I went up to Beijing again this past weekend for some shopping, coffee, and sightseeing with five foreign friends from the university. We left Baoding on Friday afternoon, and arrived at the Jade Hostel after dinner time so we ate at the first restaurant we came to, Beijing Roast Duck (北京烤鸭)! After wandering WangFuJing a bit, we headed back to call it a night.
We decided to visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu (慕田峪长城) on Saturday morning. After leaving less early than we expected due to coffee and pastries, we made it to Dongzhimen Bus Station to start looking for a way there. We ended up getting a private van, which costed about as much as the bus/minibus combo, but without stopping every 5 minutes at a bus stop. The guy had a cute little 1 month old puppy with him. It whimpered quite a bit so the guy asked us if we wanted him to throw it out the window. No joke! We said no, the dog was OK.
The wall itself was amazing. We took a cable-car to the top, and a toboggan ride down. The photo above is posted right when you get onto the cart thing - TEST THE BRAKE - so I made sure to test the brake. We had to buy 1Yuan ($0.15) insurance with the entrance ticket, so you can imagine the insurance jokes! I've still got my insurance papers, just in case...
Back in Beijing we had dinner at Mr. Pizza, the first pizza I've had in two months, and the first time I've used a fork and knife in two months! I thought it was pretty good, but then I haven't really had much to compare it to recently. After a few hours of shopping, the others headed back home while I stuck around the big city for another day.
I decided to make Sunday a relaxing day so I headed first to JingShan Park (景山公园), right behind the Forbidden City (故宫). There's a big hill in the park made from the dirt pulled up from the moat around the Forbidden City, from where you can see over the roofs of the old palace. It's quite impressive, although there was too much fog/smog to see much. The photo to the left is where the last Ming emperor hung himself in 1644AD, after it was clear that Li Zicheng would capture Beijing, ending the Ming Dynasty.
Next I wandered over to BeiHai Park (北海公园), just across the street and north of the Forbidden City. It was another gorgeous park. The park used to be the site of Kublai Khan's (1300's) palace, but all that's left is a giant jade bowl that is thought to have been used to hold wine for large banquets. It's also home to the Nine Dragon Screen built in 1771, and a giant White Dagoba built in 1651 for a visit by the Dalai Lama. There are also a number of temples and gardens where the emperors used to sit and read. The history is just amazing -even some of the trees have their own history ("This tree was planted by Emperor XZY", "The famous poet ABC wrote a poem about this tree, which is where it's name comes from", etc).
After some snack food I wandered to Tian'anmen Square, before hitting up a Starbucks on WangFuJing DaJie. I decided to splurge and get the most expensive coffee on the menu -a grande caramel machiatto for 30Yuan. Sure it's about the same price as everywhere else, but in China 30Yuan can buy you 1.5months of cell phone time, 5 DVDs, 8 bowls of duck fried rice at the cafeteria, 12 bubble/milk teas, 34 packets of Nescafe instant coffee, or 100 bowls of rice porridge (zhou1). I enjoyed every drop of it.