[travelog] Beijing, China (2015)

After last year to Singapore (click here), this was our 2nd overseas trip with Toddlers and Elders. Plans has been made a year before.

We’ve been to Beijing for family trip in 2001. But based on that trip, we learned two things. First lesson, at that time, we visited when Beijing at its top temperature. Very very hot. Combined with long walking (which, unfortunately, can’t be avoided), it’s killing. Therefore, we decided to go at the end of winter season. Perfect timing actually. We went at the last week of March. April 1 is already considered high season for tourist.

Second lesson, take it slowly. In 2001, we joined a tour. The schedule was very compact. We learned that many places of interest are situated in very large compound, and with elders and kids, we can not expect to rush. Therefore in this trip, we plan two to three destinations per day.

The weather apparently was still cold for us. When we arrive, it is about 1-5 C degrees, but the weather became warmer when our time to fly back home. It was a good experience for the kids, so they know what is cold means without air conditioning machine. Also with full layers of clothes, jacket and gloves, #gemini seems so fascinating and exciting. What a spirit!

Transport and Accommodation

Airline

We know Air Asia is the cheapest. The incident of QZ8501 made us looking for alternatives, but the nearest option was almost double, so we still bought the Air Asia, Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur – Beijing. For the elders’ convenience, we booked hot seats for them.

Inland

For inland, at first, we planned to travel in the city with subway. Beijing subway is known as fast, cheap and reliable. But then considering one of the elders having trouble with his knees lately, the we decided to rent a car with a driver.

The car we rented was a Buick GL8 (Firstland), a 7 seat cars. The driver (his name is Philip, can be contacted at 13775847555@139.com) was very helpful with the arrangements and schedule. We exchanged email a lot to fix the schedule. The payment can be made after we meet in China, at the last day! Find him at http://www.greatwalltouratmutianyu.com/

We still used the subway for one day, just for the experience. How to buy and how to travel via Beijing subway was very convenient. Confidently said that the experience was par with Singapore’s experience. The only complain was that some stations don’t have lift or elevator. We have to use the stairs or escalator to go up or down.

Accommodation

For accommodation, we decide to stay at the apartments rather than at the hotel. With the apartments, we can have enormous space. After so much consideration, we choose to stay at Beijing Sommerset Zhong Guan Cun (link here), under Ascott’s management.

The location is quite far from point zero (Tiananmen – Forbidden City). Either using car or subway, almost 45 minutes required to reach city center. However, this apartment is nicely located near many universities, and near shopping malls and supermarket Carrefour, so we can supplied ourselves with fruit, milk, yoghurt, bread and cookies. It’s also near two subway stations, so on our last day in Beijing we can have a great experience with the subway. And, next to the Apartment; there is a small restaurant with a fantastic food, and a manager who can speak English. The chicken soup is really great!

The apartment itself was beyond our expectation. Spacious and clean. Equipped with washing machine, microwave, cookware and dishware. It has indoor and warm swimming pool so #gemini can swim though it is 5 degrees celcius outside. It also provide facilities : kid playground, table tennis, gym with coffee maker and pool table. Totally a good choice!

Kids loved the apartment!

Kids loved the apartment!

 

Day 1: Rest & Shopping

The flight from Jakarta to Beijing was brutally long for #gemini. Not to mention, we arrived at 2am and the weather was really cold for them. Luckily the time difference is only +1.

We had planned to take it easy on first day. We decided to just stay and to enjoy the hotel for resting, and walking near the apartment. We shopped at Carrefour, which located only 15 mins walking.

We knew it’s different world, when we saw the pastries and meat selection. They sell live turtle at CARREFOUR!

At this first day, we had a very pleasant dinner at Bai Jia Da Yuan (Bai family mansion), a restaurant with Qing Dynasty setting. We decided to review this amazing restaurant separately (click here).

Day 2: Great Wall Mutianyu

Great Wall has several points for tourist. This is the best choice for family, and at this article was written, it’s top in TripAdvisor list of ‘Things to Do in Beijing’.

What we remembered from our first trip to Great Wall (at Badailing) was the exhausting walk, and very crowded place. But on this occasion, it’s very convenient.

The place is located 70 km from Beijing, around 1 to 1.5 hours drive. We bought the ticket for cable car to climb up to the wall. Inside you will find many restaurants and stores before you reach the bus that will take you to cable car station.

Oh, you can use the cable car to climb, and tobogan (bobslide like) to go down. However, we chose to use cable car (of course!) to go down.

#Gemini were well prepared for Great Wall from Mulan movie. They’re very excited to be in a place where Shan Yu first appeared in the movie. The walk was quite easy, and there is path for wheel chair or people with difficulty to take steep stairs.

The view was stunning. The crowd was minimal (remember, we visited during low season). The weather was also very nice. Overall it’s a pleasant journey. Even our eldest family member can walk with us to the 2nd post.

Gemini enjoyed both the drive and the Great Wall at Mutianyu!

Gemini enjoyed both the drive and the Great Wall at Mutianyu!

At first, we planned to have lunch at Social House, a restaurant visited by Obama family during their visit. However, when we looked at the menu, it’s mostly Western. No way. So we changed to the next restaurant.

And from this lunch we learned : (a) the default portion was huge for us, (b) elders and kids capacity to eat and food choice variety are low. Therefore, we wrote off all the restaurant planned, including the famous Peking Duck.

After that, we visit the Bird Nest stadium. The elders were not so keen, so we just took photo and then went for dinner at the mall near our hotel.

Day 3 : Forbidden City and Wangfujing Dajie

Forbidden City

Actually we planned the Tiananmen also. However, we miss the fact that Tiananmen is very crowded because it’s very popular to local tourist. We planned to visit Forbidden City first, and our driver might be having difficulty to explain to us, it’s better to do Tiananmen first. So, we spend most of the day at Forbidden City without enough time to visit Tiananmen.

Forbidden City was also a place that can be explained to #Gemini using Mulan movie (the ending). Again, we had ‘amnesia’ on our first trip here. Even without the guide and no time for reading all the description in each section, the place really showed how great the China kingdom was.

Dog driving a motocyle! Forbidden City! Which one is better, Gemini?

Dog riding a bike outside Forbidden City & inside …

 Wangfujing Dajie

After Forbidden City, we went to Wangfujing Dajie. The shopping street. The Apple Store is eye catching. Our son, Deven insisted to walk on the glass stairs there, back and forth.

We end up bought only three things : sneakers (to replace current ones that’s damaged during walking in Forbidden City), sweets-peanuts, and Daoxiangcun pastries. The last one is recommended. They have long history (the first shop opened 1895!), and the taste… amazing!

Day 3 – Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Toy Shopping

Summer Palace

Again, we really feel this was the first time we visited Summer Palace. No memory from previous trip. It’s beautiful. Well, if you are royal family, and at that time, there’s no TV and gadgets, what else can you do? Just build amazing playground, with rocks formation, jade boat, stairs, lake, islands, and place for watching stars.

Temple of Heaven

When our drive gave us 2 hours, we thought it’s too long. We only want to look at the temple (one building). Apparently, the distance from the main gate is quite long. And important tips, take the toilet break before entering the main building. There’s no toilet inside that parameter.

Maybe the ‘echo wall’ will be interesting for children, but when we knew that the wall located quite far from the main temple, we decided to skip it.

Toys Market

At first, we thought it will be a mall full of stores selling toys. Apparently, it’s a one floor building, but they have a wide range of toys collection, just like we found in Wangfujing, with lower price, of course.

The building is located near Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market), a famous shopping mall for electronics (mostly fakes, I think).

Like usual, you need to bargain. However, the process is not as painful as in the street market.

All the way to Beijing, only to be Captain America and Princess Anna

All the way to Beijing, only to be Captain America and Princess Anna

Gemini were very nice. They only pick one toy each, and as usual, Deven had made up his mind on Captain America shield and wanted nothing else.

If you are a (non fanatic) Lego fan, you might want to try Chinese brand. Really similar, and many foreign tourists buy those ‘Lego’. The other collections is radio control toys. Helicopter, car, drone, and robot!

Day 4 – Beijing Zoo

Only one animal we really wanted to see… PANDA! So we were quite disappointed to go through all the trouble (panda cage is cleverly located at far side of the zoo), paid extra ticket, and saw only ONE panda was displayed.

The collection is quite good, especially on the lemur and fox. Very clean too. The aquarium might also a good place to visit, but we decided not to.

Then we have a good lamien lunch at Malan noodle, a good recommendation by our driver.

Malan noodle...

Malan noodle…

Day 5 – Subway to Yonghegong Temple and Shichahai

As planned, last day, we try to take subway. It’s easy. First, you need the Subway Map to know what line and what station your destination is. And then, find the vending machine at the station, select English language, select your line, and your station. The beauty is you can directly pay for multiple tickets.

The fare is low. A 15-km ride costs only RMB 4 per person (single trip). Oh, one more thing, ticket for child under 120cm is free.

In the subway, the ride is visually displayed. You don’t need to listen to know what station you are currently in.

Yonghegong or Lama temple is a fascinating temple. Large compound and well preserved building for photo capture.

After that, we went to Shichahai area. Although it’s rarely in the tour itinerary, it’s really a good place for strolling.  A beautiful historic scenic place, situated near several lakes (Beihai is the most famous). The old street like Yandai Byway has been in the ancient map two centuries ago. Now it’s occupied by modern shop.

200-yr old street

200-yr old street

Tourist can take rickshaw, boat, and just walking in the old street. Beautiful both during day and night.

Epilog

Overall this trip was superb hilarious. Visiting there as a family was a big grateful thing. The minor regret is we can’t access google.com and facebook.com – but who need those when you have a good companion on the trip.

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