Beijing, the Great Wall and the Ultimate Beijing Birthday! [Day 76]
So it’s been a while since I wrote my last blog post, I’ve been in Beijing for 12 days now and only have a few days left! It’s flown by, as time does when you’re having fun! I landed the Friday before last and managed to find my hostel in Beijing fairly easy. I was only there for one night before I set off for the Great Wall the next day. The Dragon King Hostel has a really decent set up, which is just as well as I’d booked in to the same place when I get back from the wall. Met a couple of guys from London, Peter and Tim, and just had a few beers with them in the hostel and got some good tips for when I returned.
The Great Wall Box House which is where I was staying at near the Great Wall was recommended to me by my friends Frankie and Phil, thanks guys! It’s not the typical part of the wall that people visit as it’s a little bit out of the way but well worth it. The hostel itself was a quaint little place and very quiet which is ideal after a long day out walking along the wall. The first day I got a little lost trying to find the wall as I went a little off piste trying to find it. But it meant I knew where I was going the next day. On the second day I was up bright and early to tackle the wall again. This part of the wall is not like what you see in the pictures, it was falling apart a little and to begin with its debatable whether it’s actually a wall. However after a few hours walking it started to look a little bit more like what I imagined it to be. The best bit was the fact I only crossed paths with a couple of people over the course of the day. It has to be one of the most remote places I’ve been too and the wall looks like it goes on forever, which isn’t to far from the truth, with nothing else in sight. After a long day on the wall it was back to the hostel, where dinner was included thank god! Had a few well deserved beers, they always taste better after a long day of walking in the sun, and chatted to a couple of families who were staying here, which was a nice change of conversation from the usual travelling chats I’ve had.
It’s was back to Beijing on Monday afternoon, around 5pm, so I thought it was the perfect time to head over to the Olympic park to see the Birds Nest stadium at night. I got there a little before sunset and wondered around the Olympic park. The stadium itself is one of the most random but beautiful pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen. But it’s at night time that it really comes to life, the stadium and the aquatics centre are stunning when lit up. It also brought back some very fond memories I have of London 2012, I can’t believe that was nearly two years ago! I headed back to the hostel where I bumped in to Peter again. He turned out to be great person to meet in a hostel as he just went round the hostel bar rounding up other travellers to go out to some local bars. I think there must have been about 8 of us in the end and we just headed out to some cool little bars that we’d been recommended.
The next day I dragged myself out of bed, I’m sure the Chinese beer gives me worse hangovers, and headed to the Forbidden City, which is pretty cool, but I think after my trip to Japan I might be getting a little blasé temples. I know that sounds terrible, but I’m just being honest. Tiananmen Square was near by so I headed there too. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest public squares in the world and it’s surrounded by very communist styled architecture which I quite like, not in a weird way! That evening I met up with the same guys from the night before and headed to what was supposed to be a jazz night according to this weeks Time Out. It turned out not to be a jazz night but the music was still good so we stayed there late until the night. It’s really nice when you stay in a hostel for a few days as it gives you the chance to get to know people a bit better, and the guys from the Dragon King Hostel were a great laugh. Most of them are from London so no doubt I’ll see them again one day!
Thursday I was meeting my friend Simmy from back home. I was meeting him after work so it gave me one more day to squeeze in a few more sights. I went out with Freddy and Vivian from my hostel and went to the Summer Palace and the Lama temple. I preferred these much more than the Forbidden City as they were a lot quieter, so it gave you the chance to admire them in your own time and not be herded around like cattle. I met Simmy in the Sanlintun area and grabbed a few beers and something to eat. So good to see a familiar face from back home! Not a massive night as one of us had work the next day and we thought it was best to save ourselves for my birthday weekend!
After a day chilling at Simmy’s watching a few films we headed out to the student area in Beijing and ended up in a bar called Lush which had live music. One of Simmy’s friends Claire came to meet us as well and we had an awesome night which ended with the whole bar singing happy birthday to me, thanks to Simmy, whilst I was on his shoulders (standard). Day two of the birthday celebrations saw us heading to the Beijing footy game. To fit in Simmy, his friend Carlos and myself bought Beijing FC jackets, that way we’d look like real fans! Unfortunately we lost! We didn’t really have a chance after we went one nil and a man down after the first 10 mins! The game ended three nil. Determined not to let it ruin our night, as if, we headed back to the Sanlitun area to get things back on track, hitting a few bars and then on to a night club called Lantern, which was playing really good music which I don’t always expect to experience when abroad in a touristy area.
The next we had a rather lovely day out on the lake, we hired a little motor boat and cruised around in the sunshine sinking a few more birthday beers. The perfect end to probably one of my best birthdays! I’m sure I would have had a good time wherever I was but I’m really glad I planned to meet up with Simmy in Beijing. As he would put it, it was the Ultimate Beijing Birthday! I have a few more days left here but to be honest I’m just going to relax at Simmy’s for a few days, plan the next part of my trip and enjoy the comforts of staying in a house. I guess it’s kind of like my half way house. That right, I’ve now crossed the half way point my trip which means South East Asia and not long now until Natalie comes to meet me in Cambodia!