Monday, 15 December 2014


Beijing, the Capital City of People's Republic of China
Estimated Population: 21,150,000 people (+ 3 Singaporean tourists)

I've never been to Beijing before, so I was literally vibrating restlessly in my seat as the plane touched down Beijing Nanyuan Airport. There's always this sense of anticipation when I visit a land that is completely foreign to me - a place that I have never been, only heard of - because there's so much to uncover and you can be sure that there will be surprises at every corner.

The first thing that welcomed me in Beijing is a gust of cold wind that made ice grow in my veins. And right from the beginning, I just knew, visiting Beijing during winter is a bad, bad idea.

Here is a quick and honest run down of how I survived >1 night in Beijing:

Temperature is an average of about 4 to -6 degree Celsius in December.
In other words, it's really cold in the day and it drops to wtf-insane cold at night.
For those with the great desire to travel in such mind-numbing (haha) weather, it's best to possess a high degree of paranoia and pack as much warm clothes as possible.
I wore a double layer heat-tech leggings, extra warm heat-tech l/s top, jeans, down jacket, duffel coat, leather gloves, a knit beanie, a face/neck mask, stick-on heat packs, woolly socks and boots and I barely got through the night frost.

Sometimes I'll take out the mask/beanie/gloves so that I can take photos (vanity > comfort) and my bare skin hurts as if I clutched a block of ice far too long. There's this searing kind of freeze that just go all the way into your bones.

Snack Streets
I love street snacks!!!!!! Somehow the more dubious it is, the better it tastes! Of course, a healthy dose of ignorance is required (read: gutter oil)
Beijing has rows of street food here and there but the one that I particularly liked the best was at Wangfujing Snack Street: they have savoury - beef balls, smelly and non-smelly tofu, roasted chestnuts, meat skewers; sweet - candied fruits like strawberries and haw with a sugar crust; and also just plain down yuck like starfish and creepy insects.

Roasted Duck an absolutely divine dish, especially in Beijing's winter. There's this chain called Quan Ju De that is famous for selling roasted duck. I'm pretty sure I saw a faded photo of Richard Nixon and other politicians dining there. The chef would bring out a whole duck and slice it in front of you. After the meat is served, the bones are taken away to be brewed in a warm broth. It's about 130 RMB/pax but the three of us loved it so much we went back twice.

Great Leap Brewery #6
I love visiting Microbreweries because they always have the fun kind of craft beers. Great Leap has garnered quite a good traction in the microbrewery scene in Beijing and I sampled about 4 of their beers. My absolute favourite is Honey Ma, which is infused with Sichuan peppercorns and Shandong date honey. It tasted amazing with Ma La peanuts.
They only serve beer so you gotta eat up before that.

Tiananmen Square
Located at the heart of Tiananmen Square is the Central Government of China, a huge photo of every PRC's favourite Communist of the hour, Chairman Mao, and right across that is Mao's mausoleum.
The security is pretty tight there - you have to pass through a security check just to enter the square. Also, you can't bring a bag inside the mausoleum. Many Chinese tourists just dump it in a pile outside the gate but that is extremely ill-advised considering the hordes that enter by the bus load. I didn't go because I had a bag with me and- no offence- there was no way I was gonna leave it aside just to see a dead Communist, sorry.

P.S. Did you know there is an Underground City in Beijing??? They closed it long ago because it's too near the political square of Tiananmen but it's astounding because it can fit 40% of the population during Mao's era. #funfacts
Forbidden City
The lure of the forbidden is always enticing. Jorji and JW were buzzing with excitement because they've watched period dramas which almost always takes place in the Forbidden City. Being the banana that I am (read: yellow on outside/white on inside), I don't know anything about this place but it certainly loomed with a sense of grandeur that hints at its past splendour. Plus points that I get to dress up as a Princess!!! I used to watch Huan Zhu Ge Ge and I always wanted to wear that headgear. Who doesn't want a gigantic flower on top of their head?

The more pertinent parts of the place such as the main hall was restored carefully but a large part of the city's architecture is worn out. It used to be alive with stories (and scandals) that hark from the Ming and Qing dynasty and now all that remains are the ghosts that fill the vacant halls.
I really did quite enjoy exploring the place. They weren't kidding when it's called a city. It's really big and there's all sorts of funny passageways. And I have taken a strange interest in the story of the Last Emperor. It's about the boy Emperor called Puyi and he became Emperor when he was 3. He had a shitty boring childhood and he's all "hell no, I ain't gonna wear a braid" and cut it off. He was abdicated from the throne later on.

Hutongs are old neighbourhoods that have been refurbished to become a sort-of hip district. I say sort-of, because it wasn't as interesting as I thought it was, because the shops kept repeating itself. But nevertheless, it was just fun to walk around and delight in finding unique items like this amazing fox shoehorn and eat fake llao llaos.

Ming Tombs
Ming Tombs are hella far but since it's just as hella far as The Great Wall, it's best to just sign up for one of those day tours and a coach bus will take you to the two places.
Ming Tombs are a go-to for Chinese history buffs who want to know more about Emperor Yong Le of the Ming Dynasty and his Eunuch Admiral, Zheng He. It was great for me because one of the greatest Singaporean play to have ever been written is about Zheng He (Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral by Kuo Pao Kun) Plus, the play I'm involved in for next year's NUS Arts Festival features these two historical figures quite heavily, so the trip to the tombs really helped me in my research.
The Great Wall of China
Hands down, this has got to be the best part of my Beijing trip.
W-O-W, this is seriously one of the hallmarks of Mankind's greatest achievements and one of the new 7 wonders of the world and here I am!!!!!!
This is the section at Badaling and there are two routes - the easy but crowded route or the hard but quiet route. Three of us were like "durrrrrrr hard obviously" It was okay for the boys because they wore Dr Marts and Palladium boots while I wore a pair that I bought from Taobao. At least, my feet looked stylish on the way up the steep slopes. The pavement was smooth from years of wear and tear and I fell down a lot. It was all good though, the view was amazing at the top. I was quite winded but being there at one of the towers, overlooking the valleys, looking at the Walls wind off into the distance...WORTH IT.

Yep, these were the most memorable places I've been to in Beijing.
But now that I'm back in Shanghai with our temperamental heater, one of the things I miss most is definitely lounging around in the warm hotel room after a hot shower.

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