As the purpose for visiting Japan was for Dan’s work, neither of us took any time off. But now that Dan’s assignment is completed, we’re off for a week of holiday exploring China and then Thailand.
We only had 3 nights/2 full days in Beijing, but were able to pack everything in that we had wished to see. Our first evening we ventured to a local restaurant to try the famous Peking Duck, via a recommendation from our hotel. The food was outstanding! The duck was perfectly crisp on the outside, but tender and moist on the inside. We also had a local beef dish which was also fantastic. During dinner, it started to rain…really hard. So hard and with so much wind, that water started to come into the restaurant via the deck doors. It was crazy how much water started to flood in, in just a matter of minutes, the streets were flooded and trees were down. It was a bit chaotic. As the there was so much water on the streets, we ended up taking a tuk tuk to get back to our hotel. What a way to be welcomed into Chinese culture :).
The next day, was our big adventure – The Great Wall! Mega bucket list item for us! We decided to hire a driver for the day to take us out to a spot on the wall where we could hike for a few hours and not be swarmed with a bunch of tourists. We ended up going to the Mutianyu part of the wall. It was perfection! We started early in the morning to beat the heat [even though it was still 90 degrees!]. The trek starts with taking a cable car up to the ridge, then we started the 3 hour hike. It is hard to put into words the experience. The sheer greatness of the size of the wall just left us speechless. It was fun hiking past the part of the wall that has been restored into the ruins and overgrown area. It was an experience we will remember forever. Let the photos tell the story [there are A LOT of them!]…
After hiking, our driver took us to a local restaurant for a late lunch. The place doesn’t accept non-Chinese guests, but they let us in because we had our Chinese driver with us. The restaurant’s name is translated to “Fish Master”, as the restaurant was situated around a fishing pond. The fishermen would catch the fish right there in the pond and then send it to the kitchen to be prepared. We had no idea what we were getting for lunch, as our driver just ordered for us. What came out, was a pleasant surprise: one fish, cooked three ways [meat fried, meat broiled and the skin/extras baked], one pork dish [similar to a sweet and sour] and some veggies. It was fun trying the local food.
On our last full day in Beijing, we went to explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is massive! And full of people. The square is named after the Tiananmen (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”). Other than the square being a meeting place for large Chinese events, it’s most known for the large massacre in 1989 – where protests and riots broke out and at least several hundred, if not thousands of people were killed. It was a bit overwhelming, but really cool to see. I wasn’t prepared for so many Chinese to want pictures with me – that really took me by surprise!
The Forbidden City is also massive. This was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty [1420 to 1912]. It is unbelievable how many buildings there are. Just when you think you’ve reached the end, there is another courtyard and more temples! Again, it was swarming with people, but a great experience.
On our final night in Beijing, our hotel made us a reservation at a nice local restaurant. We somehow ended up in a private room for dinner. The food was quite interesting, but the service and ambiance made us feel like royalty.
Overall, I’m so happy we made the journey over here. Seeing the Great Wall was 200% worth it. It is by far the most amazing single sight I’ve ever seen and experienced. However, Beijing/China in general…not my favourite. The culture is very chaotic and dirty. And the people were quite rude and loud. The government places all sorts of restrictions on communication. Websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google are all banned in China, and we were only able to access them via a VPN. We even noticed our cell phone service was blocked around the Forbidden City. This gave us an eerie feeling, kind of like everything we did was being monitored. When we were in Japan by contrast, although there was still a significant language barrier, the locals were very friendly about it and would try to understand us and communicate. In China, the locals seemed very irritated that we didn’t speak Chinese, even after we greeted them with a friendly “Ni hao”. This made it very difficult to communicate and the overall experience a little less enjoyable.
Lucky for Dan and I, we have a 10 year visa so we can come back and visit China whenever we want 🙂