From Winky to China: Day 5

Our second day in Beijing we headed out on a mini tour, we had booked a bus to see three major sights. We were pleasantly surprised when we were collected by a mini bus and told it would be just the three of us on the tour!   Our guide Gary was energetic, knowledgeable and spoke great English. Summer Palace was our first stop and I think for all of us it was the highlight of the day. Having no prior knowledge of what we would be seeing, it really surprised and impressed us. The beautiful lake, tons of greenery and lots of history were great to see. It is a place we will surely visit again, but perhaps not in 34 degree heat!

Next up, the not so great part of orgainsed tours, a mandatory stop at a ‘silk factory.’ Although I had my ‘I’m not going to buy any of this rubbish’ face on I did really enjoy the presentation on silk worms and how silk is formed, as I had no idea. It did make me appreciate the higher cost of silk. And as much as I didn’t want to ‘give in’ I did buy a small silk cushion that unfolds into a small blanket.

From there it was on to The Forbidden City, a visit that has intimidated us on several trips to Beijing. It was busy as ever but we were so thankful to have Gary to guide us, as without him I think it would have been a lot of aimless wandering. Again, a beautiful, fascinating place that I am sure we will visit again. Following here we stopped at a pearl shop, no purchases this time! Then we were on to a humble Chinese lunch of noodles before going to the Temple of Heaven.

This was another location that we didn’t know much about and were pleasantly surprised. It was less busy than the first two sights, and it felt much calmer and peaceful. By this point we were feeling a bit fatigued and didn’t spend as much time as we could have. Our final stop was a Tea House, which was really interesting and tasty but the salesgirl was not impressed when we weren’t willing to buy any tea!

Gary delivered stories, facts and history, which have really peaked my interest in learning more about Chinese culture. The pictures below will really speak for themselves; we were so lucky for a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine!

We were lucky to get the first available train back to Tianjin. We popped into the St Regis for a quick dinner and then home to recharge after our long day. (We needed it after 23,000+ steps, that is over 15.4km walking in one day!)

-Mrs T

From Winky to China: Day 4

Today we were back up to Beijing for two days of adventure. Our first stop was the 798 Art district. Although it took us over an hour to drive 10 miles to get there, it was one of our nicest days of sightseeing. 798 is already one of our favourite parts of Beijing, this visit we were able to see a bit more and found a delicious Japanese restaurant for lunch.

We took a short rest in our hotel and were out for our first meal of Peking Duck. We dined at Duck de Chine and were overwhelmingly impressed. The atmosphere and the service were top notch and of course the duck, was fantastic. They carved the duck tableside and along with a delicious lemon chicken dish and a few others, we were pleasantly full. We even tried the complementary red bean ice, it is a traditional Chinese pudding that we have seen on menus many times but never have been brave enough to try. It tasted good, just a bit strange on our Western palate to be eating beans for desert.

After dinner we were off to Sanlitun to visit one of our favourite cocktail bars Janes and Hooch. We were just out of the taxi when Mr T’s trusty Havaiana decided to break! We thought, ‘lucky for us, we are directly across from YaShow!’ Unfortunately it had closed just a short ten minutes before. He was forced to buy a pair of flip flops off the street (that were too small!), for more money than they were worth, and then after some convincing got some trainers from the Puma shop. An unexpected part of our evening but something I am sure we will laugh about for a long time. As always the drinks and atmosphere at Janes and Hooch was great but we kept it to one drink as we had an early start and a long day ahead of us on Friday.

-Mrs T

From Winky to China: Day 2

Today was our first trip to Beijing; our plan was to visit The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. We had an enjoyable ride on the bullet train and took the underground to Tiananmen Square. Though we thought we had arrived quite early it was already heaving. To start things off it took us about 10 minutes to walk 15 meters just to get through security into the area. Once through a bit of the walk, we saw queues for tickets and security and people everywhere. It was 10:00 am we were hot and tired already and made an executive decision to rethink our plans. We stopped by a tour agency and booked in for a bus tour this Friday. For 300 RMB ($48/£28) a bus will collect us from our hotel take us to The Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven and includes an English guide and lunch. After our experience this morning it is well worth the money for a day of sightseeing.

So our amended day began with a stop in our favourite art shop. Our friend was there and we picked up another moon festival painting, Sarah got two paintings for herself and her name written in Chinese characters. From there it was on to the shopping mecca know as YaShow market in Sanlitun. Shopping galore where bargaining rules. It was an afternoon filled with entertainment and good deals. It all began with 2 bags and a wallet, first price 640 RMB, final price 251 RMB ($40/£23)!

On the way out I spotted a little bagel shop with authentic New York bagels so we had a little snack. And finally ate late lunch at one of our favourite places: Great Leap Brewery. With burgers and beers in our tummies we made our way back to the train station and home to Tianjin.

Another fantastic day, my FitBit says we walked over 19,000 steps; thats nearly 13km!

Until tomorrow,

-Mrs T