Walking Beijing in a DaySeptember 20, 2018 in China ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C
Im getting old. Still, I covered an huge amount of ground today, probably walking 25-30km, seeing the "top 5" attractions in Beijing (according to lonely planet), and much more in between.
In truth, I'd only planned to see a couple things, but once I got going, I didn't want to stop! I had a good sleep and set off from the hotel around 9am. Thankfully I opted to wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water, a physical map and bring my passport along. Turns out many of the attractions of the day required a passport for use as a entry ticket.
It was a warm smoggy day, with the sun peeking out now and then, around 26c. The primary and main destination of the day was the Forbidden City, via Tiananmen Square. Getting there from the hotel took around an hour by foot, map in hand. The most baffling part of that journey was seeing an elderly local in a Richmond Tigers cap.
The queues and crowds for the palace were substantial, but nowhere near as dreadful as I hoped. I got a quiet start by coming in through a side entrance and seeing the Temple of Imperial Ancestors.
The Forbidden City itself was a lot bigger than expected. It was grand and ornate, but I found over time, a bit repetitive. There were dozens of temples, buildings and structures, but most looked the same. A Russian couple actually randomly reiterated this point to me which ironically speaks volumes given that I found much Russian architecture to be about the most boring and repetitive anywhere! I did pick up an audio tour for 40yuan (fyi 5yuan = 1aud approx) which did make the palace more interesting to hear of the history and many stories the venue has to tell. I also paid extra to explore the treasury but was a bit underwhelmed.
I exited the north gate of the Palace and continued north into Jingshan Park (5yuan). This was a pretty botanical garden with a towering hill in the centre. A climb to the top offered impressive panoramic views of Beijing. Well, views made slightly less impressive by the smog, clouding the view. From the top, to the north, in the distance, I could see the Drum Tower which was well reviewed. It was only 12.30ish so how long could it really take to get there?
Not too long. Maybe an hour or so. There were two popular attractions here, side by side, the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. I picked up a double ticket and headed first to the Drum Tower. These both looked very different but one thing they had in common for tired legs was a steep narrow, steep and high step passage to the top viewing platform. Fortune favoured me as 10 minutes after arrival at the Drum Tower a drum performance was scheduled which was very impressive.
As much as I enjoyed the drum performance, I really likee the Bell Tower building, tall, narrow and imposing. The bell inside (after another climb) was huge, but there wasnt much else to see.
With the time only around 3pm, I figured I could still wind through hutongs and side streets to reach the Lama Temple a few kilometres to the east. Eventually I got there, via random alleys and hutongs (old style suburbs).
The Llama temple is known to be one of the most magnificent Buddhist monasteries outside of Tibet. It was a busy complex with many actively praying and lighting insense here. The final temple housed a triple story giant Buddha which was very impressive.
With wobbly legs, I made my way to the nearest train station to catch the metro about eight stops to the nearest station to my hotel at Chongwenmen.
I spent the evening up on the hotels rooftop bar enjoying a cocktail before wandering to a nearby mall to dine at a restaurant. Tomorrow, should be a bit more relaxed. I plan to head out to the Summer Palace and visit the Temple of Heaven. Saturday I'm off to the Great Wall and Sunday I depart Beijing by train off to Taiyuan.Read more