Our last day in Beijing began with breakfast in our hotel. A great mix of Eastern/Western food. There may have been a plate of noodles in there somewhere too! Spinach, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Pancake a Churro… and Noodles. Served with chopstix. ha!
Shortly after, we met up with our local guide for one last day. This is Hubert, he was wonderful. We loved his jokes, history and stories. And his Pikachu.
First stop was the Drum & Bell towers in near the Hutongs. Inside one of the tower was a little tea house where we received a tea demonstration. We got to sample a few teas and learn about why the Chinese love their tea so much. (Side note: I had at least two cups of tea every day while we were there, it was SO GOOD. And their coffee is notoriously bad. But the tea was fantastic!)
From there, we walked over to the Hutongs and hopped in a rickshaw for a ride around the village. The Hutongs are little neighborhoods or communities in northern china. They are made up of alleys and courtyards where middle-class families live together. They’re actually quite large considering it’s city living. The only caveat is that there are no/little septic systems in this area, so they all share communal neighborhood toilets! Eek!
Here’s what an entrance to one of the houses looks like. The doors lead to the courtyards and the rooms are along the edge.
Our Rickshaw ride was great, it was a nice tour of the area and an inside look into the culture of the people here.
PS, check out these electrical/telephone(?) wires! The whole city of Beijing was wired like that. Yikes! How do they know what’s what?
Once we had a nice tour, we stopped for lunch at our host’s house. Her husband actually prepared most of our meal, they’ve now made a living out of hosting tourists at their place.
Totally unrelated to our meal (promise!) our hosts raise pigeons — as a hobby, not as dinner!–
Because our group was so big (28 total!) we were split into two different rooms. We ate in their bedroom!
It was such an adventure, this was one of my favorite meals of the whole trip. Everything was SO good!
It was so fun to step into someone else’s life for a few hours and see how they live. What a nice afternoon.
Then we hopped back into our Rickshaws and made our way back to our bus!
These drivers work hard! (bahaha)
But seriously, we did enjoy our ride, it was really nice.
—And now, Part 2 of this (already long) post! The Summer Palace!
The Summer Palace sits on 720 acres and includes a large lake, walking trails, temples and more! Unesco has declared it a World Heritage Site. It dates back to the 1700s.
We took our time admiring the beautiful scenery and enjoying the stroll around the lake to the other side. It’s a very photogenic area… which is probably why the Emperors and Empress’ loved it here.
Along the way, we walked through The Long Corridor. It’s almost a half mile long and is said to be the longest corridor of paintings in the world.
Soon, we found ourselves at the base of the big temple atop Longevity Hill.
There’s only one way to go from here (up, up, up!) Technically you can bypass the walk up to the temple, but why would you, the views were incredible as we climbed!
You can see Beijing off in the distance. And no, it wasn’t raining… that’s the air pollution!
On the other side is a ‘boat’ made out of granite. It was never intended to float, the Empress just wanted it built for fun. Apparently she used government money intended for Navy improvements.
PS. The Chinese don’t believe in Dessert. We couldn’t find dessert (or any sugar really) anywhere! So I jumped at the chance for a bite of imported choclately goodness from the souvenir shop. Magnum bars. Mmmm.
As we walked on, we came across a little ‘make believe’ village. I can’t exactly remember the significance, but it was so cute. The Empress used to hire people to ‘pretend’ to work in the village and she would stroll around playing make believe.
You can tell by the length of this post, this was a looooong day. We were hungry and tired by this point! Off to dinner! We ate at a hotel right near the train station.
I don’t remember this meal being anything spectacular, but we did LOVE the lotus root (the flower looking vegetable below!) They taste like water chestnuts. I loved them!
And then we were off to the train station to board our overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an.
Hmmm… which track?
The trains were really well organized and felt like the nice European ones we had ridden in the past. I was impressed. I think they updated the trains and routes before the Beijing Olympics to get tourists to other destinations faster. Well done, China.
We had a room with four bunks. The tour guide organized everyone’s rooms in order from Super Partier –> Us old people. So we were in the last room that we ended up sharing with two French, chain-smoking, high school kids on a field trip or something. (The smoke in China…ugh Why?!?! Even on trains?!)
With the help of some Advil PM, the 12 hour ride actually went pretty smooth and we were ready for our adventures in Xi’an once the train pulled into the station the next day!
(Traveler Tip: Bring your own travel sheets for a cozier stay in places like trains. Irving and I both have our own sets. I love mine!)
It was organized chaos retrieving our bags the next day, but I have to say, it was a pretty efficient system. Now off to Xi’an to meet the Terra Cotta Warriors!