Well we have finally made it to Beijing China. We both slept most of the flight. They had run out of the more western type if breaky on the flight so I can confidently say that this was the first time that curried prawns, anchovies and rice was consumed for breaky. Never mind, it's an adventure.
We were greeted in Beijing by the tranquil sunrise. It just looked so peaceful. It was also 0 degrees, so a bit crisp. We amazingly had both our bags arrive, made our way through customs and were met by our transfer, drove from the airport and checked in all within 1hr 15min. Excellent. The customs guy took one look at our aussie passport and sent us straight through, no xray for our baggage. Made for a speedier exit too. Had a smooth run into the city. It's just amazing how expansive Beijing is, and we've only seen a very small part. We were fortunate enough to be able to get into our room straight away at around 745am. We have very nice digs. 2 king single beds and all the other usual amenities. We were very grateful for our refreshing nap of around 2 hours, it significantly rejuvenated us. After we woke and hit the showers the next thing on our mind was of course food.
After consulting the TSR lonely planet guide we were off in search of food. We had a look at the street vendors, their food looked great but we had no way of communicating with them re type of food and then the amount of moolas it would cost. We finally found a place that was really busy with Chinese, had pictures of their food and also had the price. This place was called Mr Lee's so we found out later. Great feed at Mr Lee's, aka chinese colonel, his charactertuer actually looks like a chinese colonel, minus the beard. We had Enormous noodle bowls & fanta to top it off. The meals were so large we couldn't finish it. We then made our way back to the hotel to meet our tour guide and go on our bike tour around Beijing.
The bike tour was great. Firstly, we took a cab through the city to get the bikes. So many amazing buildings, very grand architecture. The first stop once we had the bikes was the forbidden city. It is huge, very impressed at the emperors old house. He had so many visitors too. It took us a while to ride around the outside too. We then took on the main streets of Beijing leisurely pedaling through many city gates and hutongs until we reached the main drag, a 14 lane avenue! So much traffic. We made our dash across the street and came across a huge dome building which was a new theatre, not quite finished for the 2008 olympics. We then went back down the 14 lane avenue and saw the paliament buildings, across the road, the southern gate of the forbidden city and a big city gate with a huge picture of chairman Mao on it. To our right was tiannamen square. Very sparse area with many a Chinese flag and also alot of military looking guards. Further along we passed the national museum which had a very huge statue of confucious out the front. Apparently he's only new too. We keep cruising down the avenue, passed the street where we had lunch and also to very cool looking outdoor basketball courts. Yes, I did get the urge. We continued down, past our hotel, rode under the rainbow and ended up at an ancient astronomy building. Further past that we came across the city wall. This wall is where the original wall was located however it is not the original wall. It has been rebuilt for tourists. It's so charming to see this rustic looking wall then have the imposing Marriott hotel behind. A definite east meets west. We did some offroad cycling, went through some more hutongs and went past the Beijing railway station (an important place to note when you're about to embark on a huge train journey).
Because we were such speedy peddlers we got to see a few more bonus extras. The most colorful of which was the night market. It is open every night from 5-12. There are all sorts of colorful and bizarre food, alot of it on skewers. There were lots of fruits like pineapple, strawberries, grapes and plums etc all dipped in succulent looking toffee. If we had time I would have definitely had some. There were usual things you put on skewers like chicken, beef and pork but there were also things like sheeps testicles, grasshoppers and scorpions. Major pass on these.
We saw the latest in bridal fashion, a dress with jeans underneath, granted it was cold. We decided it must have been for a photo shoot. The size and number of the buildings is just astronomical, however there is still space and you don't feel claustrophobic.
We then took on peak hour traffic to return our bikes, we were riding like locals at this stage taking in traffic of all kinds. We did a little detour through some hutongs and eventually found the rental place again. We then had a look around a lake where alot of rickshaws were parked while waking for our driver. Then it was time for Peking duck dinner, yummo!
The duck was carved right in front of us and we were given a demonstration by our waitress about the correct way to eat the duck. We also had a couple of other dishes, chicken, pork and vegies, not to mention the rice. Way too much food for 2 people, albeit two hungry people. We were then whisked away to the lashoe tea house for a night of entertainment and of course tea. We saw some acrobatics, some comedians, a sample of the beijing opera, a magician, more acrobatics and a sample of the face changing opera (which originates in Sichuan). It's amazing how many talented people there are out there. The tea was jasmine tea and was very delicious. Many cups were consumed. Once the performance was over we returned to the hotel for a well deserved shower and rest in preparation for more adventures the next day, up early and off the Xian to see the terra-cotta warriors.