Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park)
The next day after breakfast we went for sightseeing. Our first stop was the Temple of Heaven where Beijing’s seniors gather each morning to enjoy a variety of activities; from badminton and Tai Chi to street opera and ballroom dancing, This is a true taste of Chinese community life! Of course you also visit the magnificent temple itself.
Great Wall at Mutianyu
It was an amazing experience to see the Great Wall Of China and to set your feet on it as you have only heard and learned about in Books and Television only. But the feeling you get when you see thousands of people from all around the world and even you are part of it. It is as beautiful as we all have seen in pictures.
Victoria Park Flower MarketIt's considered auspicious for the Chinese to deck up their homes with new plants and flowers for New Year and cashing in on this ritual there springs up a mammoth annual flower market at Victoria Park for all sorts of plants and flowers: lucky, holy or just plain beautiful. I can honestly say two things about my experiences here: I have never seen so many exotic varieties of flowers and plants together in one place and secondly, I did not really mind the surging crowds which I abhor in my own country.There were lanes and lanes of flower stalls and then there were a few lanes of toy stalls and food stalls. I saw that visual which up until now was familiar only via TV...a large stall with various kinds of dead sea creatures and other insects on trays, manned by very clean looking cooks in aprons who would just fry up and sprinkle some taste enhancing powder on whatever you chose. I had arrived in China...to be sure!
Easily accessible by subway to Hujialou Station. Chaoyang Theatre is right next to the Exit C. My advice; get a discount online instead of purchasing through the counter by yourself. Tips: Actually the hall is not so big. You don't have to buy the VIP seats. Even if you buy the normal seats, you would have a fine view of the show. Be there early to get the first row of the normal seats. The whole show lasted for around 1hour 45 mins.
Pick a sunny day and a weekend if you really want to see this posh neighbourhood come alive (It can get a bit too crowded though. If crowds are not your thing, choose a weekday). The ride up here is in itself very pretty, with green hills, water bodies, pretty lanes and houses. Take a local bus and sit on the top deck, to get a good view and for a ‘thrilling ride’ as the locals call it (because the bus drivers take the curves a little fast). If you are from India you will not feel a thing. Our bus drivers make the bus drivers of HK seem like calm 60 year olds. The bay is nice to swim or sun bathe in and has a lot of cafes around. There is a quaint little temple at the end of the bay, which houses some really big deities. The market is pretty nice too and you can pick up some clothes, knickknacks, shoes, etc. It is a short bus ride away from the bay.
Peng chau Island (Ping chau, Pingzhou)
DAY 3 – ISLAND HOPPING TO RELISH THE SENSORY FEASTIt was time to explore the authentic and simple life of Hong Kong islets, where time has stood still and local culture has remained untouched from the claws of modernisation. We started our trip from the quaint little Peng Chau Island, which has a population of 5000 people and where cycle is the only mode of transport. Finger Hill was the highest point on the island from where you could see the amazing panoramic view. Temples tucked away in alleys and Fisherman’s Rock were other attractions we explored. The strange thing was almost 70% of the people we saw on the island were senior citizens. In a city where everything runs at breakneck speed this was an island moving in slo-mo.
Your best bet to moving around in a cost-effective and reliable manner and covering all the places to visit in Hong Kong is by using public transport. Buses and train routes cover most of the island and add to making Hong Kong more accessible.Amazing Things to Do in Hong Kong1. Rent a junk boat and get an offbeat perspective on the city.2. Take a six-hour (or take a short cut) hike to the Dragon's Back, from where you can get a stunning 360 degree view of the city.
Beijing Zoo was planned as a "side dish" rather than a "main dish". The main reason we went to Beijing Zoo was the Panda House. The entrance to Beijing Zoo + Panda House + Boat trip = CNY40 If you want to visit the aquarium, you can add some money. Young bamboo shoots were planted surrounding the area. Whereas the pandas were locked in their cages and play area. The part that excites me was the boat trip. There are 2 boat trips: Round Trip to Purple Bamboo Garden (returning to the Zoo) Single Trip to Summer Palace (not returning to the Zoo) Went into the boat. A guide were explaining the history of the waterways. The waterways that were using were also used by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The bridge on top were low in height. During rainy days, the boat would not be able to pass through.It was interesting.At the end she announced that we have arrived at the Purple Bamboo Garden. Excited. I was ready to get off the boat.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Later I took a quick trip Shanghai Ocean Aquarium that has longest underwater tunnel in the world. What paradox just an hour ago I was on the heights of the world and now felt in the deepest of the seas when a shark just swam above me head as this thought ran across! It was time to bid bye bye to Shanghai and make my way to Beijing. I chose to take an overnight train to Beijing from Shanghai. The train journeys I believe are the best way to get to know the people from the land and take a quick peep in their local lives. As I did last minute train tickets only option I had was to travel on “hard seats” in a second class comportment. The air-conditioned journey turned out to be comfortably interesting with bunch of young Chinese wagering on card games and the usual hustle and bustle of a train. As I was catching up on few episodes of Modern Family to pass time on my fifteen hour long ride the guy sitting across me jumped on his seat seeing his familiar characters of Mitch and Cam in their never ending sweet fights. And I was zapped to know the series was so popular in China too! I wonder if global media companies have really found out mantra to catch fancies of millions of TV viewers spread across globe?Day 05: Trailing Duck TongueAs I continued reading Liar’s Poker where Solomon Brothers was building mortgage trading empire in 1980s knowing little that it would drag the whole world in perennial debt crisis later in 2000s the train reached Beijing in late morning. Knowing train tickets get sold out very fast (shame it still can’t be booked online) I straight headed to tickets bookings office to get my return ticket to Shanghai from Beijing. Carry ample cash with you as no plastic money is accepted at these booking offices. Had my lunch at KFC near Shanghai station and was surprised to see how localized the menu can be. For seafood lovers imagine a burger with shrimp patty! Again my favorite part of getting-lost-while-looking for my hostel from the subway station. Didn’t expect it’s going to be so difficult in broad day’s sunlight. Here was the best example of helping nature of Chinese, a gentlemen eating at a hotel who spoke little English came to my rescue. He was kind enough to take the number of hotel from me, call up the reception desk, get the exact location and direct me there. I was bit tired of the long train journey and had to save energy to climb the wall next day so decided to stay at hotel for rest of the day. The hostel arranged daily excursions to the tourist attractions in and around Beijing including Great Wall. Most people visit to Badaling section of the wall near Beijing so it can get crowded. I was advised to do Mutianyu section which is further ahead of Badaling. I booked the tour with the hostel which was offered at reasonable rate of ¥260 including entrance fees, breakfast and lunch covering almost full day. As I was surfing on WiFi at the hostel got to know about this restaurant close by that served duck tongues. I always wanted to try out this bizarre preparation ever since I read about it first on the net. Decided in the evening to hit the restaurant for the dinner. As I was ordering the delicacy, the waiter actually pulled out his tongue and confirmed are you sure this is what you want to eat? After the dish was on my table seeing me bit struggled and hesitant to eat it the waiter offered to get some drink that would wash it down my throat and showed me how to suck the flash of bone of the tongue. Now that’s being attentive. Anyways the food adventure was great but the taste of tongue of the duck was yuck (oouch it rhymes too)!Day 06: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.”
Chi Lin Nunnery
If you have had your fill of the noise and business of HK, then spend atleast half a day, if not more, at these two places, which are next to each other. Calming Buddhist chanting, greenery, the smell of incense and the peace at the Chi Lin nunnery will immediately make you loosen you shoulder, drop you bag and sit down for a bit. You know that the busy city exits just outside the gates and you can see it all around you in the background, but you feel safe and guarded inside. From here, walk over to the other calming place – the Nan Lian Garden. The lack of many people, some water bodies and the many flora around will make you want to spend the day here. Both these places offer free entry too.