Beijing in September

This past weekend we headed over to Beijing to visit our friends Mike and Amy. They have both lived there for about 2 years so they were great tour guides. Note: speaking Mandarin is almost an absolute in Beijing. Even with our well seasoned Mandarin speaking friends, taxis were very challenging. If you are going as a tourist, a driver and/or guide is highly recommended.

The city is divided into Ring Roads 1-6, with 1 being the center and 6 being the furthest from the city and the most recently developed. We stayed in the 2nd Ring Road which is where most of the expats live. Since Beijing is one of the most populous cities in the world (19 Million vs only 8 million in NYC and 7 million in HK), I really thought it was going to be like Hong Kong with buildings on top of eachother and people everywhere. It ends up feeling much more suburban. Very sprawled out with lots of trees and landscaping. It reminded me a little bit of LA. Another surprise that I wasn't expecting, cool temperatures at night. Loved it!

Arrived late into Beijing on Friday night

Since the flight to Beijing is only 3.5 hours away from Hong Kong, we only did one real touristy thing this trip and that of course was the Great Wall. The Wall was built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against various nomadic groups. Several walls have been built since the 5th century BC that are referred to collectively as the Great Wall, which has been rebuilt and maintained. However, the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty. There are many sections of the wall that you can hike. We chose to start at the Mutianyu section.

Up bright and early to catch the bus to the wall. This in itself was an adventure.

No tourist attraction is complete without loads of souvenir shops

Matt wanted to be on a wall before the wall...

Camel, why not?

You can take a cable car up, but we wanted the road less traveled. Let's just say there were a lot more people coming down than going up. Feel the burn.

Who says money doesn't grow on trees?

We finally made it to the wall

Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall. There are 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-metre-long stretch in Mutianyu.

Do we look like American Tourist, or what? Just need a fanny pack to complete the look.

Matt's Godly pose

Our tour guides for the weekend- Mike & Amy

Mike taking some pictures for other tourist

My attempt to be artistic

As it got steeper, the crowds thinned

This is where Mike's journey ended

Some parts of the tower eroding

Taking a quick break

We wised up for the trip down and took the cable cars. My legs felt like spaghetti so I happily obliged.

Another option is to take a toboggan down. Unfortunately the lines were super long.

Bunnies were at the bottom of the lift

Back to Beijing

A pit stop at 7-11. You never know what you'll find. Red Bull is located with medicine. Nice touch.

Some Asian goodies

I think these are chicken feet

No idea what these are

Tried out Pineapple beer

Walking back through narrow alleys called hutongs. They are formed by lines of siheyuans (traditional courtyard residences). Whole neighborhoods were developed by joining multiple siheyuans together. Really wanted to see what the inside of the houses looked like, but no luck, this trip anyway.

Maybe we can add a few more wires

Off to the local watering hole

Various flavored spirits

Largest beer selection I have seen in Asia

Friend's B-day Dinner at Tairyo

Watermelon for the road

B-day boy shot guns a beer on the way to the next bar (no open container rules in Hong Kong or Beijing)

Next stop- Bar Bu

The streets outside the bars were lined with mini grills for cooking up all sorts of meats. There were even beetles being cooked up. Late night munchies anyone? The ladies grilling up the food didn't like me taking pictures so sorry this isn't more detailed.

We got breakfast to go the next morning. We had more important things on the agenda like shopping. We ordered Jiān Bĭngs. The are kind of like crepes. Batter, eggs, green onions, some mild spicy sauce and this fried crispy thing that they folded the "crepe" around. I could have used a little more spice, but it was only like $0.50, so I can't really complain.

Throw it in a bag and off you go

No pictures of the shopping of at the Yashow Market (located in Sanlitu), because it looks like every other market I have been in. However, if you are in the area, stop by for inexpensive gifts. A lot closer than the other markets. With all that shopping, Matt worked up an appetite for the Montana burger for lunch.

Some findings on our walk back

Marni store opening. Loved the wrap they used to hide the construction.

Local fishermen enjoying their Sunday

Smaller than a Smart Car

Off to the airport. Beijing's Airport is currently the 2nd busiest airport in the world in terms of passengers. The Atlanta airport still holds the #1 spot. Needless to say, I am used to seeing busy Sundays at the airport, but where was everyone? It was kind of creepy.

To conclude, I saw a lot of things in Beijing that really didn't have any logic behind them. But this one takes the cake. Installing a fan into a shower that comes complete with an electrical plug. To which Mike replies, "Yeah a lot of people in China die all the time for no reason for things like that". Could this be population control?

Mike & Amy- Thanks for a great weekend! See you in November for the Food & Wine festival!


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