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Beijing, China

Touchdown in China.


View Francis & Edward, Taste of the World on edcastano's travel map.

Arrival

Both customs at the Beijing airport and the shuttle bus to downtown were very straight forward. However, the last mile is always the most difficult. After getting off the shuttle bus, it took us 45 min to flag down a cab and another 20 min to track down our hostel.

Pollution:
What first struck us upon arriving in Beijing was the air quality. It was a "clear" day, yet we could not see the sky. The city was covered in a cloud of smog. The Chinese use cylindrical coal briskets to heat their homes and for hot water. As soon as we arrived, we could smell the coal in the air. The city smells like a permanent fireworks display. According to our guide book, breathing the air in Beijing is equivalent to smoking 70 cigarettes. I think we met our lifetime quota during our three days there.

We stayed at the Qian Men Hostel. It was located near Tian'men Square in a historic Beijing building. The staff was incredibly friendly and made us feel at home.

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Our first night in Beijing we had dinner in a hole in the wall. This is not the kind of hole in the wall you would find in the US though. This was an authentic hole in the wall, 10 ft wide and 30 ft deep. We walked in through the thick warehouse styled plastic curtain, attracted by the pots of steaming food outside the "establishment". The locals seemed to be eating there and the food was hot, so we figured it was safe. The walls in the back of the restaurant were crumbling down onto the tables, but the staff was friendly. We managed to order a tasty egg soup, stir fried chicken with vegetables and steamed dumplings by pointing at what some of the other patrons were eating. It cost us a whopping 16 Yuan (about $2). This would be the first of a long string of hole in the walls that we would visit, while in China.

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Bicycle tour

On our first whole day in Beijing, we decided to take a self guided bicycle tour. Francis could not find a bicycle she was comfortable with so she used the folding bike I brought and I rented one from the hostel. There is a hierarchy of transport in China...bicycles and pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain. In this every man from himself world, if you don't jump in front of the car, you may just never get through (to drivers' credit they usually do at least slow down if you jump in front of them). Francis was very good on the bike. I was very proud of her. As much as I tried, I could not lose her. :)

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Our self guided tour started near Tian'men Square took us around the moat of the Forbidden City and through several hutongs. Hutongs are Beijing's neighborhood alleys, a mix of charming historic homes and drab modern buildings. Sadly many of Beijing's hutongs are being bull dozed to make way for ugly high rise apartments.

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The Great Wall at Simatai

The bus picked us up at 6 am enroute to the Great Wall at Simatai. There are 3-4 places along the Great Wall that are frequented by tourists. Simatai is one of the more remote and least visited sites, but offers some stunning views.

We arrived at Simatai around noon and were soon joined by our uninvited guides. The guides are local farmers that also make a living by joining tourists on the hike up (up to 3x a day) and selling them souveniers on the way down. This is not an easy hike, I think we hiked 10,000 3 inch steps. They add up quickly. The guides were very nice, but did not take no for an answer. We eventually purchased a 20 Yuan postcard set, this after giving them a 20 yuan donation in a hopeless plea not to buy anything.

Anyhow, we got great views of the Great Wall snaking around the steep hills of northern China.

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Around Tian'men Square and the Forbidden City

We spent our last day in Bejing touring the area around Tian'men Square and the Forbidden City. The sites were cool, but overall, it was an uneventful day.

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Posted by edcastano 23:49 Archived in China

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meow

by manfabian

the thing Edward ate is my favorite food~~~~~~~~called "You Yu" ba ?! How did you guys feel on the Great Wall? what were you think? ... haha~ it must be "oh, the air is polluted..."

by amyan

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