From Winky to China : Day 8

Another adventurous day! We made it on our train this time and arrived in Shan Hai Guan mid-morning. Our first stop was Ancient Shanhaiguan and we were immediately persuaded to try the 3 person tandem bike, 30 RMB ($4.82/£2.82) for 2 hours. We made it down the main street and back again and were done with that!! It was so funny and really challenging, we returned it after five minutes and kept to our own two feet for the rest of the day.

We had hoped to visit the museum first, but it was closed on Mondays, a bit of a disappointment but there were lots of other things to keep us busy for the day.

We headed out to The Jiumenkou Great Wall, this is the part of the wall that goes over a river. It was a gorgeous day but very, very hot! We took in the views but didn’t do too much climbing. We settled down in the shaded park for our packed lunch and had a lovely conversation with 3 Chinese teenagers. They were working as tour guides and they were keen just to practise their English by chatting with us. I think they would have kept us there talking all day but we had to move along to our next attraction.

The Dragon’s Head is the bit of The Great Wall that extends into the sea, the end, or beginning if you like.It was quite an experience visiting the seaside in China, different but also quite similar to the seaside back home in England and America.  It was lovely to be there seeing and hearing the sea splashing on the rocks. There were ice creams and amusements, I had a go on a giant slingshot and won on my last shot! Something so silly but felt so exciting, we gave the teddy bear to a woman nearby who had been watching. We sat for a bit in the Sea Watching Pavillion and had a wander around the grounds. The gardens were beautiful and lots of history to be seen.

After this we went back to Ancient Shanhaiguan to visit The First Pass Under Heaven, we wandered along the wall and through the Drum Tower area. We had tickets for the 20:53 train and had a go at trying to get on an earlier train but with no luck. So we found a shop for some noodles, interestingly named California Beef Noodle King of the U.S.A., though it had no connection at all with California!! At this point we had about 3 hours to wait for our train and we were completely exhausted and feeling sweaty and sticky; we were done sightseeing for the day. As we wandered around the station we were lucky to stumble upon a KTV and all our problems were solved. An air-conditioned room, cold beers and loads of great songs to entertain us. Some high points were: the video for, ‘Help!’ by the Beatles was of the Tianjin food street, Mr T’s rendition of ‘Words’ by the Bee Gees, the fact that the staff were standing outside the door for the entire duration of our stay, and the look on the attendants face as he came in whilst Mr T sang Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’. We could have stayed for hours but actually had to pull ourselves away to catch our train!

A fab ending to a wonderful day!

-Mrs T

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