At last, the final leg of my recent overseas adventures – Beijing! As per my last trip to China, it was planned in order to visit a friend of mine from the UK. We met on exchange in Prague, and he is currently living in Beijing to study Chinese. Seeing as we were once again on the same side of the globe, and I was traveling in Asia anyway, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss to catch up again!
My friend had kindly offered to collect me from Beijing airport after a short three hour flight from Hong Kong. Conveniently, we were all hungry and checked off one of my first to do’s that night – Peking duck! We went to Quanjude, which is the most famous chain of duck restaurants. It was easy to visit on our way to my hostel: we caught the metro train to Sanyuanqiao, before returning to that station to catch another train line. The duck was very rich, but utterly delicious!
It was getting late by the time we had eaten, and I was ever so grateful for my friend to take me all the way to my hostel! This turned out to be a good decision, as the hostel is located down a traditional Beijing hutong (a long, narrow street, with courtyard houses lining it).
The inside of the hostel, still shaped as a traditional courtyard with the rooms coming off.
The next morning I met up with my friend again and we went to the Summer Palace! He hadn’t been here before either, and the smog that had been covering Beijing for the previous week had just lifted, so it was the perfect day to explore.
The Suzhou Market Street.
The Summer Palace is the largest royal park in China, and features numerous lakes, buildings, and temples. I think we probably saw less than half of it in our few hours there!
Perhaps the most impressive building in the park is the Tower of Buddhist Incense.
The building was so intricately painted in such a wide variety of colours, and whilst we couldn’t go inside, there were still some amazing views from the doorstep.
Bunyun Bronze Pavilion.
I am hopeless at taking photos of myself when traveling, but my friend would regularly declare a location to be perfect for an impromptu photo shoot and insist he take a quick snap of me! As reluctant as I often was, I appreciate the photos now!
After a couple of hours of exploring we realised how absolutely famished we were. Eventually we managed to find a restaurant, an expensive, touristy one, but it was totally worth it. The building itself was beautiful, and the ‘Emperor’s Lunch’ we had was divine. Look at all that food! Something that I found unusual about eating in China is that sweet and savoury dished are often served together, not one after the other as we would do at home.
The main lake in the park was partially frozen (did I mention it was the middle of winter in Beijing?), which provided me with far too much enjoyment.
After wearing ourselves out at the Summer Palace, we were in desperate need of sitting down somewhere warm. We caught the metro into the city centre to Qiamen, or Emperor’s Avenue. My friend led me down a small side street to a coffee shop called Berry Beans (good coffee and wifi if you are ever traveling in Beijing!), which filled all my hipster coffee needs, as well as providing some historical trivia – the coffee shop is housed in a former brothel.
After spending some time in the cafe, we headed to the Place, a glorified shopping mall, to watch the new Harry Potter movie. Which was totally worth it, even if it did feel like the Potter universe is being milked for all it is worth!