Beijing, China 2013 – Day 5 – XiuShui Market, Summer Palace, Olympic Stadiums

Our fifth day started late. Our driver and guide picked us up at 11AM as opposed to the usual 9AM (we are usually late cause we always oversleep).

Our first stop was Xiushui market. It’s an indoor shopping centre with hundreds of fashion outlets. There are some toys and electronic shops too. Bargaining is a must here. Some shop keepers can be quite aggressive and rude but if you maintain your calm, you’ll probably get the price that you want.

Counterfeits are ample in this place. I was expecting many outlets using fake brand names just like the fake Apple store. However, there were not many of them but there is one Ferrerri.

Summer Palace was next.

Although the place was huge, we only took short and quick stroll. It’s quite scenic and we got to see the frozen man-made Kunming Lake. We even walked on top of it but we were told it is dangerous to do so. Imagine falling through the ice!

However, whenever I think of this place I would think how Empress Dowager Ci Xi diverted China’s navy funds to repair and build this palace.

The Marble Boat is one of the many structures rebuilt or repaired using the navy funds.

Our last outing was to the Chinese Olympics stadiums. It was just another stroll along the Olympics venue to see the birds’ nest stadium.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go here as there was nothing much to do or see here. We headed back to our hotel after that. To end our night, we went for foot reflexology. It’s quite similar to what we have in Malaysia.

This post marks the end of the my Beijing trip. China was an eye opener. I would certainly go back to China again. Next stop, Shanghai!

Beijing, China 2013 – Day 4 – Hutong, Temple of Heaven & Acrobatic Show

On our fourth day in Beijing, we visited the hutongs. I was expecting some really commercialized place but I was wrong. It was an authentic hutong. There were no actors or actresses pretending to be villagers. It was a real hutong with villagers squeezed in small houses and roads. Some of the roads are so narrow – just enough for a car to go through.

That probably explains why there are so many types of small cars in Beijing.

The gaps between the houses are also narrow. In some houses, there are a few sections where many families live.

We took a stroll along the hutongs and explored some of the houses. We also took pictures of the local residents.

I am told that houses in hutongs are generally very small but if you see a large one in a hutong, that means that the house was formerly owned by some Chinese royalty.

Pizza anyone?

If you walk through this door, you will see the following:-

A narrow passage to family homes. Each home would have their own door

Place milk here

I saw a person delivery coal to houses. Looks like these houses still uses coal.

Extremely photogenic traditional smelly taufu seller. We got to experience the well known melodious “jiao mai” (hawking cries) by the taufu seller. The seller was singing out his wares while walking around the hutong.

Our next trip, Temple of Heaven. It was quite boring as there were not many things to see. However, the attraction was the fellow Beijingers hanging outside the Temple.

Many elderly Beijingers were playing chess and card games. Some also were playing jiànzi (毽子) – a game which players aim to keep a heavily weighted shuttlecock in the air by using their bodies except their hands.

I had a go at it. It wasn’t easy!

Elderly Beijingers singing outside the temple. Strange to see some folks gathering at a random place just to sing.

At night we watched the acrobatic show. I don’t remember the name of the place but the hall was extremely cold. We had to wear our jackets in the hall.

I was quite impressed with the 1 hour performance. The ladies’ bodies could contort into all sorts of styles whereas the guys were extremely powerful. It’s an enjoyable performance but I wish they could have worked on their music a bit.

Beijing, China 2013 – Day 3 – Great Wall of China & Ming Tombs Museum

This was the highlight of my trip. I finally get to see the Great Wall of China.

We visited the Mutianyu wall. Our friends in KL highly recommend this wall instead of Badaling wall as the latter is extremely crowded.

I’m glad that we chose Mutianyu wall because it was not crowded. In fact, there were hardly anyone!

Shops before Mutianyu Wall

We took a cable car up the wall. Feet was dangling midair. Quite scary.

We explored the restored area (many parts of the Great Wall are in a dilapidated state due to lack of maintenance). We also got to explore some of the dilapidated areas. Some of the walls and buildings have collapsed with trees growing on it. Years of neglect had left them in this state. Villagers have also plundered parts of the wall to build homes.

Nevertheless, the view was magnificent! The sky was clear and the walls were covered with snow.

We came at the right time. Snow was everywhere and we got to experience winter at its finest.

The wall seems never ending.

Dilapidated areas

No naked flames – Your flames are allowed to wear clothing

Last thing I want is to tumble down these slipper stairs

My ears were about to fall off thus the beanie.

Wish we had more time to explore the place. If I have time, I would love to do a Great Wall tour where I will hike from the beginning of the wall towards the other end of the wall!

Ming Tombs Museum was next. There are 13 tombs but only a few are open to the public. I was told that many of these tombs were not explored due to the fear to contamination.

We visited Emperor Zhu Yi Jun and his two empresses tombs. It’s buried deep underground. Frankly, there are nothing much to see.

While at Emperor Zhu Yi’s tomb:-

Me: This place looks like a subway station
Wife: Shh! Respect the dead!
Me: It smells like a gym!
Wife: SSH!!!

I later realised that the smell was due to the rubber floor. The interior of the tomb is nothing to shout about. However, I was in awe with Chinese ancient architecture. They managed to build something so deep underneath without any modern machinery and tools.

But I wouldn’t go again if I had the choice.

Beijing, China 2013 – Overview

To celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, my wife and I made a trip to Beijing on 19 January. It is my first time to China.

Before I go into detail on our trip, I thought of sharing some information and tips on getting into China. A visa to enter China is required for Malaysians. One can apply at the Chinese Embassy at OSK Building. You can complete the visa application form online or get the form from the office. I would recommend that you complete the form online and book an appointment with them to submit your form. If you don’t, you would need to line up at the office. The queue is quite long. An appointment takes less than 5 minutes. The visa application is quite fast, just submit your form, supporting documents (ie itinerary, air ticket and accommodation) and your passport. You can choose your processing time. I choose the regular time which is 3 days.

Alternatively, you can get a runner to do for you. Our travel agent said it costs RM60 per person.

We used the services of a tour agent. It was about RM4000 for both of us for 6 days (flight not included). The tour includes the usual tourist areas such as Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. There are of course cheaper packages out there but you’ll probably be brought to some low end restaurants, stay in cheaper hotels or have more market visits.

We wanted to skip the compulsory market visits (tour includes bringing you to shop at certain places ie tourist traps). But to do that, we need to top up around RM500. We decided not to pay such exorbitant amount.

We were fortunate that the staff at the shops that we went were not pushy or aggressive. I was told that some of these shopkeepers will force you to buy something from them. Some even to the extend of blocking the exit!

Yes, the air was this bad!

Our tour was a private and English speaking tour. It was just us and our guide, Jack and our driver (can’t remember his name). Jack is a nice and accommodating Beijinger. Although it’s supposed to be an English speaking tour, Jack did most of it in Chinese – Beijinger Mandarin to be exact. I couldn’t understand most of it due to his strong Chinese accent. He couldn’t understand our Malaysian accent as well. Reminds me when I met my Finnish friend in Finland. We couldn’t understand each others’ English when we met at his house. We had to go online at his house so that we can speak on the net.

Beijing was cold. We came at a time where pollution was at its height. I couldn’t make out whether the sky is misty or covered with smog. We couldn’t see the sun most of the time. We came at a time where Beijing’s air pollution was at its height.

It snowed on the second day. Although the road was covered with snow, it wasn’t as thick as Oulu’s snow.

We stayed at Crowne Plaza, Wang Fu Jing. It’s a nice hotel located a few minutes from the shopping centres of Wang Fu Jing. Their service is good and there’s WiFi at the lobby. WiFi is accessible from our room but we need to pay for it. However, there were a few days where we could access it for free.

Wang Fu Jing is a well known shopping district of Beijing. It’s filled with massive shopping centres. Many of them reminded us of One Utama and Mid Valley. Big Western brands are here and prices are almost the same with Kuala Lumpur. Even food prices are about the same.

Wang Fu Jing at night

St. Joseph’s Church, Wang Fu Jing


On our first day, we ventured into a restaurant called Tianjin GoBelieve Steamed Stuffed Bun (yes, Go Believe!).

It serves dumpling and porridge. Their steamed pork dumpling was okay – the meat was a bit mushy. Can’t tell whether it’s cooked or not. Porridge on the other hand was bland and watery. It comes in two colours namely yellow and brown. It didn’t taste good to me but the locals seem to love it.

We also roamed around Wangfujing Snack Street to check out their common and exotic street food. They served things like starfish, scorpions and snails.

Snails. Mum once told me that she had to stop a bunch of Chinese students from eating some snails they found at the drain. Now I know why they caught the snails cause these snails look like those we have at home!

Seremban crab stick – I don’t think we have this in Seremban!

The best place we tried so far was a place called Grandma’s Kitchen. It’s located in a shopping centre. The queue to get a place is incredible. It was extremely long. We took a number and we were told that we will be called in 1 1/2 hours time!

Whenever someone’s turn is called, the shop will announce, “Mama chiao ni che farn leee (Mama is asking you to come and eat!).

Food was pretty good. Our tea cooked chicken and organic cabbage were great.

On our last day, we wanted to try Grandma’s Kitchen for lunch. Unfortunately, it was packed with people again. We went to another place nearby called Xiang Yuan Spicy Food.

Again I managed to meet up with some Chinese lawyers. This time round was Gloria and David of a reputable intellectual property firm in Beijing. I met Gloria when I attended the INTA conference in Berlin. They brought us to a nice fine dining Chinese restaurant in Wang Fu Jing.

Overall, the trip was great. I wasn’t expecting much of China but it was an eye opener. I would certainly go back to China again to check out other parts of China!