We flew Harbin-Beijing on the 23rd to settle in Beijing for a few days, spend Staci’s 26th birthday there and also Chinese New Year. After the eventful journey from Harbin to the Airport, it was a welcome relief to arrive in Beijing where immediately everything just seemed to work more smoothly. The city was quiet as half of the population go home for the Spring Festival, this meant that lots of shops and restaurants were closed, but there was not much traffic, pollution wasn’t as bad, and public transport was quiet. All in all, a great experience in Beijing, and one of our favourite places in China.
The hostel was OK, central location in the Hutongs (small alleyways) and sold cheap beer, we had some great food, including the local unbelievably spicy lobsters and some really good dumplings. We also had the famous Beijing Duck, served a little bit different to how we know it back home, but really tasty. You order the Duck (whole or half) and condiments and pancakes, then the chef comes to your table with the roasted duck and carves it for you, the meat is delicious and the rest of the dishes we had were also amazing.
We found a small gin-distillery bar in the Hutongs that was nice, expensive by Asia’s standard, but normal for european prices. The bar was nice, the gin and tonics were tasty and strong, and the complimentary peanuts always make it an excellent find in Stac’s opinion. The bar was like a small slice of Europe (Barcelona) in China, which was a welcome relief from the normal of the last few weeks.
As a tourist in Beijing, it’s the same sights for everybody, the Forbidden City (which is the old Imperial Palace), Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven. We saw them all, but the one that really stands out is the Great Wall, but as this was on Stac’s birthday and we have roughly 4 million pictures, I’ll write about that separately.
The last couple of days was Chinese New Years Eve and Day. We had booked in at a restaurant in Beijing, called Black Sesame Kitchen, we’d read some great things about it online, specifically that it was like a private dining experience in the Chef’s kitchen so we thought it would be a great thing to do on the Eve of New Year.
It was great, ten courses of amazing food, met some really nice people, in particular some great friends called Simon and Miki, and the people who worked there, especially the host Coco were amazing. After this, at midnight we went to see the fireworks on the lake, it’s not an organised event in Beijing the fireworks, it’s just that every man and his dog has as many as they can afford and set them off continually for days on end, but the midnight celebration was great fun and the whole city was lit up with fireworks and firecrackers.
The next day we met up again with Simon and Miki and had Beijing Duck again at the same place because it was so good, Miki lives in Tokyo, and we really want to go back there soon, so maybe more to come on that…
Beijing was great, we had the best time in China yet there, ate amazing food, met some really nice people and saw the Great Wall at what must be the best time ever to see it. Also, because of the Spring Festival, half of the population has gone home to families, so there is less traffic, less pollution and the attractions are quieter, I think that contributed a lot to why we enjoyed it so much. Now it is on to some warmer weather down south so we can get rid of the thermals…