We finally left the quarantine-hotel and went to an awesome hotel that my mother’s friend had booked rooms for all of us (we were so lucky to have her help us, imagine trying to change 20 tickets and finding a hotel for all of us while in the quarantine…).
(there was a rumor that one guy returned to the university and demanded to let him stay there for the remaining of the one month we were planning to stay. The rumor said they let him stay in the end, but no one knew that guy anyway, he was a loner during the trip, so we will never know for sure)
photo from our fancy hotel, where my friend left the honey she carried from Greece (she is not very flexible with eating and she was afraid she would get hungry in China… where is currently is since September… she is telling me she eats instant noodles everyday)
Anyway, we had booked a day trip for all of Beijing’s sights with a tourist company.
These companies can be very cheap. Last time I was in Beijing, they were handing us fliers for Great Wall tours in front of the Forbidden City. We paid only 10 euros per person (with lunch) for a whole day and we were only 6 people in the tour. But BEWARE: they take you to a bunch of places trying to make you buy stuff: silk dressed, jade, tea, pearls etc.
These places are interesting, since they talk to you about the procedure of making these things (silkworms, tea ceremony etc.). But you can lose a lot of time.
The next day our tour started with the Great Wall…
… after encountering so much traffic that we actually left the bus and started walking… For no reason, since the bus caught up with us after a while.
We went to Badaling, the most popular place for visiting the Great Wall, since it is the closest to Beijing. I totally recommend avoiding it.
It looks like this:
We were walking with a velocity of 2 meters per minute. After about 20 minutes, we just turned back, there was no point. Next time I visited the Great Wall, I asked to go to Mutianyu, it is a little further away from Beijing but it was completely empty! We had so much fun! We climbed on the watchtowers of the Wall and we walked for kilometers. Plus you go up with a cable car and there is the option of going down with a slide, on a little “car” with a break. Super fun!
Anyway, we put some traditional clothes and took touristic photos, so it was not all bad.
I like this blurry photo of me in the chinese outfit 🙂
After that the tour of the shops started…
We went to 3-4, I think some people bought tea and silk dresses. But we only had one day to see the sights and out time was being wasted on this places. Some people complained to the tour guide that we don’t want to see any more of these places, she started crying (poor girl… they make them do that, that’s why these tours are cheap), drama!
Lunch is also included in these tours…
After lunch, the best part of the tour came! The hutongs!
Hutongs are traditional chinese neighborhoods. I love them!
As a part of the tour, we had to take rickshaws, with a guy pulling us with a bicycle. I felt absolutely bad for this, but I could not avoid it. I gave him a big tip at least.
We saw the Houhai area, which has lakes and nice bars, restaurants and shops. Last time I went to Beijing, I stayed in that area, in a hostel in the hutongs 🙂
Part of the tour was also a visit to a house in the hutongs. The houses there are kind of a labyrinth. Many houses sharing the same yard (and public toilet) and the architecture of a neighborhood seems totally random.
Our host was a lady that had a little dog that could “sing”. 🙂 And the most amazing thing is, the following year we went with my friends one day (only!) to Houhai and we saw her on the street! With the dog! Out of the million inhabitants of Beijing, we met the same person again! How strange!
After the hutongs, we visited the Forbidden City. It is nice, but also a little boring. All the buildings are the same. If you want to go to a traditional chinese place and you have time only for one, I recommend Summer Palace (we visited it the following year).
When you get out of the Forbidden City, you are in front of this:
… and just across the street is the famous Tiananmen Square, which is a simple big square (you pass from metal detectors to get in, though).
After that we went to the Perl Market (I think), a huge building where they sell fake stuff, electronics, everything. I bought a little cute suitcase.
And that was all! The next day we flew back home!
I am finished with that trip. Next will be the third China trip 🙂
P.S. I just found a secret photo (it was not allowed to take photos) of the secret basement where they took our saliva samples, after taking us with ambulances from the university. (the guy not in uniform is our BLCU mandarin teacher)