alley in Beijing – at night. I was a bit scared but I moved forward, turning right at the main streets. To my surprise, I ended up in a well lit area. I checked the street name and I saw… Wangfujing! Wangfujing is one of the popular shopping districts in Beijing and it becomes pretty lively at night.
I got a little scared when I was walking along the street. Random ladies would come up to me and ask me if I wanted a massage or if I speak English. That was quite terrifying but I learned to ignore them. One was persistently following me and I had a hard time shaking her off. Thank goodness I passed by an open KFC branch so I went in. I also grabbed something to eat there.
After eating, I went back to walking and after almost an hour, I was back in our hotel. It was a really long and tiring day and I had to rest for my second day in Beijing.
That’s it for now! 🙂