Three days break between the end of one and the beginning of the second contract in China was a great opportunity to visit Beijing. Especially, that it coincided with the New Year’s Eve and New Year. We hoped to meet other foreigners in the capital for the farewell of 2015 years and calm tour around the city on the first day of 2016. Chinese people do not celebrate New Year in any special way, but still they have a day off from work, so the city is pleasantly empty.
Nothing could promise better stay than blue sky above Beijing. We haven’t seen it for two months. Since we were in the hostel entire morning, so we decided to visit the Forbidden City before the New Year’s Eve celebration had started. We went for a walk on the Tiananmen Square with Emma, who also taught English in China, and we could complain together about everyday problems. The world-famous square and the Forbidden City, the imperial palace with the image of Mao Zedong doesn’t make that good impression as we expected. As always, food won ove sightseeing and after Beijing duck we hardly managed to see the palace of Chinese emperors. Frost forced us to buy new gloves and return to the hostel.
We didn’t choose a quiet hostel hoping for an evening meeting with foreigners and Saga Youth Hostel didn’t let us down. Small bar on the first floor attracted a lot of people. The bar served tasty food, so even if the idea of going out came up before midnight, it was abandoned in favor of french fries with cheese, bacon and beer. Cheese in Asia is basically a luxury product, so trust me, it was worth it. The conversation lasted till early morning. We were missing any longer conversations after two months in a small Chinese speaking city.
The plan for the New Year was to see the Great Wall of China, but you know how these plans end the day after New Year’s Eve. We forced ourselves to go out of the hostel in the afternoon and visit Beijing temples – Lama Temple, Confucius Temple and the Temple of Heaven. The Lama Temple is impressive with large, 18-meters tall, gold Buddha, carved from a single trunk of sandalwood. The most visitors aren’t tourists, but actually come to light incense in their intentions and meditate. Confucius Temple is worth seeing just for the surrounding hutongs, traditional Chinese buildings. Smiling philosopher welcomes visitors from the monument in front of the temple. Before we reached the Temple of Heaven it was getting dark and seeing its outline from afar in typical Chinese gray colors convinced us to come back. We gave up visiting the Summer Palace, because some evil person wrote on the Internet that it’s worth to go there only in summer (as the name suggests). And our laziness believed it, then we were listening to Emma’s stories about how great was ice skating on the frozen lake right in front of the Palace. In the evening we continued integration with Emma and Yoost from the Netherlands, who has traveled the world for 10 years and made us slightly stressed with our plan to return to Poland in autumn.
Last day in Beijing we spent on the trip to the Great Wall of China. We went to Badaling section, which is accessible by bus. We found information on Wikitravel that we should go there by train. Unfortunately we didn’t buy public transportation card. With this card you can get on the train without buying an extra ticket. The first train leaves at 9 and the ticket office is open from 10. And the disorganization is on the typical Chinese level. Therefore we gave up and decided to take the bus. We took a short walk up the hill to the entrance to the wall. When we saw crowds of Chinese people moving to the right, we turned left without longer consideration and visited less frequented part of the wall. Climbing the really steep stairs, we felt no longer cold and we were happy with the choice of mountain boots.
After returning to the city we managed to see the Art Zone 798, which is an artistic district of Beijing. It was established in place of the former gun factory. It is one of the most interesting places in the capital with numerous art galleries, shops with original objects and clothes. In my opinion the place has much more potential and in Europe it would definitely be a popular meeting place. However Chinese are not able to adapt a raw space in the factories, and between art galleries a few cafes with unique interior are missing. But coffee in China is a completely different problem.