We had only been to China when we went as a family with hubby’s parents, brothers, sister-in-laws and niece to visit their relatives in Xiamen. There wasn’t much touristy things that we did except to eat and eat and eat with his relatives.
So we wanted to go China as a tourist for the longest time and hubby said that the starting point of visiting China has to be Beijing.
We were glad that we were able to find a good slot this year to finally fulfil our wish of climbing The Great Wall, tour the Palace Museum and eating Peking Duck!
After my initial blurness thinking that our flight was 10.30am instead of 8.30am, we still made it in good time to collect our Changi Recommends WiFi router, grabbed breakfast at Heavenly Wang, and boarded the plane in time. We liked being on the upper deck of A380! It felt like lesser passengers, and we had great service from the air steward and stewardess 🙂
Day 1 (22 Oct 2016 Sat) – Due to poor weather, we had a late take-off and sometimes turbulent ride, but SQ802 eventually landed safely at 2.40pm in Beijing. My first impression of Beijing International Airport was that it was very clean and hugeeeeeee. We had to take a shuttle train to get to the belts to collect our luggage. It was past 4pm by the time we collected our luggage, queued to get out of the airport, and bought our 一卡通 Travel Card (¥100, including ¥20 deposit).
After another hour of travelling and changing between stations (some with only stairs and no escalator), we finally reached 平安里站 Ping An Li Station. After getting lost circling the area twice (no thanks to the Wifi router that did not work, but the helpful locals tried pointing out the correct general directions), we finally found 北京容园宾馆 Beijing Ron Yard Hotel.
We spent the evening trying to get the WiFi router to work with the help of the supposedly 24-hours Changi Recommends Whatsapp helpline, but did not work. Tired and rather frustrated, we opted to go to the nearby 护国寺小吃街 Huguosi Hutong Snack Street, where there were plenty of street eats.
Back to the hotel with the still non-functioning WiFi router, we called it an early night as we were going to wake up early to go 金山岭长城 Jinshanling Great Wall the next day.
Day 2 (23 Oct 2016 Sun) – Day trip to 金山岭长城 Jinshanling Great Wall, followed by dinner at 烤肉季 Kaorouji. Had a stroll at the nearby 烟袋斜街 Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street, and grabbed some 吕记北京甑糕 Beijing Steam Cake before returning to the hotel.
Day 3 (24 Oct 2016 Mon) – Checked-in to 北京如家精选(东四店) Home Inn Plus (Dongsi Branch) (review at TripAdvisor), lunch at 大董烤鸭 Da Dong Roast Duck, grabbed coffee at 雍Cafe while we were en-route to 雍和宫 Lama Temple, and 孔庙 Confucious Temple. Dinner at 南锣鼓巷 South Luogu Alley.
Day 5 (26 Oct 2016 Wed) – Day trip to 故宫博物院 Palace Museum (aka 紫禁城 Forbidden City), Peking duck lunch at 四季民福 Siji Minfu, travelled to 簋街 Ghost Street with a break at Ha Coffee (which has shifted since then, it was the last week of operations when we went). Dinner at 沙县小吃 Shaxian Delicacies branch near our hotel.
Day 6 (27 Oct 2016 Thu) – 30 minute foot massage at 郭一刀 opposite our hotel (¥58 per person), followed by lunch at 老北京四牌楼涮肉百年老店 Lao Beijing Si Pai Lou Hotpot Restaurant. Checked out of our hotel and headed to Airport for our 4:30pm SQ807 flight home.
- 北京容园宾馆 Beijing Ron Yard Hotel was undergoing some massive renovations when we were there. This meant that we would not be able to enjoy the 四合院 feel as everything outside the rooms were covered up!
- The hotel staff did tell us to go check out and see if it was acceptable, and that we were welcomed to cancel our booking. We could also rest at the reception and decide, or leave our luggage with them and go explore outside for alternative lodging options. However, our Changi Recommends WiFi was not working (we totally DON’T recommend it) and we had to check in 1 night in order to get hotel WiFi. We were also too cold and tired to find some other lodging. After confirming that everything in the room was working fine, we decided to stay on.
- The room itself was pretty alright. Pretty traditional decorations, interesting phone design, etc.
- We had to get the hotel staff in to help us with the TV (sound only; the way to resolve is to power off and on), the toilet flush (he confirmed that one side of the flush cannot be used), and how to use the shower (temperature was fixed; he kept telling us not to touch it, so we had very hot showers every day).
- The water pressure was terrible, and the carpet in the room could really use some cleaning.
- The bed was very firm (but we slept quite well), and the pillow was very flat. We also found the quilt with some light stains, which we used over the blanket.
- The staff told us that the heating had not kicked in yet (apparently, there was some kind of universal start date for heaters). We tried to use the heater function of the air conditioning; it was pretty alright in the end, and definitely not as cold as when we were in Melbourne.
- Forget about Google (Facebook and Instagram too, for that matter), thanks to the Great Firewall of China. Baidu is your new best friend in China. Download Baidu Maps App (iOS, Android) prior to flying, and map out your hotels and places of interest etc first. In case you do not have access to WiFi, at least you have the map to help you with (we had a really bad experience with Changi WiFi).
- 一卡通 has a refundable deposit of ¥20, and we had a savings of ¥18 each for the bus rides to and fro 金山岭长城 Jinshanling Great Wall. We had bought the card at the airport to save the hassle of having to buy standard tickets each time we travel. You can get a refund at the airport where you purchased the cards; make sure you have less than ¥100 in your card. Topping up of the card was fairly easy using the self-service kiosk using ¥10 bills. ¥1 and ¥5 notes do not appear to be useable for every machine.
- Buffer additional travelling time, especially if you have to change lines. It could take a 5-minutes walk within the interchange station.
- Food prices indicated in the menu already included GST (6% currently), and service charge is not required.
- At the restaurants that we went to, warm water (or they say 开水) is available for free. Warm is actually hot from the thermal flask, which was great for us because it was oh-so-cold during the trip!