2016 Inspection Visit To Beijing - Diary
11th April 2016 - An early flight from Hong Kong direct to Beijing and after a relatively short flight (approximately 3 hours), we were met by our guide (Connie) in the arrivals hall at Beijing Airport. We then headed off to our Hotel, on the way stopping for a visit at Beijing's Olympic Park and the impressive Birds Nest Olympic Stadium; after about 1 hour we were then driven to our Hotel where we had the rest of the day and evening at leisure. Upon arrival in our room we basically dropped off our luggage and headed out to view the sites close by. Located around the corner from the hotel is an area where local people live, very different from homes in the UK but there seemed to be a close knit community that sadly the UK seems to have lost over the years. A small shopping area is also part of this community with a selection of shops and an indoor market selling all sorts of things. Back to the hotel for our evening meal and an early night, ready for our first full day looking around Beijing.
12th April 2016 - After breakfast, we were met in the hotel reception by Connie who is totally fluent in English and our driver (Mr Wae) - to take us on our first real sightseeing trip around Beijing. The first thing to strike me was the air quality, certainly not the polluted environment that is portrade, but a clear, bright sunny day, maybe we were lucky, I don't know but we certainly didn't witness any air pollution whatsoever for the whole time we were in Beijing. The other thing that stood out was the fact that even though Beijing is home to more than 20 million people, the streets had very little sign of litter, in fact it has to be one of the cleanest cities that I have visited. But I will add, Beijing is huge and the roads are very busy.
Our first stop was a visit to the Summer Palace, a vast place with a massive man-made lake as it's centrepiece which is surrounded with impressive old buildings that were once a holiday home for the Ming Dynasty. How the other half live! The living quarters are as they were back in the day, and you will also find the longest covered walkway in the world, with colourful paintings from different parts of China running the full length of the structure; probably created to be the 'photo album' of the Emperors trips. We now end up at the Lake and a ride on a Dragon Boat, taking us across the lake where we were dropped off close to the Marco Polo Bridge, a copy of the bridge he had built when he called China his home.
After a relaxing lunch at a typical Chinese Restaurant, we headed off to the Forbidden City, a place that I have always wanted to visit and I can confirm that I was not disappointed, infact it was more impressive than I imagined. Security here is very tight and if you smoke, then be advised that they will take your lighters off you and put them in a bin (remember this). The Forbidden City was one of China's most important and protected cities, surrounded by a large moat, with the city itself constructed on top of thousands of huge stone slabs, placed on top of each other deep under the city, to stop intruders from gaining entrance from underground. Personally I couldn't get enough of this place, absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately it was time to go and we headed out the exit, passing old ladies selling, you guessed it, second hand lighters. Enterprise at it's very best.
We were then driven to Tian'anmen Square the largest square in the world and the centre of Chinese Politics. After a short time viewing the square we transferred to a theatre to take in an acrobatic show before heading off to our hotel and our evening meal. A very enjoyable day, I must say.
13th April 2016 - Another full day of exciting site seeing. First a visit to The Temple of Heaven - leading to the entrance is a large park where locals gather, performing group dances and others just chilling out many as family groups. On to the Temple itself - constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. Many impressive buildings can be viewed including a secular structure with a large round slab of stone at it's centre point, put in place to be the most direct entry to heaven. They say, that if you stand on the centre spot and make a wish it will come true. (I will let you know if that's true). After viewing a collection of buildings and being told of the significance of each and what they were used for we then approached the Temple itself, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world; personally, I have to say that I wouldn't argue with that title.
After our Peking Duck Lunch (very nice indeed), we were driven to Hutong and a tour on a Rickshaw. This place is really nice with lots of bars and restaurants built around a stunning lake. We also spent time at a local families home and given a taste of how real Chinese families live. We were then driven to Wanfujing Street Shopping Area, with many world-branded shops and also some (how shall I explain), well, unusual street food outlets probably sums it up best. After about an hour looking around we were then driven back to our hotel to relax. I must add, the trip so far has not been at all tiring, but that's probably because of the excitement.
14th April 2016 - I was really looking forward to this day as we were going to the Great Wall; but our first stop was a trip to see The Ming Tombs which are stunning and well worth a visit, then onto Changling and a walk along the peaceful, Sacred Way. Off for a buffet style lunch. Then it was time, off we go for our first live view of the Great Wall of China, - absolutely spectacular and lived up to all our expectations and we spent about 2 hours walking as far as our legs would take us, all the time I had a smile on my face. My wife and I have been fortunate to see a number of the worlds most famous sites and for me, the Great Wall is No 1.
We now head back to our hotel for a couple of hours to relax before we were taken to the Red Theatre to see the Legends of Kung Fu Show. It's a story of a young boy taken by his mother to a Buddhist Monastery to become a Monk. The action in the show was spectacular and well worth seeing. Back to our hotel for a well earned rest stopping off at Starbucks for a coffee and a bite to eat.
15th April 2016 - After breakfast Connie and Mr Wae met us in reception to take us to Beijing Airport and our flight back to the UK.
This inspection trip was everything that I thought it would be and more, and will live in my memory for a long time to come. I would advise anyone to add a Beijing Tour to their wish list. Yes, you could probably see all the sites on your own, but Beijing is a vast city, so I would advise anyone doing this trip to utilise the services of our preferred Ground Agent and their Guide as it will save you time and definitely enhances your tour experience, you will also have the benefit of 24/7 emergency contact on the ground in real time.
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My Inspection Trip Pictures
Wendy & Connie at the Birds Nest Stadium
A Summer Palace Building
Summer Palace Covered Walkway
Temple Of Heaven
Great Wall of China