Destination Beijing


I landed in Beijing at night and it was thrilling to be in a strange land, where you didn’t understand the language and they didn’t understand yours. While going to the hostel from the airport, we decided to take the bus but when we got down at a stop, we realized that we’d lost our way. We took a cab after that. I think we were quite close to our destination anyway, since it took just 20 Rmb to the hostel. 9 Dragons Inn was neat! With wooden flooring and room heating, I took an instant liking to the place. We had Kung Pao Chicken for dinner and it was the first time I had the full meal with chopsticks and in public! So far I’d only used chopsticks at home for Maggi. No mishap occurred thankfully 🙂

Beijing Roads

Public transport in Beijing is comfortable and the cheapest way to travel provided one knows passable mandarin. Buses are usually crowded but the metro is very convenient even for foreigners.

Having seen ‘The Last Emperor’, Forbidden City was on my list of to-dos. It is the largest complex of its kind in the world and so it wasn’t really possible to cover the entire thing in a few hours. However, it all seemed ridiculously monotonous after an hour. In fact I’d strongly suggest not renting out the automated guides you get at the ticket counters. Not only can’t you not rewind for parts you may have missed, the recorded voice seems to start playing at its own whim so that standing between two structures, you keep wondering which one is which. This happened to me when I was standing near the Hall of Supreme Harmony and some other hall. They have so many of these halls with corny names, with similar architecture that after a point, its hard not to let ennui set in. But if you ignore the sameness of it all, it is actually an imposing and grand structure.

Inside Forbidden City

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Summer Palace or Yiheyuan was more to my liking and also very beautiful. Its on the outskirts of Beijing and it took us almost 2 hours from the 9 Dragons located in Dongsisitiao. With the Kunming Hu (lake in chinese) covering much of the area, the entire place was like a park. Dowager Cixi (The last emperor– Pu Yi’s grandmother) is supposed to have spent quite a substantial amount of time here and it shows! There are a number of beautiful structures like The Tower of Buddhist Incense, the marble boat and the numerous bridges with the quaintest of names. The Tower of Buddhist Incense requires a separate entry fee but its worth a visit. Its the tallest structure in the complex and the grandest. Painted in rich colours and dragon motifs, it is a typical Chinese style architecture. One thing I love about Chinese architecture is their use of the brightest of colours.

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Tower of Buddhist Incense

Tower of Buddhist Incense

In the Summer Palace

In the Summer Palace

We’d gone to Peking University yesterday, simply because we were passing by and decided to have a look. It was around evening and we were famished. That’s when I had my first baozi, which is a kind of a stuffed bun but looks like a giant momo. And the best part….it was vegetable baozi! You don’t normally get vegetarian baozi or vegetarian anything so I was thrilled. Not that I’ve sworn off nonveg. Just that most times in China, meat means pork or beef which I feel rather squeamish about eating.

We’ve decided to purchase the Lhasa travel permits after all. We got them from Nine Dragons Inn itself. They cost 500 Rmb each and are just a photocopied piece of paper with fictitious names of other tourists written, to give the impression that it’s a tour group that’s going. Just goes to show what a scam this is.

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