After purchasing China Visas (good for the next 10 years btw) - we began planning a trip across China. The Saturday after Christmas, December 26, we took a 3 hour flight from Okinawa to Beijing to begin our adventure.
Not gonna lie, I was a bit worried about China's rising smog problem, and landing in the Beijing airport did nothing to combat this. You could barely see past 100 ft away and the air looked DIRTY. #awesome
After checking into the Prime Hotel Beijing located near the Forbidden City, we were determined to have Peking duck as our first meal in China. I found a spot in our #lonelyplanet book, Jing Zun Peking Duck, and we figured out how to take the subway from our hotel to there. Good news - Beijing subway is pretty easy to use and figure out - and had an English option which helped immensely! Our first dinner in Beijing was amazing. We ordered a full duck and a side of 20 dumplings #yes20wasthesideorder Could not have been more content. The full duck was carved in front of our table and served with a special sauce, thin 'pancakes', cucumber slices, and onion.
The next morning, we went to go explore the city, and we woke up to SNOW. Definitely not used to experiencing 23 degree temperatures and snow - especially living in San Diego and Okinawa. #beachbums But it was a nice surprise :) We started at Temple of Heaven Park. It is one of China's busiest urban landscapes and is of Confucian design. Originally, it served as a vast stage for solemn rites performed by the emperor of that time (known as the Son of Heaven). He prayed here for good harvests and sough divine clearance and atonement. #gettineducated #thankslonelyplanet
This park was quite unique and had a lot going on! We saw traditional dancing (which looked like fun!), as well as people singing together, and people gathered round people performing. And for any of you who have watched #VICE, there was an episode discussing the problem of people dating and getting married in China. It basically discussed how there is a huge gap in the number of men to women (5:1). It showed parents creating fliers for their sons or daughters and marketing them at parks for other people to come discuss their child and a possible future relationship. After watching this episode, some of what we witnessed made a lot more sense because there was a large area dedicated to people who had pieces of paper (fliers) in front of them, while others gathered around them to discuss. We had no idea what was going on at that time, and they didn't take kindly to obvious foreigners walking around and observing this. But we basically got to witness parents advertising their kids for dating relationships to find the most attractive match!
After walking around the park and witnessing some unique Chinese customs, we came upon the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This structure is made up of wooden pillars that support the ceiling without any nails or cement. This building is 38 meters high, and 30 meters in diameter, which is pretty astonishing if you think about it being built and staying stable with no nails. Everything is fit together perfectly, and is quite beautiful to look at. All of the dark blue represents 'Heaven' as well as the circular structures.
After Temple of Heaven, we headed over to Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City area. Tian'anmen Square is the world's largest public square (440,000 sq meters) in the heart of Beijing. Mao conceived this square to project the enormity of the Communist Park, and during the Cultural Revolution, he reviewed parades of up to a million people here. #gettineducated #lonelyplanet This place has been the site of many protests and demonstrations including the infamous 1976 Tian'anment Incident as well as the prodemocracy demonstration in 1989, where hundreds lost their lives on the surrounding streets.
In order to even enter this area, we had to go through security (including metal detectors), and they had armed police men set up around the square. #notcreepyatall Pretty crazy seeing the Tian'anmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) with a huge portrait of Mao on it. This gate is located at the north of Tian'anmen square and separates the square from the Forbidden City area. This gate is the same one that Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Unfortunate for us, we had to have our passports with us in order to buy tickets to enter the Forbidden City. So we just walked around the grounds observing the scenery. (Luckily we still had a few days left in Beijing and were able to fit the Forbidden City into another day of site seeing).
After walking around the Forbidden city outer grounds, we hopped back on the subway and headed over to Lama Temple. This is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet and is still an active place of worship today.
There was incense being lit at one of the alters when we walked in and luckily we were also able to participate which was pretty cool. There were many halls spread out along the grounds. The fifth hall, Wanfu Pavillion) houses a 18 meter high Buddha statue in his Tibetan form, clothed in yellow satin and sculpted from a single block of sandalwood. It was quite impressive but we did not take pictures of inside any of the halls out of respect.
We then walked over to Confucius Temple, which is China's second largest Confucian temple. This temple was built in 1302. It houses many old trees including the "Touch Evil Cypress" tree which is thought to be able to distinguish between good and evil. Legend has it that a corrupt official was passing by and the tree knocked off his hat - distinguishing him as 'bad'. This complex also many stone tablets etched with names of scholars.
From the temples, we decided to go walk around the Chinese alleyways to find the #2 brewery in China, Great Leap Brewing. This place was kind of hard to find, and tucked away in small, winding alleyways (but it was an adventure finding it)! It is housed in a 100-year-old Qing-dynasty courtyard and has many unique ales made up of locally sourced ingredients. Anyway that we're able to enjoy craft beer around the world we do! #craftbeerenthusiasts #sandiegoruinedus
We chatted with other customers, including two United pilots, and enjoyed some good beers including on of their ales called Honey Ma, which was made with Sichuan peppercorns. After enjoying some afternoon brews, we grabbed a quick dinner and headed back to our hotel after our long day exploring Beijing.
Next day (and blog post) - we got to see one of the famous world sites - The Great Wall!
Until next time folks
Follow in our Footsteps:
Prime Hotel Beijing Wangfujing (great location, beautiful hotel)
2 Wangfujing St, WangFuJing, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100006
+86 10 5816 9999
Jingzun Peking Duck (delicious and great price!!)
4 Chunxiu Rd, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100027
+86 10 6417 4075
Hours: 11am - 10pm
*need to call ahead if you want the duck so they can prepare it ahead of time
Temple of Heaven
1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
+86 10 6702 8866
Price: park/through ticket Apr-Oct ¥15/35, Nov-Mar ¥10/30, audio guide ¥40 (deposit ¥50)
Hours: park 6.30am-10pm, sights 8am-5.30pm Apr-Oct, park 6.30am-8pm, sights 8am-5pm Nov-Mar
12 Yonghegong St, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100007
+86 10 8419 1919
Price: ¥25, English audio guide ¥50
15 Guozijian St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100007
+86 10 8402 7224
Price: ¥30, audio guide ¥30
Hours: 8.30am-6pm May-Oct, to 5pm Nov-Apr, last entry 1hr before closing
Great Leap Brewing
(multiple locations but the original one we went to is below)
#6 Doujiao Hutong, Di’Anmenwai Avenue, Dongcheng District
Hours: Sun-Thur 14:00-23:00 , Fri-Sat 14:00-00:00
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!