For reasons only the time zone gods can explain, after just 5ish hours of sleep, we were both wide awake and ready to go.
As soon as the hotel’s breakfast place opened up we headed on down to check it out. Quite simply it was the most impressive breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen before. I neglected to get a shot of it though, yet still astounding. However, as we soon found it – it was quite a case of form over function. While the below food may look great…
… it generally tasted horrible. Not because of cultural taste indifference’s. Nope – instead it was due to cooking fails – such as uncooked chicken and smoked salmon that had gone bad – or my yogurt that expired had 5 days prior. The fruit and muffins were good though. We took a lot of muffins with us. Somewhat expectantly though – everything had some sort of fish base (stock/sauce) to it. Normal in Asian countries. However, what was not expected would be that the pancakes would as well. Yuck!
The below was one of the options on tap…but I decided against it.
After our breakfast we ensured everything was packed for the day and then headed out for a quick 2 hour morning walking journey. While there are TONS of incredible things to see in Beijing, we had to be somewhat selective given our time constraints. I would have loved to check out the Olympic Green with the Birds Nest and Water Cube – but time just didn’t allow for it – plus, the Water Cube is currently closed undergoing renovations. :-/
So, out we went. With the infamous Tiananmen Square literally just around the corner from our hotel, that was a logical first stop.
From there we headed down into the Forbidden City – which is an incredible complex of temples. Given our time constraints, we didn’t have much time to poke around at every little detail – it was more of a long walk-through (which stretched almost a mile long itself). Below is the ticket and the main entrance.
One little thing that is not apparent from my hand above is how fricken cold it was. We knew going into this trip that Beijing was sorta the odd man out with respect to climate. As the rest of our trip is 85-90*F, but this time of year Beijing is sorta 20-30*F. While we could have packed a bunch of cold weather gear we decided instead to simply tough it out with just a hoodie sweatshirt. Demonstrate some HTFU. How bad could 8 hours of cold be?
Well, our fingers were seriously frozen after the first 20 or so minutes of trying to take pictures. Very very cold. But otherwise, we weren’t too bad. We’d eventually find a street vendor to get some cheap $4 gloves from.
Here’s inside the Forbidden City:
After almost 90 minutes of walking around, we finally got to the other side. And as much as we’d love to return – it darn well better be in warm weather.
From there we quickly swung through the Beijing Nike Town Store next to the hotel – hoping to find some cool t-shirts. Regrettably, there were none.
Though, we did find this interesting sign outside – I’m not sure I want to eat at Spicy Grandma though:
After that we (via our hotel bellman) negotiated a taxi driver for the rest of the day to take us out to the Great Wall and then off to the airport. Soon we were on our way:
This would be a fine time to show off an amazing collection of road signs we saw along the way. Check out our little road signs album by clicking below:
There are a few different parts of the Great Wall located within easy reach of Beijing. We choose one a touch bit further out than the more common touristy location – in an attempt to get away from any mobs of tourists. Though, at this time of year, you really don’t have to worry about tourists.
Somehow in the whole ticket purchasing process we thought we were buying a heated gondola ticket up to the top of the mountain where we’d walk along the ridgeline on the Great Wall. But in reality, it turns out we were actually buying a ticket on this rickety old chairlift nearby the tram. Again this would be an ideal juncture to remind you that it’s somewhere between 20 and 30*F outside.
Off in the distance you can see our intended target – the gondola. Not so far off in the distance you can see the most awesome hat ever, which The Girl found in downtown Beijing for about $8US.
Soon the chair successfully arrived at the top of the lift without falling off. We were happy about that.
From there we started our trek around the Great Wall.
It became obvious the best part about not being here in summer was that nobody was around. While it’s probably prettier in summer – it’s nice being able to get shots like the below…without bunches of humans in them:
We wandered around and up and down for about 90 minutes, taking all sorts of pictures along the way.
Once we were done on the wall we had the little task of getting back down the mountain. Our ticket apparently included a ‘slide’ back down. Now mind you, we’d gained like 1,500ft or so in elevation – so this wasn’t just a little jaunt down a playground slide. Nope, this thing is serious. We saw it on the way up (that’s it there crossing a ravine):
Here’s the ‘safety’ information. Fear not, we both ignored the no-photo part:
After a quick lesson from the lady at the top (approximately 9 words), off we went:
Here’s some video The Girl shot on her Flip HD camera while heading down – it’s pretty awesome:
Apparently along the way she kept getting yelled at in Chinese by the guards telling her not to take photos. Though really – what can you say to a little woman in pink with a bear/pig hat with flopping furry ears flying by at 20-30mph? Yes…that’s what I thought: Nothing.
After our little sliding adventure, we zipped back to the airport:
Along the way we grabbed some ‘Marble Cake’ and ‘Muffins’. Yet again..fish sauce. Yuck.
Fish sauce in an otherwise sweet muffin tastes sorta like this:
Soon we boarded our plane and took off into the smog-filled setting sun. It’s really hard to describe how smoggy it is in Beijing. It would have been interesting comparing it to the conditions during the 2008 Olympics when they took many measures to reduce the smog.
It was cool that about 20-30 minutes after takeoff, I noticed a little snippet of the Great Wall in some mountains below us, you can just barely see it in the lower right hand corner of this sorta blurry (cause of smog) photo):
So with that…off into the setting sun we go – 5hrs and 50 minutes until our next country:
Ok…not done yet. They just gave us ice cream bar/cone thingy. Had to let ya know that. Ok. Done now.
Mmmm… Forbidden donut, I mean city.
What camera did the girl take? besides the flip. Lovin the pics, It’s great traveling in the off season.
Thats sweet! I love your website. I am totally following you. Please follow me as well!
ooooo….the girl is getting some exposure…kinda like Wilson on Home Improvement…love it! Love the pictures as always! 🙂
I’m uber jealous! Looks like a great time!
Dude, you totally HTFUd in the cold!! I think the cold might have been worth it to escape the crowds!!
wow, those are quite the great wall pictures, very impressive. and now i think i want to go visit it, just to take the slide down!
Really looks you picked the right time of year even with the cold!
Looking forward to day 3
Long time reader, first time poster!
Good to see you are obviously going to spend a little time in my home town, Singapore.
Whether it is a transit stop or a more lengthy stay, I await the day 3 update to find out!
Your pictures remind me of my visit to the great wall. Thanks for sharing.
Wangfujing street is great for shopping in Beijing if you go back. They have all kinds of cool chinese brands like Anka, Meike and Erke that offer high quality sports clothing alternatives to the big north american brands.
That alpine slide looked super fun. My kid and I did that this summer up in Breckenridge. Your trip to the Great Wall looked amazing. I am a little jealous. LOVE the bear/pig hat that The Girl is wearing. I want one.
Seriously, fish sauce in everything? SERIOUSLY???
The first time you’ve ever had a Drumstick is on a plane in China? I demand you buy a box the second you get home.