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Beijing - Chengde - Tianjin

You are not a hero yet until you have climbed the Great Wall

sunny 28 °C
View Beijing on Lingering's travel map.

Friday (7/9/2007) Our transit flight to Beijing started at 3pm from Brunei International Airport. By the time we landed at KLIA in Malaysia, it was already 5.30pm. Since our next connecting flight to Beijing was at 12.30am, we had about 7 hours to spare before flying off. So, we checked out the Airside Transit Hotel first and then spent the rest of the time checking out each shop in KLIA. After having dinner, we sat at the Movie lounge and watched movies until our boarding time. The seats were so comfortable that we almost fell asleep but we had to keep ourselves awake or else we would missed our connecting flight.

Saturday (8/9/2007) We departed from KLIA at about 12.30am and by then, everyone was already asleep when the plane started to take off. Half an hour later, light dessert was served which wasn't too bad 'coz it was cream cheese sandwich. However, I only managed to catch 3 hours of sleep 'coz not only was the seat so uncomfortable but the lights came on and off every once in a while. By 5.00am, breakfast was served which was way too early for me so I didn't managed to eat much and by then, I couldn't go back to sleep either. On the other hand, being awake was a good thing 'coz I managed to see the sun started to rise on the right side of the plane by 5.30am which I assume would be Japan. Unfortunately, I was seated on the middle row so I was not able to take any photos of the sun rise. But it was just a lovely sight!

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We landed at the Beijing Capital International Airport at about 6.35am and managed to meet up with our tour guide, Andy. He looks and talk like a typical China man unlike Geoffrey, our tour guide in Shanghai. Anyhow, he can speak good English though I don't know why some of my friends found it difficult to catch his pronunciations and we were actually very impressed that he knows a lot of vocabularies which we don't normally use when we are talking informally. At least his Mandarin is easier to understand compared to other Bejing people that I've come across. We checked into Taiwan Hotel first before starting our tour.

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Our first stop was the Tiananmen Square (天安门广场) which has a total area of 108.7 acres. Within the square, there is a 38m high Monument to the People's Heroes (人民英雄纪念碑) which was built in the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th century. The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (毛主席纪念堂) or the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is currently under renovation so it was closed to the public. On the north side of the square is the Tiananmen Gate, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace which separates the Forbidden City from the Tiananmen square and to the south is the Zhengyangmen Gate or the Qianmen Gate (前门), also known as the "Front Gate".

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Next, we entered through the Tiananmen Gate into the Forbidden City which was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It has an area of 720,000 square metres and took 14 years to complete. Not only was the complex big and very old but it was filled with ornaments and carvings on wood, bronze and stones so it was very interesting to see. It makes one wonder how a big structure cans till stay intact after all these years where no nails have been used to hold them together and how ancient people carve all these things without the use of machines and how long it took them to complete one carving.

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Very unfortunately, the Hall of Supreme Harmony which was used in movies like "The Last Emperor" and "Curse Of The Golden Flower" was undergoing renovation at this moment so we only managed to look at the thrones in the Hall of Preserving Harmony and the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It was a long walk though around the compound but very fascinating.

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Before lunch, we took a rickshaw ride through the Hutong area which is means only a small alleyway or lane as only 1 car can pass at a time. In this Hutong area, there are about 4 or 5 families sharing 1 courtyard. We also ate lunch in a local family in a small room which happens to be the bedroom also. After lunch, we went up the Drum Tower, also known as Gulou (鼓楼). The tower is only 47m high and has 69 steps. Behind the Drum Tower is the Bell Tower, also known as Zhonglou. The purpose of these two towers was to tell the time during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

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Our last stop for the day was the Temple of Heaven (天坛) which was used by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) was used by the Emperor to pray for good harvests. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is surrounded by a smooth circular wall called the Echo Wall because sound can be transmitted from one end of the wall to the other end. As told by Andy, we clapped our hands while standing in the middle the first slab in front of the Imperial Vault of Heaven which did not produce any echo at all. Doing the same action while standing in the middle the second slab produced 2 echoes while doing the same thing again on the third slab produced three echoes but the third echo was not so obvious as the second echo. Finally, we stood at the Earthly Mount (圜丘坛) which consist of an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones that can echo back your voice if you stand at the centre of the circle.

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At night, we tried the food at the Wangfujing road for our dinner. There were scorpions, pupae, noodles, meat, fish, desserts and other stuffs which you would not think of eating at all but it was interesting to see food which we do not normally eat. As they say, one person's food is another person's poison.

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Sunday (9/9/2007) Today's tour started with a stop to the Jade factory. We were shown how jades were carved and polished and also taught how to distinguish between real jade, glass and marble. I bought a jadelite bangle for myself which is a mixture of green, brown and happiness that represents health, wealth and happiness. It is said that the colour of jadelite will become darker as one keeps on wearing it as oil is absorbed from the body of the wearer.

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Then, we were supposed to go to the Badaling (八达岭) section of the Great Wall (长城) but due to heavy traffic jam to that section, we decided to go to the Mutianyu (慕田峪) section instead. Unlike the Badaling section which has cable cars to bring people up, we had to go on foot in this section. Only 4 of us out of 7 decided to climb the Great Wall on the other side of the road while the other 3 just stayed around the parking site. It was an amazing experience to actually reach and climb 1 of the 7 wonders of the world! It was hot though while we were climbing upwards because by then, it was already noon time and the sun was directly above us. But as Mao Zedong saying onthe 'real carrot stone' in the Badaling section said, "You're not a real man if you haven't climbed the Great Wall" ( 不到长城非好汉) which can be found with the saying engraved on it.

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After that, we went for a foot massage before heading back for the Acrobatic Show. The show was impressive if one has never watched any Chinese acrobatic show before but it was not as good as the China National Acrobatic Troupe which came to Brunei last year. Anyway, 2 of my friends actually managed to fall asleep during the acrobatic show even though there was so much noise! After the acrobatic show, we dropped by the Niujie mosque (牛街清真寺) which is the oldest mosque in Beijing. Unfortunately, we couldn't get clear shots of the mosque because it was dark already. Then, we headed for our hotpot dinner which I think most of us were a little surprised and disappointed. The hotpot I saw on tv was totally different from this one and to the others, they thought it was like the steamboat we have here with is either served with chicken stock or fish stock. Unfortunately, we didn't like the sauce that much because it tasted like peanut butter mixed with salty black sauce but we couldn't eat without the sauce also because the meat was tasteless after being boiled in crab water.

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Monday (10/9/2007) We checked out of the hotel today because we were going to spend a night in Chengde. It was a 4 hours drive which was entertaining because we saw the Simatai (司马台) section of the Great Wall, beautiful mountains and agricultural fields. We checked into Jin Jiang Wen Guan Hotel which is located on Mount Seng Guan. It was quite isolated and very quiet but the wind was very cool. It was even cool in the hotel without switching on the air con.

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We then went to the Imperial Summer Resort and because the others did not want to "WALK", we took the bus ride up the mountain and missed out the palaces and temples at the bottom. The scenery on top of the mountain wasn't too bad but could have been nicer if the sky wasn't that smoggy. We also saw the Temple for Potarka Doctrine (普陀宗乘之庙), a replica of Lhasa's Potala Palace on the left side and the Puning Temple (普宁寺)) or Temple of Universal Peace on the right side. On the way out of the resort, we were surprised to see 2 groups of Chinese men playing a traditional Malay game which is also played in Brunei called "Pasang". We were even more surprised that it is even called the same name here. This game could have possibly passed on to China from the 14th century where Brunei and China people used to trade with each other in the past.

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At night, the hotel area was so windy and cold and I didn't even felt hot when there was a blackout in the hotel early in the morning. But I couldn't go back to sleep when they started the generator at 6am. A walk to the next block for breakfast was very refreshing 'coz the weather was very cold. If only Brunei was that cold all the time. After checking out of the hotel, we visited the Puning Temple (普宁寺)) or Temple of Universal Peace. This temple is modeled after the Samye Monastery, the sacred Lamaist site in Tibet and has the world's tallest wooden sculpture of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara of 22.28m high.

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3 of us decided to try the fortune telling just for the fun of it. However, Kolin didn't get her fortune told, Pauline got 1 green paper and I got 2 papers, 1 green and the other yellow. Don't ask me why 'coz I do not know also but according to my understanding, this is what the green paper says:
"Originally I will face extremely bad problems but then it will eventually change into extremely good matters. The person who gets this stick (which is no. 99) has very good opportunities and can find a way out of a desperate situation or problem. Even though bad matters will often bring worry, it can often bring unexpected good matters also. This kind of person can turn misfortune into a blessing. Life is not problem-free, but one can only forgive and the problem does not have any danger but ends with satisfactory. If you are currently having a problem, do not need to fear because the extraordinarily good luck is not far away." So basically, what the paper is say is that my problems are actually blessings in disguise. If my translation is not accurate, please correct me but I must admit that most of my previous problems did actually have a very good result instead of the opposite so I hope the future will still give the same result.

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Tuesday (11/9/2007) Today, we went for a 2 hour drive to Tianjin to visit the Food Street and the Cultural Street. Tianjin is more modern but hotter than Chengde. There wasn't much to see here but the food was delicious. The name Cultural street was a bit misleading because there were more of modern chinese commodities rather than the ancient or antique ones.

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Wednesday (12/9/2007) Before our flight back to KL in the afternoon, we stopped by at the Summer Palace (颐和园). It had rained early in the morning and by the time we reached there, it was only a very light drizzle which was very nice. I love weather like this because it is just so cool whereas if it rains in Brunei, it really rains very heavily. So, Summer Palace was so lovely because of the weather. We walked through the Long Corridor of 728m long which has more than 8,000 paintings of landscapes, flowers and human figures. Before going on a cruise on the man made Kunming Lake that looks the West Lake in Hangzhou, we saw the Marble Boat at the southwest foot of the Longevity Hill. It is very interesting to learn that ancient people used to store ice blocks underground so that they can put them around the Marble Boat during summer before refrigerators were invented.

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On our way to the Beijing airport, we managed to catch a glimpse of the Olympic stadium which is still under construction. Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur was delayed by 1 hour and by the time we landed in KLIA, we were so exhausted that we just wanted to check into the Airside Hotel and sleep. The hotel was nice and spacy and from our room window, we saw a MAS plane looking towards our room. Fortunately, it didn't take off or else, it would be very noisy.

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Thursday (13/9/2007) Flew from KLIA at 9.10am and landed in Brunei International Airport at about 11.30am. The differences between Beijing and Shanghai is that Beijing people are much more laid back and friendlier, crossing the road was not as scary as in Shanghai 'coz cars will stop at zebra crossings and wait for people to walk through before moving on and I feel that Beijing is much more safer than in Shanghai 'coz you don't see a lot of police on the road looking after commercial areas. Most of all, even though Beijing has a large population, it is not crowded everywhere like in Shanghai.

However, both places are worth visiting as they have their own special features. Beijing for the historical aspects and Shanghai for the modern concepts. I admit that it was a long trip especially getting there and coming back by plane but it was an enjoyable one for me. I wouldn't mind going back again and check out the other historical places that has not been covered in this trip yet!

Posted by Lingering 20:17 Archived in China

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