Thursday, May 1, 2014

Back in Beijing 2013

Well, it has been a few years since I visited Beijing. I decided that I could spend 8 days in China on my way to Kathmandu and Bhutan in October/November 2013. After arriving in Beijing international airport, I made my way to the Airport Express to Dongzhimen station...cheaper than a taxi!

The view from Jingshan park of the massive Forbidden City -

The Forbidden City was built in 1420

My main goals were to connect with the Yoga Yard, a well -known yoga studio and go to classes. I did meet the owner, Robyn, an American married to a Beijinger.

In addition, I wanted to trek another section of the Great Wall as I have done Badaling (very touristy) and the best was a 10km trek from Jinshanling to Simatai. This trip resulted in doing a trek on the Mutianyu area of the Great Wall and visiting the Ming tombs. Unfortunately it was very hazy from fires in the area, but the fall colors were quite good.

Ming Tombs -

Great Wall at Mutianyu

I stayed in the Shatan area just north of the Forbidden City, next to Jingshan park. I walked everywhere, so much that my feet and knees hurt - lots of pavement. I took some time to figure out the Metro system and found it fast and cheap - 2 yuan per trip (= 30 cents).

I went south to the Tiantan, temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, east to the Silk Market in Yonganli area, northwest to Dongzimen and walking to the Embassy area of Sanlitun (very western bars and restaurants), north to the Lama Temple in Yonghegong, drank lots of Costa Coffee and Starbuck's when I could find one!

Tiantan - Temple of Heaven

One new area I spent some time in was Xicheng, which was newly renovated old buildings housing unique shops and restaurants. I even found a Tibetan shop with Buddhist prayer wheels, jewelry, thangkas, clothing, etc.

Note the Portrait of Mao at Forbidden city entrance, near Golden Bridge below!

One day while walking back through Tiananmen Square, I noticed huge numbers of police and army present at the north end across from the Forbidden City. A truck with bombs, nails and 3 Uyighur separatists drove into the crowd at the Golden Bridge, which is the only entrance now to the city. I had been on that bridge only a day before! 5 people were killed, the 3 separatists and 2 tourists! It was cleaned up in less than 4 hours - typical of the Chinese wish to hide any incidents - saving face!

It was fun to walk Wangfujing street, the main shopping street and see the changes over 5 years since being here. There were several days of level 3 Smog warnings...Don't go outside, don't run or breath outside was the recommendation. However, it seemed to move off and allow relatively clear air. I suspect that smog ends up in the Canadian North via the jetstream! Ugh!

Most Beijingers are friendly, helpful people. I found good food, saw many farms, and an understated feeling of desperation, especially in the old, disappearing Hutongs in and around Beijing. Hard to describe the discomfort behind every person, never showing how they truly feel. Nevertheless, a very interesting place to spend a week!

Monday, October 26, 2009


The Great Wall of China was my best experience of my time in China. There are rebuilt sections in Badaling, very touristy, but I was able to do a 10 km trek on the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai (130km NE of Beijing) over the original wall. The wall was begun 2000 years ago during the Qin dynasty essentially to keep the Mongols out of southern areas. The trek passes 24 towers, some in total ruin, some in surprisingly great condition. The trek takes 3+ hours and you cross a suspension bridge to Simatai at the end. Some sections are a bit precarious with 70 degree slopes and steep ascents and slippery descents. All in all it is one of the most amazing experiences I have had.

This concludes my blog for China and Beijing. I hope you enjoy seeing this interesting country through my eyes. Feel free to leave a comment or send an e-mail.


Food was great!

From Peking Duck, steamed buns, to scorpions and snake, to the best soups with beef and fish balls in restaurants and night food markets, the food experience is the best. Of course I found a few Starbuck's for a bit of home!

More interpretation needed...

Try these too

Interpretive Signs!!

Take a read through these...


Hutongs and streets

I met a pilot who has been flying to Beijing for years. He said that 15 years ago, there were virtually no cars, mostly bicycles, carts and rickshaws in the downtown core. Back then people worked for 3 things - a bicycle, a TV and a fridge. Now there is a growing middle class who work hard for 3 things - a car, a computer and a cell phone! The congestion in the core and resulting dreadful pollution is creating health problems for everyone.

Old Beijing was known for the HUTONGS - narrow alleyways throughout the city but now are fast disappearing. These neighborhoods are where most people live - in tight spaces, have their markets, courtyards and do their day to day business.

Next, some focus on FOOD!

Tiantan - the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is said to be the best example of Ming design. I have to say that it was the most impressive structure I saw in Beijing! There had been a wind storm the night before which blew all the pollution away so we had beautiful clear blue skies. As with all the other sites, many tourists, mostly Chinese, were everywhere. It is tough to get photos without many people.