August 21-24, 2012
- Forbidden City
- Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium)
- Great Wall of China (Mutianyu Section)
- Beijing Opera at Liyuan Theater
During our stay in Beijing, including the one-day arrival on August 4th, we stayed at the Park Plaza Wangfujiang hotel—a four-star establishment with free wi-fi and continental breakfast and located conveniently. This was a much better deal than the five-star Ramada Plaza hotel, which did not have free wi-fi. We also toured this city on our own time, having been here previously in 1998.
Traveling by subway is very convenient in Beijing. There are both English and Chinese signs that are tourist-friendly. Travel by taxi is also another option if one does not enjoy walking. The city is very modern with hardly any of the old Chinese-style buildings or peach trees in sight. While there were still bicycles, the majority of the transportation were motor vehicles.
We first visited the Forbidden City, where the emperors once resided. The admission fee was 240 RMB per person.
The place seemed more commercialized with now sections of the site devoted to a restaurant and gift shops. There less to see as well.
The Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium) is easily reached via subway. There are student discounts here. This former 2008 Olympic site has two sections: the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest.
We chose to go to the Bird’s Nest exploring its unique structure and concept behind the construction. Then, we perused the gift shop.
We also had Peking duck at the Dadong restaurant—an expensive restaurant with average food and a center stage where one can see the chefs roasting the duck on the grill from the tables encircling it.
The last couple of days we booked tickets to see the Great Wall and Beijing Opera with our contact, Cathy, from the travel agency. We visited the Great Wall from the Mutianyu side, which boasted of a better view and was less touristy. The view is impressive with the rolling green hills clashing against the austerity of the stone wall that twists with it like a snake.
Just like in 1998, I felt the awe of this place both from the stories my father told me of many people dying from exhaustion just to build this gigantic structure to protect ancient China.
That evening we also got to see Beijing Opera for the first time at Liyuan Theater. With an array of colorful costumes, makeup, and melodious singing, the well-known stories were played out on the stage.
Each told of stories both joyous and sad demonstrating the grace and talents of martial art and culture. I was disappointed that the Monkey King from Journey to the West was not on the act list. I would have very much like to see the rendition.
Our few days in Beijing passed by quickly as if in a dream. Of course, there is much more story to Beijing but I will leave that for others to explore.