After our tiresome Chinese visa adventure, our reception in Beijing was a lovely one. At the other end of the customs exit doors Ralf, who had traveled to China a few days before, was already waiting with a sign specially made for us. But we weren’t unprepared either. We had acquired the perfect accessory for this country. So, while we were slowly pushing our luggage cart towards the exit, Ralf was cracking up at our sight. It was wonderful seeing a good friend after such a long time and catching up on the last few months, we made our way into the city in a taxi. Dinner was spent at DaDong, a fantastic restaurant where we had the famous Peking duck, probably the best I ever tasted.

00_Arrival at Beijing airport

00_Arrival at Beijing airport 1

Da Dong Beijing Duck

Beijing Duck Da Dong

Beijing Duck Da Dong

After seven days in Hong Kong, we were actually ready for some nature and were suffering from a kind of city overkill. But, being here, we of course wanted to do at least the most important sights of Beijing. On our first day in the city, the initial obstacle was getting breakfast. Even though Ralf speaks basic Mandarin it took us about 15 minutes in a small local restaurant to get the staff to understand what we wanted to eat. We started wondering how we would get by once Ralf left us after two weeks in China. Another thing we hadn’t anticipated and that was an issue for us was coffee, or rather the lack of it. Chinese hardly drink coffee, so where were we to receive our morning dosis of the much needed liquid caffeine? Thanks to globalization we had a McDonald’s and an adjoining McCafé around the corner of our hotel. And with our coffee consumption plus the loyalty card, we actually managed to get a couple of coffees for free! 😀

Breakfast Beijing Jinsong

Our next task was finding a laundry. It not only took all our language and gesticulative skills to get someone to understand what we were looking for, but also navigating until we found a place that looked nothing like a laundry, but was willing to take our dirty clothes and clean them.

03 Challenge finding a laundry Beijing

03 Challenge finding a laundry Beijing 1

03 Challenge finding a laundry Beijing 2

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Forbidden City (With the risk of seeming ignorant: Oh my goodness, what a boring sight!!) together with its many, many, many Chinese tour groups, Tiananmen square, the houtongs on Nanluoguoxiang, that were actually quite cute despite the tourist hordes and taking in the vibe of the city before falling to bed completely exhausted.

04 Tiananmen Beijing we were there

Forbidden City tourists

Forbidden City Beijing

Forbidden City Beijing

Tiananmen Square

Hutongs Beijing

Hutongs Beijing

Hutongs Beijing

Hutongs Beijing

Beijing people

Beijing people

Beijing people

The next day we headed for the Great Wall. We decided to skip the very touristy part close to Beijing and to take a public bus to Jinshanling a few hours northeast. After breakfast we made our way to the bus station, where we faced the next challenge of finding out where the bus to our destination was leaving from. Once we found the right stop, we cued with the few other waiting passengers. When the group grew larger, we realized we must have just missed the bus. By the time the bus came and finally left it was already 12 o’clock. We arrived at our destination and were ready to hike up to the wall at 2:30 pm, granting us two hours until the last public bus to Beijing would depart.

Dongzhimen bus station Beijing to Great Wall in Jinshanling

In the end we only had about 45 minutes on the wall itself. These minutes were fabulous though. We hardly saw any other tourists and had a beautiful view around us. We had a short picnic on the Wall and enjoyed the silence of nature before heading back down to catch the bus to the city. To celebrate our achievement we went for a lovely, firey meal at Ralf’s favourite restaurant.

08 Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

Great Wall Jinshanling

08 Great Wall Jinshanling 7

Spicy food Beiing

Friday we decided to cool it a bit with the sightseeing. Not only were we tired from all the walking, we also had plans to go out in the evening with some of Ralf’s former colleagues and wanted to be fit. After a relaxing day at “Bocata”, a cosy little garden café, we met up with our group at a large hotpot restaurant. As customary in China, we had our own little separate room with a huge table in the middle. When V and I saw that there was strong beer on the menu, we decided to take advantage of the possibility and skip the weak Chinese brew. We were surprised though when we were served beer from Northern Germany with a “plop”-latch. But the waiters were even more surprised, as they had no clue how to open the bottles. They twisted and turned and were visibly frustrated, when I jumped to their rescue and opened the bottles with a loud “plop”. When they handed me my bottle they had ripped off the entire closing system…

Bocata Café Beijing

011 Hotpot Beijing 2

011 Hotpot Beijing

Our Sichuan hotpot meal was a spicy and yummie experience, not counting the tripe the Chinese ex-colleagues wanted to serve us. At some point it was time for Baijiu, Chinese “wine”,  which is actually hard liquor made of sorghum. Being polite, we joined in a few rounds, but poured our share into Ralf’s glass after a while.

011 Hotpot Beijing 4

011 Hotpot Beijing 3

After a fun dinner, it was time for more serious stuff: karaoke or KTV, as they call it here. We took two taxis to a place that was more “bling” than anything I had seen in a while. Rolls Roys and Maseratis were parked in the front rows and the entrance was decorated with a big pink poodle and a humongous golden horse. The walls were golden also and there were “fun” accessories for sale to ease the singing.

KTV Beijing

KTV Beijing

012 KTV Karaoke Beijing 3

Again we had a separate room in which two screens were set up, munchies were waiting alongside some sort of Chinese games and a golden (!!) microphone was placed on a small stage. When our beverages arrived, we were ready to get the party started! The Chinese sang and  I guess we tried our best. We had a royal time with many laughs and some real star-like moments.

KTV Beijing

012 KTV Karaoke Beijing 4

012 KTV Karaoke Beijing 6

012 KTV Karaoke Beijing 5

When our booked time had come to an end and the Chinese headed home, we were not prepared to sleep yet and moved on to a Caribbean salsa club, where we danced for a few hours and marveled at the sight of so many dark skinned people that seemed to hide during the day in the city.

Salsa Caribe Beijing

Salsa Caribe Beijing 2

Salsa Caribe Beijing 3

Around 4 o’clock we were ready for bed, but our guide said, it was a total no-go to stay awake this late and then to miss the flag-raising ceremony at the Square of Heavenly Peace. So, we followed Ralf across town to Tiananmen square, where thousands of Chinese tourists where already waiting with their cameras in their hands for the sun to rise and the flag to be raised at the same time. The flag-raising as such was not spectacular, but watching the tourist groups and them watching us, was a sight!

Beijing flag-raising ceremony

Beijing flag-raising ceremony

Beijing flag-raising ceremony

Beijing flag-raising ceremony 3

As soon as the flag had reached its highest point, a commotion started. All the groups began running at the same time, with us in the middle of the whole event. We joined the running and had some laughs, before we made a stop at a mini van selling some kind of morning snack. Perfect after a night out! At last we headed back to the hotel where we slept till early afternoon and then crawled back to our garden café to watch the world pass by through hungover eyes.

Beijing flag-raising ceremony 5

Beijing flag-raising ceremony

Beijing at dawn

Breakfast Beijing flag-raising ceremony

Breakfast Beijing flag-raising ceremony 2

On our last day in Beijing we met up for lunch with my old friend Arne, who happened to be on business in the city at the time. We shared some food, some laughs and went once again to our favorite café, enjoying a lazy Sunday together.

Beijing Garden Cafe

Before departing to the station to catch the night train out of town, we went for hotpot once again. This time we decided on the well known Beijing chain “Haidilao“, where the wait for your table is sweetened by snacks, cotton candy, board games, polaroid picture taking, mani- and pedicure.

Haidilao waiting room

Haidilao waiting room

As the only foreigners in the place, it seems we were assigned our own personal waiter, who didn’t leave our side, correcting us whenever we committed a hotpot faux-pas and looking over our shoulder while we were eating. 😕

Beijing Haidilao Hotpot

To us, Beijing as a city didn’t have much charm with its huge communist buildings, wide, six-lane streets, smog-covered sky and rather bland, grayish population. But, we had a fantastic and fun time nevertheless!

 

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