A little overdue...
Beijing was always going to struggle backing up from Tibet, and perhaps a few years ago prior to the 2008 Olympics, it may have held its own. But to us, Beijing seemed like a city that had been sanitised. Everything appeared spick and span - clean streets, manicured flowerbeds, and plenty of trees to combat the smog. Hutong (traditional alleyways) had been demolished to make way for shopping malls, and all tourist attractions in sight had been given the typical Chinese face lift.That was sad, because after visiting Shanghai in 2008, we loved the jumble of modern day China with old China.
Also, because Tibet had been difficult to organise, we also found ourselves with 10 days in Beijing before we flew out - the longest amount of time we had had in a single place, and we wondered how we would spend it.
It turned out that it wasn't as bad as we thought. There is a lot to do in Beijing, with the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, all iconic Chinese tourist attractions. We ticked off a couple of those (The Great Wall and Forbidden City) but spent the majority of our time relaxing, drinking coffee, and shopping - all the benefits of a more western Chinese city.
The Forbidden City was a typical Chinese tourist attraction that had been done up to perfection, and was crowded with Chinese tourists wearing their little red tour hats. It was the place where the Emperors lived and planned their conquests, and was only opened up to the public a few decades ago. It's absolutely HUGE with some amazing architecture, but we were keen to get away from the crowds (in China, I know!...) so we headed over to Huahai Lake for a bit of a stroll which was great.
Still over the crowds, we took a tour to a 'secret' part of the Great Wall that hadn't been restored. This thing was in a pretty bad way, which you would expect after so many years. It was great to see it with no other tourists, but it was hard to imagine what it might have been like, and our Chinese guide spoke no english which didn't lend to a steady flow of info. She was also 75 years old, which was cute at first, but when she had to stop to catch her breath every 10 minutes it became kind of frustrating, mainly because it was so damn cold.
We flew out on the 29th and had a good flight to London. It was strange arriving and seeing so many white people, being able to hear their conversations and ask them directions. There were two storey houses with front and back yards, parks (with people sitting on the grass!) and nobody selling food on the side of the road. It will take some time to adjust I'm sure!