Thursday, September 22, 2011
After 3 days in Beijing, we realized that somehow we were already quite familiar with a few things in Beijing i.e. the people, the traffic, the food and the weather. So, on Day 4, Panda World was the first place for us to visit. We didn’t plan for this but since we thought the children would have enjoyed it, we added it in. It was a quiet chilly morning at the Panda World. There were not many visitors. It was hard for us to catch the Pandas on sight too. I bet they were all hibernating, uh? Do Pandas hibernate, anyway?
As we entered the indoor cage, the first 2 cages were empty. No Panda! But as we strolled along, we managed to catch a glimpse of this exquisite and endangered species, hiding and enjoying themselves in a bunch of Bamboo leaves. There was also another type of Panda, called Red Panda or Lesser Panda. It looked more like a fox to me but only it was cuter and fluffier and reddish in color. My son was so excited in seeing this cuddly little bear so closely, he had to make a second round to see them again. He later stopped at a souvenir kiosk and asked me to get him an ear muff, with panda heads on it… super cute!
Next stop was the bird’s nest Stadium (Beijing Olympic Stadium). It is the most striking structure recognized all over the world, creating a new icon for China, and the city of Beijing. It is called the Bird’s Nest because it really looked like one.
After a few snaps of pictures at the Stadium, and a good morning walk or ‘run’ to my son (since it was quite a distance from the bus drop-off area), we headed to Dr Tea House, a well-known tea shop in Beijing. There we were introduced to the many types of Chinese Teas and we got to taste some of the teas too. We ended up buying 4 containers of teas. Pheww… and that alone has costs us Y600 (RM300)! We bought 2 containers of Pu Erh (Golden Tea), and a container of each Lichi and Oolong.
Our evening itinerary will again be shopping. My husband had personally asked the guide to make a quick stop at Hard Rock Café Beijing for us to buy some T-Shirts.
After that, we continued shopping at Wangfujing Street, a widely recognized hub or shopping district in Beijing. Here you could find shopping malls and shops all along the street, carrying myriads of products from international labels to local brands. The small shops along the street were selling all sorts of things from little trinkets to fine jeweleries, books, home deco and clothings. There was also a stretch of local street food stalls there, selling exotic food you won’t dare to try such as silk worm, scorpions and roaches! I didn’t actually go to that area, because I don’t think I could stand the sight of those things so closely. Yikes!!
Summer Palace or ‘Gardens of Nurtured Harmony’ is an Imperial Garden in Beijing. I was told that this place was served as a summer resort to the Emperor’s family during Qing Dynasty, on a hot summer time in Beijing. It is located on the northwest of Beijing center, so it seemed to be slightly cooler than the city. A perfect escapade for the royal family away from the heat of the city during summer, I presumed.
It took us around 45 minutes by bus to reach the Summer Palace. As we reached the place in the chilly, clear crisp winter morning, I straight away fell in love with the place. I found the entire park so peaceful and serene, with three quarters of the premise filled with water, precisely the Kunming Lake. From afar, I could see the calm Longevity Hill with a striking Pagoda on top of it. A beautiful place to go to enjoy the serenity away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
This place serves as a recreational park for the locals now, besides of course, being a popular tourist destination. Since it was morning, there were lots of activities going on that day. A group of young middle age people were having their so-called modern-taichi, facing the breathtaking view of the lake. On the pavilion, a group of man were playing musical instruments, serenading Chinese songs and few more were playing kites on the bridge that links one part of the garden to another, crossing the huge Kunming lake. It was truly a sight of happiness and relaxation.
We strolled along the park, just enjoying the nature at its best. We took lots of pictures. I remembered a friend of mine who came here during deep winter time (end of January) and the whole of Kunming Lake was frozen. And just by early March, it was back to normal; though it was still cold. My son was really having a good time, he walked, ran and even sat on the bridge whilst enjoying the sight of the kites flying freely in the sky. The natural landscape of the hills and open water combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges formed a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. So peacefully gorgeous.
Later in the afternoon, we were brought to the Pearl center not far from the Summer Palace. There, we were explained on different types of pearls and the many jeweleries made from this precious little stones. I didn’t get anything for myself here as I already have 2 sets of pearls back home which I am so proud to wear, our local Sabah Pearls :).
Next destination was to another so-called cut-throat shopping destination, the Jewellery Centre. To our surprise, the owner of this huge shop was a young, good looking Chinese chap from Malaysia. And as he learned that we were all Malaysians, he straight away threw a HUGE discount for us. It made me smile happily when a Sapphire ring sat dazzlingly on my ring finger when we came out from the shop :).
Where to in the evening? Shopping again! I had actually lost my count as to how many markets we had gone to thus far. But this market, Silk Street, was a 3-storey shopping arcade. It had mostly the same selection of clothing, shoes, handbags, jewellery, toys, souvenirs and t-shirts on display. I realised that my son had desperately gone so tired of shopping centers and he got really cranky at one point. So in order to make him happy, my hubby bought him a few figurines of the renowned characters of Star Wars. That made him grin from ear to ear, and that also enabled us to go shopping for more :).
After shopping, we sat down at one little cafe at the side of the shopping centre and indulged ourselves in some scones and muffins. I had a cup of freshly brewed Hazelnut Coffee and that really made my day. After 3 days of eating only Chinese food (3 times daily), and having pots of Chinese Tea, this little bite we had was really a life-saver. I barely ate my meal that day. It looks enticing for the first few meals though, but after 3 days, I just couldn’t swallow them anymore.
Our daily banquet, just thought of sharing :)
The last day in Beijing. After we settled the checking out process at the hotel, we were rushed to the Bullet Train station. We didn’t even get to grab our breakfast but luckily the hotel had packed some for us. We’re going to take the bullet train back to Tianjin (before we flew back to Malaysia). Our train ticket was at 8.30am and as we reached the station, we had another half an hour to go before boarding. It was cold in the station. The temperature was at 9 degree Celsius that morning. Our guide told me that they had actually shut-off the centralised heater in all the buildings in Beijing by March. That explained why a big modern train station like this didn’t have a heater at that point in time.
Our bullet train arrived on time. This was my very first time taking a bullet train and I was all excited! It was a high speed train and it reached the speed of 330km per hour! Just imagine - the same journey that took us up to 1.5 hours to reach Beijing from Tianjin by bus, took only 30 minutes vice versa via this high speed locomotive. That was super fast, indeed!
By 9.00am we were already in Tianjin City. The weather was still cold, and a little bit misty that morning. On our bus from the train station, I could see Tianjin was a little quieter but somehow more interesting if compared to Beijing. It had its own attraction, and the buildings and the roads were more ‘colonial’ in every sense of the word.
We visited their local Food Street, a place that sells local food and tidbits i.e. dried fruits, pickles, dried fish & cuttlefish and sweets, mostly non-halal. They even showcased live catches such as silkworms, seashells and even crocodile which will be cooked to perfection for the locals’ palate. I found one stall that sells halal product, with many types of raisins, dried fruits (knowing it was a winter season, you could get dried fruits almost everywhere here), almonds and peanuts. Only one stall, amongst hundreds of shops in the Food Street.
The Culture Street was our next stop, it is THE place to shop for souvenirs. Yup, it’s good for our last minute shopping before we depart to Malaysia later in the afternoon. It is a big area with lots to offer. The shops were built in an old-charm settings making the place more interesting. With the weather like that, I wouldn’t mind strolling along the area for hours. There was always new things to see (and buy).
We flew back to Malaysia on a 3.00pm flight. From 2 bags of luggage (upon arrival), it became 4! Don’t ask what we have bought throughout our 6-day stay in Beijing. It would be an endless and ‘tedious’ list ranging from t-shirts to shoes, handbags to toys, fridge magnets to jeweleries, tidbits to sunglasses and bangles to Chinese teas! And they all come in plural too :). When we landed in KLIA, one thing in my mind was --- gosh! I was already missing the cold weather in Beijing…