There are nine millions bicycles in Beijing...
Our first stop had to be Beijing - what a better way to start a trip around the country than starting in the capital.
As our plane landed at 5a.m. Beijing time, we were all very tired as it was about time we would go to bed. Kids had a bit of sleep on the carriers, but arriving at the hotel at 9a.m. our room was of course not ready, so we were kind of forced to start exploring right away.
As we stayed in a hotel in one of the old hutongs - old alley neighbourhoods, where life still seems to follow an old rythm, and you can almost forget that you are in a mega city surrounded by busy roads. Inside hutong it is mostly people walking ane riding bicycles, having some food or buying grocceries in tiny shops.
Very quickly the heat drovecus to sit down for a late breakfast - for me first time being completely unable to communicate, I was a bit frustrated that ot is hard to know what you are ordering. In the end I got a spicy noodle soup that I was eating over sleeping Ninok’s head - now that’s a challenge!
Another challenge is that China is now pretty much cashless for the locals - you pay mostly with WeChat or AliPay, which luckily we configured before leaving Switzerland. It is relatively easy to use, BUT not every QR code works… so it is always a bit of a lottery and you still need to have a bit of cash in your pocket.
After breakfast we walked back to the room and luckily it was ready - finally a well deserved family nap!
We all literally passed out in 10minutes and slept solid 4 hours until Ninok woke up.
Still jet-lagged but hopeful for less heat, we were ready to go out again. We wanted to go to a nice big park where Baba can see some children playing and maybe we could sit on a blanket so that Ninok also gets a little stretch. So we went first to Beihai Park - but to my surprise it wasn’t like the parks I am used to in Europe - for starters, you needed to pay for entrance. But what was probably more strange to me that here people don’t seem to use parks to sit down on the grass and relax. They stroll around maybe, but have not seen anyone sitting on the grass or a blanket - yet another lesson that you should never assume that everywhere things work the same way. Don’t get me wrong, the park was still nice and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves - it just wasn’t what I expected.
So we decided to move on just across the street to Huhai Lake - and that one was really fun! It was already evening, but people of all ages were out - laughing, eating street food, even dancing! And everyone wanted to talk to us, even when they spoke little or no English. Especially kids got so much attention - I think Baba was a liitle overwhelmed with everyone wanting to take pictures with her. But we all loved it there!
The next day we were still on european time zone, so when we woke up it was already too hot for everything. We walked a bit around the hutong and got some breakfast and then we headed off to the Pacific Underwater World under the CCTV tower - first an foremost because it was airconditioned, but also great fun for Baba! It was really great - the highlight was definitely feeding fishes and an underwater tunnel where you walk surrounded by the fish.
In the evening we went out to wander the streets near Tianamen Square. Yet another great evening - so much life im the streets and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We also found a place to try the Peking duck - one of the flagship dishes of the capital. Really good food and really good fun! On the way back we had a taste of crazy Asian weather - it quickly changed from a hot summer day to a massive rainfall. But we actually quite enjoyed the cool air that the rain brought, even if it was just for few hours. The next morning was already hot and steamy.
The last day in Beijing was a bit of a disaster - only a slight exaggeration. It was all our fault as we did exactly what we said we wouldn’t do! Instead of heading back to Huhai Lake for our last evening, we went full on tourist mode and failed miserably. Trying to see Tianamen Square - terrible idea to go on a concrete unshaded square in a 35 degree heat with 70% humidity. We changed our minds before we even made a reservation (which we also didn’t know we had to do). Then we went to the viewpoint of Forbidden City, which had nice view but was super crowded and hot again, and Baba was already hungry and we had nothing to eat (how dumb of us!)…
We also wanted to go to the Ghost Street which apparently has great restaurants but we couldn’t find anything we really like so we headed back to our neighbourhood. After almost ending up eating in a restaurant that predominantly serves all types of dishes made of a donkey (picture of a donkey on the restaurant window should have been a clue), we ate some dumplings which weren’t even good even though it seemed like the safest choice. We were really disappointed that this was the way our stay in Beijing ended, but we still had a lot of good stuff ahead, we were sure.
The next day our first train journey on a high speed train in China! Given how much we enjoy train travel, we were very thrilled!