Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Beijing Day 3, Forbidden City :-)

Dear Matt and Mar,

[10.08.18] With hindsight, perhaps we should have made today a slower day, haa haa haa, but that would not have been possible. To enter Forbidden City one needed tickets, and the number of tickets were limited per day, also taking into consideration we only have 4 full days left, and those included the Weekend (to which I try to avoid tourists’ hotspots), and on Monday most of the tourists’ attractions would be closed.

So today, which is a Friday, is the only day that fits our plan for a Forbidden City visit. On the previous night I dove into the Internet and managed to buy the tickets, and spent the rest of the night debating whether to take the Tripod (again), luckily your mother managed to convince me, and it was such a great decision.

The Forbidden City literally sits to the North of Tiananmen Square (where we had such an “interesting” time yesterday, haa haa haa). So it made sense to me to get off at the same underground station, Tiananmen East... oh what a mistake that was...

I was hoping there was a way to get to the Forbidden City without having the go past the security that took us into Tiananmen Square... and of course there wasn’t any, haa haa haa. Now facing with an even longer queue than yesterday, and after discussing with your mother, we’d decided to hop back on the underground to the next station, Tiananmen West.

Haa haa haa, well the queue was perhaps as long as it was at Tiananmen East, but it was definitely faster, much master. In only few minutes we were all marching with the crowd toward the Forbidden City. I was getting a little worried, the closer we got to our destination, the longer the bigger the crowd became.

Forbidden CityForbidden City

Forbidden CityForbidden City

In the past (many years ago) one could just walk into the Forbidden City, but with the increasing mobility ability of the population whether it be domestically or internationally, meant the number of visitors were becoming unmanageable. That’s why I think the government introduces ticketing system for Forbidden City, and they apparently limit the number of visitors to only 80,000 per day (only, haa haa haa).

To be honest I think all 80,000 people decided to turn up at the same time as we did, haa haa haa. I thought I’d had to go to a ticketing office to pick up the tickets, and after a bit of a search I’d found a very nice lady who informed me that I should proceed straight to the entrance, the passport number (which was required as part of buying the tickets) would already have been entered into the system.

Forbidden CityForbidden City

A quick call to your mother (you were all hiding somewhere from the sun) to ask her to catch up at the entrance gate, it was so hot we’d decided to get a fan and that was when your Chinese lessons came in super handy, haa haa haa.

“Papa, we walked all this way, queue up for so long just to see a few buildings?”, haa haa haa, it was a struggle for you two, but you both were brilliant! There wasn’t an ounce of complaint, but you were slightly less engaged, then your mother had a great idea. About a third of the way in, we found a station which rent out one of those audio guide, as it turned out they were brilliant!

Forbidden CityForbidden City

From zero engagement, Matt was 100% engaged, now walking with a purpose, listening to everything before moving on, Mar on the other hand managed to somehow switched from English to Korean... haa haa haa, it did took me a short while to switch it back to English again, haa haa haa.

So many photos opportunities, trying to keep the crowd from the photo was a bit of a challenge, but the visitors were very courteous, and so even under the almost unbearable heat everyone was having a fantastic time, we’d even found a shop at the right time and stocked up on about 10 bottles of water, haa haa haa.

Forbidden CityForbidden City

Forbidden CityForbidden City

Forbidden City was fantastic... the history behind every building, the stories behind every door, the echo of every footstep was just unfathomable, the size of the place was mind boggling. I remember being here once before with your grandmother, but that was yonks ago, somehow even with all the crowd and the heat, I do enjoy this trip more than the last, one’s taste definitely changes with time :-)

I think we made it almost to the end, but you were becoming less and less engage, and as it was already past noon, we decided to call it the morning and find somewhere to eat.

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Forbidden CityForbidden City

Forbidden CityForbidden City

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LUNCH! haa haa haa.

Of course being in Beijing, one had to try Peking Duck (or is it Beijing Duck now?), I guess there were several choices, but after asking uncle Google, one of the most famous place was not too far, exiting Forbidden was an event in itself, did we really walk all this way! Haa haa haa.

By the time we’d reached the restaurant your mother was virtually running on empty, and I was praying there would be no queue at the restaurant (Quanjude), well, I think even if all 80,000 Forbidden City visitors turn up to this restaurant at the same time, there would still be no queue, how big was this restaurant?

BeijingBeijingQuanjude

Lunch was superb, which made your mother happy, so we were all safe once more, haa haa haa. Without knowing this, the restaurant sat along one of the most well known shopping pedestrian, Wangfujing. We were having a great time (jet fountain and all), and when we decided to walk to the underground we came across the infamous snack street, well it was more like a short alleyway, and it was fantastic as well as being quite sad.
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Wangfujing Snack Street

All sorts of weird and wonderful snacks could be found here, and I think the fame came from the ‘strange’ snacks, fried scorpions as an example. That one got to me, they were displaying still alive scorpions impaled through a long BBQ stick, that was unnecessary, if you want to eat it, fine just get it over with, but to do that just to draw a crowd was terrible, and you two felt the same.

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To keep things light, instead of heading to another attraction, your mother wanted to cook with local ingredients! To be honest she just wanted to use the kitchen, since it was there, haa haa haa, heck, she even wanted to use the washing machine (at home she doesn’t even walk near the washing machine, in fact I don’t even think she knows where our washing machine is, haa haa haa).

Beijing Day 3-36901174Wangfujing

Just by luck, the local supermarket was literally 3 minutes walk from our apartment, and your mother had a great time, having to weigh the eggs was new to me, haa haa haa, all part of the fun living in a new community, haa haa haa. The food was superb (as always), and you two were kind of glad we didn’t go anywhere else, haa haa haa.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Beijing Day 2, A wobbly but fun start :-)

Dear Matt and Mar,

[09.08.18] In the previous post, the reason I said I had misjudged all the timing was simply because I did not anticipate the amount of people nor the security checks at all the major tourist spots, combining the two meant super long and slow queues.

Overseas travelers were far and few, the bulk of the tourists were domestic tourists, of course with 1.4 Bn people, most of them would want to visit their capital city. I loved it, but I think you two were a little overwhelmed especially on your first day.

For the first proper day, we had planned for something light, but as it turned out the queue and heat did put some strain on our first outing, haa haa haa. First stop, by far the lowest hanging fruit, Tiananmen square. How hard could that be as a trip? Essentially it is just an open slab of concrete, a huge open square surrounded on all sides by roads.
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Tiananmen Square

Wow, I could not have been more wrong! We got off at Tiananmen East Underground Station, that literally took us a stone throw away from our destination. But as soon as we made it to the surface, all we saw was an ocean of people, as well as a long queue at the security check before entering the square.

Not long then? lol.Still getting use to the self timer... not a sane face in sight lol

What else was we to do, we queued, haa haa haa, with only 2 security machines you can guess how fast we were moving, haa haa haa. But all credits to you two, you were brilliant, and finally we made it through the queue, only to be met by an even bigger crowd, haa haa haa.

Unlike our previous Korea trip, this time I made the effort to take the tripod, although it was a bit of a pain but as it turned out, it was absolutely worth it. I did my best to explain the history of the square, but the heat, the noise, the crowd was a little much, and soon we were off to the next destination, the National Museum of China.
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National Museum of China

More security check and more queue, as I was putting my rucksack into the x-ray machine, the lady took a look at my tripod and told me to leave the building, haa haa haa, only to found out later she meant for me to drop off tripod at the side office (for a fee) before entering into the museum.

So much history, and we only have 2 hours lol.Is there anything small here?Absolutely gorgeous!

I have never seen a busier museum, and we’ve been to many, many museums, every country we visited we always make an effort to visit their National Museum, from Singapore to Rome. The amount of people were amazing but with hindsight not surprising, the various exhibitions were fantastic but the atmosphere was a little too hectic for me, haa haa haa.

Beijing National Museum

Beijing National Museum

Beijing National Museum.Beijing National Museum.

So after visiting all the highlights in the museum we cut the trip short once more, so where to next? It was not even lunch time, haa haa haa. The next logical place to visit was the Temple of Heaven as it was only a few stops (Underground) away.

Walking out we found a small crowd gathering around this old-ish lady, of course she was selling ice lollies, how could we refuse, Mar was the first person to gave it back to us, whilst Matt was loving it. After a quick taste we were not surprised, essentially it was frozen sugar water on a stick… haa haa haa.

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Temple of Heaven

Guess what, there was no queue, haa haa haa, the ticketing office was virtually empty, perhaps because it was closer to noon and most of the visitors would have come in the morning, well for whatever reasons, we were not complaining.

Temple of HeavenTemple of HeavenTemple of Heaven

What gets me every time is the size of the place, huge vast grounds spotted with fantastic historical buildings, what was not to like... haa haa haa. By now my Tripod skill have reached the ‘Master’ Status, in less than 25 seconds it was all ready to shoot lol.

It was perfect timing when we found a small restaurant within the temple grounds, it wasn’t much about the food (which was pretty good) but a chance to take the weight off our feet for an hour or so, of course ice cream for Mar was mandatory, haa haa haa.

Temple of Heaven.

Temple of Heaven.Temple of Heaven.

Temple of Heaven.Temple of Heaven.

After lunch we spent more time exploring the grounds, but soon it was obvious that you two were tired, you two had done really very well we have been on our feet all day! Finally we made it back to the hotel around 16:00, an hour and a half later we were off again for supper.

On the way we had to walk past this fantastic CCTV building, to be honest it would have made the perfect HQ for any of the made up Evil corporations, you can take your pick lol, Umbrella Corporation, Weyland Corporation, Hyperion Corporation even the Magog Cartel, haa haa haa.

CCTV HQ Beijing.

Decided to take a short-ish walk to China World Mall, and we weren’t disappointed, with so many options but most of them were unknown to us, apart from one, Putien. I knew them from my business trip to Guangzhou and I knew that your mother would love it, and she did... more brownie points for me :-)

Beijing Putien

Beijing underground.

A wobbly start, but as the day grew the more fun we all had, at first people at home were a little puzzled why we had chosen to come to Beijing by ourselves, it would have been so much easier in a group tour. Well, your mother and I do prefer the freedom, it may be more challenging, but that is part of the fun when travelling :-)