Spontaneous trips for Indian citizens are pretty much out of the question due to visa formalities, but that was pretty much what this trip was. Gotta love Malaysian Airlines promotions – we bought our tickets before even having a look to see whether Beijing was worth the trip.
Beijing is a six-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, but being on the same time zone, we didn’t feel the effects of jet lag. We had to get the entry visa sorted prior to our trip since there is no visa on arrival facility for Indian citizens. The currency used is Yuan or RMB. We had fixed up the itinerary ourselves based on reviews from TripAdvisor, but we knew that people there rarely spoke English, and so we had pre-arranged a chauffeur-driven car and an English speaking guide – right from picking us up at the airport to dropping us back after four days.
The Great Wall of China
…but of course – pretty much the main reason anyone goes to Beijing. We chose to climb the Mutianyu part of the great wall because it had a cable car that took us to the lowest point of the wall, from where we could climb up and down. The day dished out European weather, cold and drizzling that had us grabbing two umbrellas, buying a poncho and a “I have climbed the Great wall” sweatshirt before actually setting out to climb the Great Wall that day. Since it is quite a distance from the city it wasn’t crowded, and the country life and the views are stunning, despite the bad weather. That was also the place I did most of my shopping (no wonder we did not visit any other place that day); I bought a table cover and a table runner in typical Chinese print, a lovely embroidered patchwork umbrella, fridge magnets, and something that I have wanted for a long time …a porcelain tea set with Chinese painting. Of course, one had to bargain a lot, as they tend to (like any other tourist spots) really rip off tourists.
The new Summer Palace
It is huuuuuge and absolutely beautiful with its gardens and the enchanting lake with dragon headed boats. We enjoyed a nice boat ride here with the most picturesque views. Be prepared for a long walk though – in fact there are people who even spend the whole day at the Palace.
The Forbidden City constructed from 1406 to 1420 now houses the Palace museum and not to be missed attractions here include the hall of supreme harmony, the antiquarian, museum, meridian gate, the imperial garden, the turret of the palace museum and the nine dragon scene in the palace museum. Again, its quite a huge place, and every platform or so has a mini temple / shrine. My first thought was ‘Omg what a crowd’. The Forbidden City looked like nobody had taken its name seriously and decided to make it a must-see. We actually stood stunned for the first ten minutes. Then we realized that most of them were Chinese. I mean, I would have thought most of them would have seen these places by now. Apparently not.
It amused us that many of them wanted to have their picture taken with us. At first that was puzzling, and then we realized there were just not many Indian tourists around. Maybe they’re seeing Indians for the first time? Made me feel like a celebrity actually LOL. Upon chit chatting in broken English, we found that they were generally not from Beijing but from other parts of China.