Cruising Mates Forum: Cruise reviews, chat, answers and information. cruisingmates.co.uk • View topic - Three Days in Beijing

Three Days in Beijing

Three Days in Beijing

Postby judgegeoff » 27 Sep 2018 10:21

Three Days in Beijing

To celebrate our recent 50th wedding anniversary and a significant birthday for Chris we decided to go on a cruise from mainland China to Japan and back as these were both Countries that we had not visited before.

Cruise.co.uk offered us a cruise on Royal Caribbean's “Quantum of the Seas” with a three night pre-cruise stay in Beijing and a one night stay in Shanghai prior to embarking on the ship. Our flights were with Etihad Airways from London Heathrow to Beijing via Abu Dhabi, a flight with China Eastern Airline from Beijing to Shanghai and flights home from Shanghai with Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi. The deal included all transfers on land, a deluxe drinks package on the ship and an 8 hour tour of the principal sights of Beijing. This tour had originally been scheduled for the day after our arrival in Beijing but I managed to get it changed to the following day in case we had problems with the flights to Beijing.

This review is of our time in Beijing – a review of the ship and our time in Shanghai will be covered separately.

Here is a link to my Facebook photo album of these 3 days :-

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10216209305492752&type=1&l=ff1efbaecd

(If you click on the first picture it will enlarge and display text. You can then navigate forwards and backwards through the album by clicking on the > and < symbols that appear on the picture if you place your cursor on it).

With thanks to my wife Chris who took most of the better pictures. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors - I am still suffering from jet lag!


Monday 10th September

We were picked up at our home at 03:50 hrs (eek!) via our local taxi company and shared the trip to Heathrow airport Terminal 4 with another couple who were flying to Australia to stay with their son (the taxi owner had asked us to share as a favour as he had no other car/driver available, but we were happy to oblige as he was using his big Ford Galaxy and had reduced the charge accordingly).

The 7hr - 25m Etihad Airbus A380 flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi passed reasonably comfortably and the turnaround time at Abu Dhabi was about right for us. The 8hr – 20 minute Etihad Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight to Beijing also passed reasonably comfortably and we arrived on time at 08:50 hours the following morning. The meals that we had been served on these Etihad flights had been very good with a choice of two hot meals.

Tuesday 11th September

On exiting the plane at Beijing Airport we had to use an automatic machine to record our fingerprints. We had to insert our passports into the machine which then demanded that we put our four left fingers on a screen, followed by the four right fingers and then the two thumbs. It then took a photograph and printed a ticket which we had to give to an Immigration Officer. When I put my passport in the machine it immediately printed a ticket. I repeated the process a couple of times, but each time it just printed a ticket. There were instructions by the machine, in Chinese and English, but they did not cover getting a ticket without having fingerprints taken. We later found out that only people aged 14 to 70 are required to give fingerprints. It did rather amuse me that the Chinese Government viewed Chris more a risk to crime and National Security than me!!! There were long queues of passengers to present their tickets to the Immigration Officers but a lady, seeing that we both had walking sticks, directed us to the 'Diplomatic Channel' where we were soon processed and allowed to proceed to the Arrivals Hall.

In the Arrivals Hall there was a driver awaiting for us with our names on a board and he took us out to the car park where a very nice car was waiting to take us to our hotel. The Travel Agent's deal had originally allocated the 'Mercure Hotel' for our stay in Beijing but research had shown that there was a lot of smoking in the hotel, including the bedrooms, so we had paid extra to upgrade to the 'Doubletree by Hilton' Hotel (Chris has had corneal transplants and is still taking anti-rejection drops every day – she is extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke).

The drive from the Airport to the Hotel was quite an eye opener – the city streets were in very good condition (unlike our potholed roads) and very, very clean with no litter or grafitti. Each city bus stop had a person in uniform and a red flag – we assumed that the passengers told them which number bus they wanted and they waved down the bus (job creation?). There seemed to be a lot of police officers about, at least one on every major crossroad and sometimes several. The lane discipline of the Chinese drivers was appalling – leaving a gap of more than a metre from the car in front was seen as an invitation to cut in and, even in that relatively short journey, we witness the aftermath of at least 3 shunts.

On arrival at our hotel we thanked our transfer driver and booked in at reception. We were very happy with our room which had a comfortable king sized bed, a large flat screened TV, ample wardrobe space and tea/coffee making facilities. The en-suite shower room had a glass wall between it and the bedroom, but at least had an electrically operated blind to afford privacy (Chris and I have been married for a long time and have very few if any secrets, but we have no desire to see each other carrying out toilet procedures – we hate the modern idea of having glass walls to en-suites.

We were very tired after our journey (we had dozed on the planes but not for long) so, after showering and enjoying a couple of hour's sleep we put on fresh clothes, and just went for a walk around the environs of the hotel. We found a nice cafe that served speciality coffees and had a huge selection of various kinds of cakes and doughnuts. That evening we dined in the hotel's restaurant and had a typical western meal – I had creamy mushroom soup followed by one of the best fish and chips that I have ever had – there were 3 very lightly (tempura?) battered fillets served with very nicely cooked chips and lightly minted mushy peas. Chris was not very hungry and so just had the same soup and some delicious orange crepes. There was a fantastic 'all you can eat' seafood buffet with snow crab legs, crayfish, mussels, clams, different kinds of fish and shellfish and many other things that we couldn't identify. It was very popular with the Chinese guests and I would have loved to have tried it, but decided not to as we were only there for 3 nights and I didn't want to risk the (very slim) chance of eating something that did not agree with me and which might put our ongoing movements in peril. That night we got a phone call from the Company that we had booked a private tour with, over the Internet, to confirm that they would pick us up at 6:30 am in the morning.

Wednesday 12th September

The Hotel's dining room did not open until 6:30 am (the time of our tour pick-up) but they provided us with a picnic breakfast that came in two very swish looking bags. At about 6:25 am we waited in the lobby and a driver named 'Trevor' (most Chinese working in the tourist industry have a western name in addition to their given name). Trevor spoke very little English but we understood that we were the first hotel pick up and that we would pick up an English speaking guide at one of the other hotels. Trevor took us outside where a pristine mini bus with comfortable leather seats was waiting for us. We ate our picnic breakfast en-route to the next hotel, but felt a little uncomfortable doing so – we decided not to eat the hard boiled eggs as they can have a rather unfortunate smell!

At a point near Tiananmen Square we picked up our guide 'Lee' who spoke very good English and also two middle aged Filipino ladies, one of whom lived in Beijing and was being visited by her friend who lived in Manilla. At another hotel we picked up a young Canadian couple and our party was then complete – 6 guests, Lee and Trevor.

Our first visit was to Jing Shan Gardens, originally an Imperial garden for the use of the Emperor which was sited on a hill giving great views over the Forbidden City. It was built in the Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368 AD) using earth that was excavated while building the moat for the Imperial Palace. There are several ornate pagodas as you walk up the hill, each giving better and better views over the Forbidden City. We had 40 minutes free time here and, with our limited mobility, were able to visit each pagoda with the exception of the highest one (which would have given the best views). Quite a lot of citizens were practising Tai Chi exercises in the park and an elderly man was playing an ancient stringed instrument.

Our next stop was at Beijing Zoo where we were taken to see the pandas. There were only five of them (and unfortunately no babies) and the adults seemed to enjoy turning their backs on us, but it was a delight to see these beautiful creatures and we really enjoyed the visit to the zoo.

From the zoo we were driven to the 2008 Beijing Olympics site where we were shown the main stadium, knicknamed 'The Bird's Nest' because it really does mimic a bird's nest and then to see 'The Cube' the venue of the swimming and diving events. Again, we had 40 minutes free time here and enjoyed a blueberry (we think) ripple ice cream cone at a cafe.

Back in the minibus and we were driven to the old 'Hutong' area of the city where we enjoyed a bicycle propelled rickshaw ride around the old houses in the very narrow alleys and streets. I felt a bit sorry for our rickshaw man as he was the eldest of the riders but had the heaviest passengers! Old Beijing residents tend to like living at ground floor level and prefer the single storied old houses in the Hutong. However there is no sanitation in the old houses so, every hundred metres or so there are public toilets for use by the residents. Younger Beijing residents prefer their creature comforts and modern facilities and so are happy to live in the high rise apartments that are rising everywhere.

The rickshaws took us to a typical Hutong house where we were to be served a typical Chinese family meal. There were many different dishes, mostly chicken and vegetable based and they just kept bringing dish after dish until the large round table was covered in food. It was very tasty but I think that they are used to serving bigger parties for, as nice and tasty as the food was (and it was!) we left much of the food uneaten on the table, there was just too much of it.. Chris and I shared a large 600ml bottle of very nice Chinese beer with the meal although the rest of our party had soft drinks. Thanking our hosts for the lovely lunch we got back in our lovely cool minibus to continue the tour.

Our next stop was to the Lama Temple, Beijing's most beautiful temple complex. It was constructed during the 17th century and was converted into a Tibetan Lamasery in 1744. It has 5 main halls which are decorated with a stylistic blend of Han, Mongol and Tibetan motifs. We had 50 minutes here to explore the temple complex and were allowed to take exterior camera shots but it was forbidden to take photos of the monks or the 17 metre tall image of Maitreys, the future Buddha, carved from a single piece of sandalwood and beautifully gilded and painted.

Back on our minibus and we were driven to a silk factory to watch demonstrations of how silk is processed. I had not really been looking forward to this part of the tour but, in the event, I found it both interesting and instructive. Yes, at the end, they tried to sell us various products, but there was no hard sell pressure and they seemed to accept that we were not going to buy anything with good grace. Their duvets and pillows looked very interesting, but I would need to check measurements before buying and they didn't ship from their website.

The silk factory was our final stop on the tour and we were then delivered back to our respective hotels, ours being the final stop. It had been a really interesting and entertaining day out and we had really enjoyed it. Pre-booked over the internet it had cost me the huge sum of 34 US dollars (about £27 per person) inclusive of the guide, driver, minibus, all entry fees, the rickshaw ride and the Chinese family meal. Amazing value and great service and I would certainly recommend the tour company to anybody visiting Beijing – www.beijingblocaltour.com .

Our very good tour finally dropped us at our hotel at around 2:30pm and Chris decided to have a swim in the hotel's very nice swimming pool that is situated in a huge conservatory building attached to the main building. After showering just before she entered the pool she was shouted at in Chinese by the male lifeguard who was sat in a high chair on the pool's edge. The language problem was eventually solved when we realised that all other swimmers in the pool, both male and female were wearing bathing caps. Apparently these are a requirement in China and brought back great memories of a family holiday in the (then) Yugoslavia in the early 1980s when our kids were chased around the hotel's swimming pool by a fiercesome looking woman shouting “Baffenkappen ....Baffenkappen”!!! The lifeguard went and got a bathing cap for Chris and was then happy for her to enter the pool. The hotel had a rather pleasant 'Secret Garden' and I sat in a lounger in the garden whilst Chris was swimming.

That evening we again had a western style meal in the hotel's dining room. After dinner we received a phone call from a young Chinese lady named 'Nicky' who informed us that she was to be our tour guide the following morning and would pick us up at 6:40 am – so another picnic breakfast for two was ordered.

Thursday 13th September

Today's tour was the one offered as part of the package deal and, after collecting our swish picnic bags, were collected by Nicky and her driver and placed in a rather tatty bus with extremely tight seating. Again we ate our picnic breakfasts on the way to pick up at the next hotel and found that they had been prepared by a more generous cook as although the contents were the same as the previous day, there were two of almost everything. At the next stop we pick up a young Filipino lady, then we picked up a married English couple and their female friend (or relative) and finally another English family of 3, a middle aged couple and their late teenager son. Our party was complete and it had only taken 90 minutes!

The coach dropped us off for our first visit which was to Tiananmen Square. We had a fair walk before we got into the Square itself and I was surprised by the number of soldiers and security police that were there. Tiananmen Square ('The Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace') is a vast open concrete expanse at the heart of the city with Chairman Mao's Mausoleum at its focal point. The Mausoleum is bordered by 1950s Communist style buildings and ancient gates from Beijing's now levelled city walls. Even this early in the morning there were great crowds of people there, but I found it a rather forbidding place and we were pleased that our visit did not include a visit to view Chairman Mao's preserved body.

From the Square we then followed Nicky until we reached the Forbidden City which is absolutely huge with many separate buildings. The City was completed in 1420 and was the home to 24 emperors for nearly 500 years. The last emperor abdicated in 1912 and the City was opened to the public in 1949. It is an amazing site and is reputed to have 9,999 rooms. It was very crowded when we were there and some of the Chinese people there come from very remote areas. We found that we were stared at a lot, some people sneakily took a photo of us when pretending to take photographs of other things and a few people asked us if they could take a selfie with us. It seems that they are somewhat fascinated by our tallness, weight (at least in my case), our skin and hair colour and, in particular, our long noses! The buildings are beautiful, with glazed colourful roof tiles and amazing carvings. There are some stunning statues of dragons and other mythical creatures, many gilded and so shining brightly in the sun.

Leaving the Forbidden City we were picked up by our small coach for the drive to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. On the way we stopped off at the 'national Stone Place' where jade was being carved into various intricate shapes and there was a big showroom there. However, most of the carvings were very expensive and I do not believe any of our party bought anything there. Back in the tour bus the driver kept winding his window down, hawking loudly and then spitting out of the window. Another passenger and myself complained to the tour guide, told her that we found it very offensive and she spoke to the driver. But he continued with his disgusting performance and it became clear that his gender outranked the guide, regardless of their abilities. I understand that the Chinese culture is very different to ours and spitting may be more acceptable to them, but if they are conducting a tour group of people from another Country, such behaviour should be moderated in my opinion.

On arrival at the town we ate in a restaurant that is run by the local residents, catering for people visiting the Great Wall. It was a similar meal to that we had experienced in the Hutong, mostly chicken and vegetables dishes with Chinese tea.

I had researched the Great Wall at Mutianyu and found that there was a cable car that operated giving great views from above the Wall (according to their publicity) and it was suitable for people of limited mobility. However, our tour guide, Nicky, advised us that the cable car lower station was at the top of a steep hill over 400 metres away from the restaurant. She wasn't kidding about it being steep, in places the road surface had been scored with deep ruts in the concrete to stop people sliding. After buying tickets at the office near the restaurant we set off up the hill and, after a great effort (for us), we finally reached the lower cable car station and were pleased to see that it could be accessed via a lift. There was a short queue to wait for the cable car and we were then placed into a cable car, just the two of us in a car designed for 6. As we progressed to the top cable station I realised with great disappointment, that we were not going to get nearer to the wall than a few hundred metres. The publicity photos for the cable car must have been taken with a drone or something similar as they hinted that the cable car would actually pass over the wall. As a final disappointment we found that on exiting the cable car we were directed out through a turnstile which prevented us from going back in to access the lift, so had to negotiate several sets of steps to get down to the road. We did actually walk to a section of the restored wall which was very interesting, but our sore legs precluded us from walking along it. The return walk down to the bottom of the hill was, if anything, as bad as the walk up and our knees and the back of our legs were very sore by the time we reached the bottom.

On our way back to Beijing we were taken to a Chinese Medical Centre where we were taken to a room where a Chinese Doctor gave us a lecture on the limitations of western medicine which only treats the symptoms of the problem and not the cause, whilst Chinese Doctors treat the root causes of problems. He then clapped his hands and several nurses came in carrying wooden tubs (lined with polythene)t of hot water with what appeared to be herbal tea bags in them and he told us to take off our shoes and socks. The water was extremely hot, so hot that Chris was unable to put her feet in the water. The nurses then proceeded to massage the feet of the tour group whilst the Doctor showed us some cream that he claimed would cure almost anything and was available to us for the reduced price of just 300 yuan (around £32.20). Chris smelt it and told me that it smelt very like our 'Germoline'. The Chinese Doctor was clearly somewhat miffed that I refused to take off my shoes and socks but, had I done so, I would have scalded my feet as I have no feeling in my lower legs. When it became clear that nobody in our group was going to purchase anything from the Medical Centre we were quickly shown out of the Centre and rejoined our coach with the driver still hawking and spitting. As usual we were the last to be dropped off at our hotel, our tour had lasted 13.5 hours and we were absolutely shattered. We quickly showered and changed clothes on our return to our room and then ate again in the hotel's dining room. After dinner we packed our cases as we would be flying on to Shanghai in the morning.

Friday 14th September

We were supposed to be picked up to be driven to the Airport at 7:30 am and so were able to have a quick buffet breakfast and by 7:25 am were sat in the lobby with our cases awaiting the driver. By 7:40 am were were starting to get a little concerned and I asked the bellboy if he would ask a driver who was stood by his car outside if he was for us. They spoke and the driver shook his head but then the bellboy disappeared and then came back saying he had found him. Our driver had parked his car around a corner and was sat in his car with a big piece of paper on the windscreen with our name on it. It was a beautiful Audi limousine with deep leather seats and we had a very comfortable drive to the Airport despite a couple of close shaves with people trying to force there way into our lane.

We were dropped at the Airport and, after checking in, had a comfortable flight to Shanghai on a China Eastern Airlines flight.

Our experiences of Shanghai and the cruise to Japan will be covered on separate reviews.
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"Marella Dream" - Turkey, Greece and Israel 2019
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020
User avatar
judgegeoff
Powder Monkey
Powder Monkey
 
Posts: 4130
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 12:58
Location: New Romney. Kent
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Three Days in Beijing

Postby Gillzajoker » 27 Sep 2018 13:03

Thoroughly enjoyed all that, Geoff, as it brought back many happy memories of
my visits there. I did all you described, apart from the Medical Centre, which
from your description, doesn't sound as though I missed much. I think the only
place we visited that was not on your itinerary was the Sacred Way and the Ming
Tombs, which were very enjoyable. Look forward to next episode! :D
Image
User avatar
Gillzajoker
Admiral
Admiral
 
Posts: 15320
Joined: 03 Mar 2011 16:07
Location: Costa Almeria, Spain
National Flag:
Spain

Three Days in Beijing

Postby Mungo » 27 Sep 2018 14:40

Thanks Geoff. :thumbup: A very detailed write up. :thumbup: sounds wonderful apart from the spitting! :evil:
Aurora and Ventura October 2019
Britannia March 2020
Iona July 2020
Arcadia December 2020
User avatar
Mungo
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
 
Posts: 7009
Joined: 28 Feb 2011 17:41

Three Days in Beijing

Postby Dave » 27 Sep 2018 16:38

Thanks Geoff, I enjoyed reading your account of your time in Beijing and looking at your photos. :thumbup:
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
User avatar
Dave
Mutineer
Mutineer
 
Posts: 13107
Joined: 24 Feb 2011 15:25
Location: Whitstable
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Three Days in Beijing

Postby bobbyoscar » 27 Sep 2018 19:15

Wow Geoff! I really enjoyed reading your account. Thank you for sharing, :thumbup:
Cruises booked:
June 2020 Celebrity Silhouette
- Bergen - Geiranger - Flam - Stavanger
Sept 2020 Celebrity Silhouette - Madeira - Tenerife - Las Palmas - Lisbon- Porto- Vigo
bobbyoscar
Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
 
Posts: 4817
Joined: 01 Jun 2011 19:16
Location: Bedford
National Flag:
England

Three Days in Beijing

Postby judgegeoff » 29 Sep 2018 07:40

Thank you everybody for your kind remarks. I am afraid that the other reviews and albums (the ship, the cruise and Shanghai) may be a little delayed this time as I have started with a really bad cold (probably thanks to aircraft air-conditioning recycling) :( . I am being dosed with 'Lemsip' and echinacea and receiving much TLC from Chris, but my head is all befuddled at the moment and I am very tired. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible! :lol:
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"Marella Dream" - Turkey, Greece and Israel 2019
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020
User avatar
judgegeoff
Powder Monkey
Powder Monkey
 
Posts: 4130
Joined: 23 Mar 2013 12:58
Location: New Romney. Kent
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Re: Three Days in Beijing

Postby rdw123 » 29 Sep 2018 07:48

Hope you are feeling better soon Geoff. The joys or after effects of travelling. Thoroughly enjoyed your reviews, got myself sat down quietly with a cup of tea and read them. Get well soon. Ruth
rdw123
Commander
Commander
 
Posts: 366
Joined: 31 Jan 2013 18:04

Three Days in Beijing

Postby Gillzajoker » 29 Sep 2018 10:05

Get well soon, Geoff! :D
Image
User avatar
Gillzajoker
Admiral
Admiral
 
Posts: 15320
Joined: 03 Mar 2011 16:07
Location: Costa Almeria, Spain
National Flag:
Spain

Three Days in Beijing

Postby grannyM » 30 Sep 2018 09:38

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the review of your time in Beijing, Geoff. :)

At the moment I am half way through the critically acclaimed book Wild Swans. I did try to read it many years ago when I was much younger but could not 'get into it'. Now I am finding the legacy of life before and after Mao quite fascinating. Although not particularly about Beijing it was all the more interesting to me to read your thoughts about this city in modern China.

Through the story of three generations of women in her own family – the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother and the daughter herself – Jung Chang reveals the epic history of China's twentieth century.


Fabulous review and photographs. Thank you Geoff and Chris. :clap: :thumbup:

ps Hope your cold is getting better. Looking forward to the next episodes. :D
Marie
Image
User avatar
grannyM
Admiral
Admiral
 
Posts: 17606
Joined: 28 Feb 2011 11:22
Location: Ayrshire
National Flag:
Scotland

Re: Three Days in Beijing

Postby Wanderingsascent » 04 Oct 2018 18:11

Looking forward to Japan and Shanghai. How did you obtain your visa?
Wanderingsascent
Ensign
Ensign
 
Posts: 34
Joined: 11 Aug 2018 19:09
National Flag:
United Kingdom

Next

  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to Out & about - Photo stories



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests

cron