The first leg of my Trans Siberian Railway Adventures – Beijing, China! Being a Malaysian Chinese, this was my maiden trip to China and I couldn’t be more excited. When i thought about Beijing, I pictured in my mind streets filled with bicycles, dusty air and busy pedestrians. I was bound to Beijing via Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 360 and arrived at my hotel at almost 3am in the morning. Fortunately, my pre-arranged pick up to King Parkview Hotel was smooth and pleasant. The taxi driver had a conversation with me in mandarin and whoa.. that was a challenge and my language proficiency was definitely put to the test. I needed sleep!
“Beijing : It is where ancient and modern China meets. Constantly re-imagining itself as it races towards the future, yet inextricably linked to its glorious, notorious past, Běijīng is as compelling as it is complex.” – Lonely Planet
I had only one day in Beijing and it knew it wasn’t enough to explore everything. Thankfully, the hotel’s location was strategic. It was located adjacent to Jingshan Park’s East Entrance. I had to cherry pick where to visit and the Forbidden City was not to be missed. After all, it was just really close by to where I was staying – 10 minutes by bus and 30 minutes by foot. Of course, i took the bus as time was rather constrained.
There was a cafe right at the corner, called “Xunchang Alley Mo or Alley Cafe”. It was a nice and quiant little joint with both indoor and outdoor seatings. They served decent breakfast sets and I had an omelette with toasts. It comes with a cup of coffee too. Savage! All in for just 32 Chinese Yuan.
Right after a good hearty meal, I made my way to the bus stop and hopped on Bus no. 2. I arrived Tiananmen Square (East Gate) at about 830am and got in the queue for security. There were already thousands in line and after a good 20 minutes, I was standing right in front of Mao Zedong or better known as Chairman Mao’s portrait. He is a Chinese communist revolutionary, political theorist and the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. He governed the communist party from 1949, until his death in 1976.
While I was queuing in line, I stumbled across a gentlemen with a Lonely Planet Beijing in his hand. He was kind to let me have a good look at the map and immediately, I enlisted my to-do list in my mind. Visiting Tiananmen square was FREE and you would need to pass the entrance before arriving at the ticketing counter into the Forbidden City.
Being named one of the seven UNESCO heritage sites in Beijing, the Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1368 – 1911). It was home to 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors over the following 505 years. There were a lot to explore inside the Forbidden City, ranging from the many halls of harmony, thousands of rooms which mostly aren’t accessible, the Imperial landscaped gardens, and several treasure galleries of the Chinese civilization during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
I thoroughly enjoyed strolling on the quieter side of the Forbidden City. In all honesty, you do not need to join any daily tour and it is pretty simple to maneuver and work your way through. I think the day tours were quite a ripped off as they can generally costs up to USD $50 for a couple of hours. Better still, you get to go on your own pace. I visited 3 sites namely the Pottery Gallery, Clock and Watch Museum, and the Treasure Gallery. The entrance fees were all paid separately. The clock and watch museum had an amazing collection of the Qing Dynasty timepieces. I literally feasted my eyes on the hundreds of collections from all over the world – Switzerland, English, Japan, France etc. Some were gifts to the emperors and what caught my eye was this particular wooden water clock in the entrance of the exhibition hall. It was 11am and I was pretty lucky to catch them switching on several clocks on display for a show – leaving everyone present in awe.
It was almost 1pm and I made my way to Jingshan Park, located right across the North Gate exit of the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park is a beautiful royal landscape garden and the mid-summit of the hill is actually the highest point of Beijing. It was an easy 300 metres hike to the peak and the view of the entire Forbidden City was definitely well worth it. Highly recommended, especially if you are blessed with clear blue skies!
So, what’s Beijing without a trip to try out the famous Peking duck? I was recommended by a friend back home to try the Peking duck at Da Dong Restaurant. I hopped on to Bus No. 103, which went straight to Wangfujing and from there, it was basically mapping my way across to JinBao Street via a shopping centre to the restaurant. I arrived at almost 330pm and there weren’t many people at the restaurant. It was good because I was literally starving and couldn’t wait any longer. Overall, the duck was excellent and comparable to the peking duck i had at Four Seasons Restaurant in Chinatown, London. I also tried two other dishes; Kung Po Chicken and Sauteed Asparagus. The waiter offered to perform the correct technique of wrapping the duck with sauce and condiments. Beer was cheaper than aqua here, so choose wisely!
By the time my “late lunch” was over, it was time for me to hop onto Bus no. 111 and head back to the hotel for a meeting with the Trans Siberian tour group. I wanted so badly to make a quick visit to the Temple of Heaven. I did tried my luck after the meeting but decided to pass and spend the rest of the night wandering around Wanfujing instead. There was so much to see in Beijing and I would have to go back there once again for the Great Wall of China.
- WeChat works perfectly in China. I totally dislike the app but somewhat it was the only thing that works so smoothly.
- If you’re from Malaysia and is on Maxis, roam up to 500 MB/day for RM 38 and you wouldn’t have to figure out on VPN (Google, Facebook and Instagram works).
- Prepare small notes or get them exchange at the hotel for your bus rides.
Points of Interest
- Tiananmen Square
- The Forbidden City
- Jingshan Park
- Wangfujing District
Food and Drinks List
- Da Dong Restaurant (Address: Dongcheng Qu, DongDan, Jinbao St, 88, 100005 Beijing)
- Alley Cafe (Address: 61 Shatan Back St, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100006 Beijing)
- The Forbidden City – CNY 60/ RM 38 / USD $9
- Treasure Gallery – CNY 10/ RM 6 / USD $1.50
- Clock and Watch Museum – CNY 10/ RM 6 / USD $1.50
- Pottery Gallery – CNY 10/ RM 6 / USD $1.50
- Jingshan Park – CNY 10/ RM 6 / USD $1.50
- Bus rides one way – CNY 2/ RM 1.20 / USD 30 cents
- Alley Cafe – Breakfast set for CNY 32 / RM 20 / USD $ 4.50
- Da Dong restaurant – Ranging from CNY 400-800/ RM 250-500 / USD $60 – $120 per pax depending on selections
All in for 1 day excluding meals : RM 65 / USD $15
Moving forward, the Trans Siberian Railway journey began the next day and it was hands down one trip of a lifetime. My most adventurous trip to date! Bucket-load filled with awesome experiences and I can’t wait to share them in my upcoming blogs!
Note: Back in January 2017, I was shortlisted and competed in Heat 3 for the 56Degrees ambassadorship. I won the challenge and this was the winning prize. This Trans Siberian Railway Adventure from Beijing to Moscow (flights and accommodation) was sponsored by FiftySixDegrees. Thank you for the amazing experience and I couldn’t be more honored to share the adventure with all of you!