Beijing, april 25

A fully loaded China Airlines Airbus 330-200 took us to Beijing on the dot. BCIA terminal 3 is modern, huge and efficient. Within one hour we were in the arrival hall, luggage OK. Several ATM were "out of order temporarily" but we found one that spat out the necessary Renminbi, RMB, the People's Money, still called the Yuan). Exchange rate 1 = 8Y. Took the Airport Express (25Y) to cover the 25-some kilometers to Dongzhimen terminus where we transferred on the local subway (2Y a ride anywhere). Taking Airport Express and subway is the best way to get around Beijing, believe me. Morning rush hour on the inbound roads is terrible and your taxi will need at least two hours to reach a downtown destination. We reached Dongsi subway station and walked to the Double Happiness Hotel . Located in the centre of a hutong and almost in its original state. Not only the hotel is special, the staff is remarkable as well. Helpful and spirited. If you plan Beijing: give this hotel a try! Plenty of food around, public transport around the corner, tourist highlights within walking distance.

Made arrangements for tomorrow (charter transport) for visiting the Great Wall, but not in the typical tourist settings like Badaling. The rest of the day we spent in the Forbidden City. Huge! What a crowd! Many tourist groups following their leaders (or the banners / umbrellas). Madness. But the Forbidden City is worth your while for 60Y. Prepare to spend at least 5 hours to have a minimum impression. Gates close at 5pm. Everyone leaves at 5pm apparently. Like an anthill. Now we know how many Chinese are living in China.

Double Happiness Hotel, inner court Forbidden City Forbidden City Forbidden City

april 26
You cannot leave China without having seen the Great Wall. The majority of tourists will go on an organized tour to Badaling, about 90 kms from Beijing centre. Since we not too keen on the masses, we settled for car and driver to take us to Mutianyu, about 140 kms north of Beijing. The roadtrip was part of experiencing China traffic.

..heading for Mutianyu.. The Wall.. ..another milestone.. Pay first, drink later!

We reached our destination in two hours: morning rushhour outbound was light today. Still a 20-minute walk from the parking to the entrance, and more buses than we thought. The wall itself: impressive! As far as you can see, the wall meanders left and right over mountain tops, watchtowers at regular intervals. From the entrance section you can walk the wall roughly 1500 meters either way, but keep in mind there are no level parts. Up and down... All steps with different height...

..always a smile.. ..even on traffic signs.. The Birdnest (Olympic stadium @2008) Mongolian sheep-kebab

Back to Beijing. Asked our driver if he could drop us off at the Olympic Park because we would like to see the Birdnest Stadium. He did not need to wait for us since we wanted to stay a longer period and we would prefer to take the subway back. Unfortunately his English was limited, and our Chinese downright insufficient. When we explained and left the van he still did not pull in traffic. We needed to phone our hotel and ask to translate our wishes to him.

The Olympic complex is mostlya abandoned and already shows some rust and decay. What a pity. Fortunately the Chinese Movie Festival was on the premises and guaranteed some action. Also culinary... In a huge tent were 68 foodstalls lined up, handing out all varieties of Chinese cuisine. Prepaid payment by means of a chipcard, so no hassle with bundles of Yuans. A culinary experience and very affordable as well!

..on the road.. "Rotterdam" in Beijing Traffic guards help themselves
cross the roads..
Forbidden City

Concluded the day with a nightly visit to Tiananmen Square. Still crowds walking around.

april 27
Visited Temple of Heaven . Since it was our last day in Beijing and we also wanted to see the Summer Palace before going to our 4pm meeting, we shortened the Temple Tour a bit. Nevertheless we underestimated the size of Beijing a bit, and had to U-turn in the metro to meet our appointment at Koryo: the briefing for tomorrows' DPRK-tour. Hard to find. Beijing addresses are not easy to understand for us. More about this subject later on...

Temple of Heaven After Pete demonstrated once.. ..this senior could do it as well..

After the Koryotours briefing and meeting our future travelling companions we walked to our dinner date close to Dongsisitiao subway. We planned to have the famous Peking Duck with our travelling companion (who would fly back the next day) in Beijings' most famous Peking Duck restaurant.

Peking duck is nice but overrated. A hint: DO NOT EVER order one duck per person... We felt quite awkward in this splendid and posh 8-star restaurant in our informal attire, when three chefs with their tools and mobile kitchen stationed themselves next to our table to dissect and carve three whole ducks. The three piles of duckmeat kept on growing and we could not help but looking sheepishly at each other... We could appreciate the situation later on though. We considered asking for a doggy bag, but we did not. (In China a doggy bag has another meaning. If you ask for one, chances are you are going walk out the restaurant, carrying a garbage bag with 20 kgs of leftovers for your dog)

3 Peking ducks for 3,
could have been a bit less..
..but block traffic considerably! peking duck before.. ..and after braising

Fully fed we tumbled home to our respective hotels. Pete in his cozy Ibis Jianguomen, and us to our hutong.

Tomorrow we set the controls for Pyongyang!!

update: (mm/dd/jjjj)