Thursday, November 15, 2012

Asia Trip 2012 - CHINA | thailand | south korea

Thanksgiving break is here so we decided to take a trip to Thailand to check out some famous dive spots and see what all the hype was about. Of course, I can't visit Thailand and not see family and friends so we squeezed in Bangkok for a day and a half. Also, walking The Great Wall of China was still on my bucket list so we found a flight with a two day layover on the way to Thailand. And lastly, since we've both never been to Korea, we got a return flight passing through Korea on the way home and spent a full day there!
This was a total of 11 days vacation and we managed to pack it all in between 3 countries, 4 stops, and 5 flights!

Here we go, our first stop is Beijing!

Beijing, China

We landed around 6pm and took a train into the city. We got lost walking around trying to find our rental and had a really hard time communicating with the locals. No one knew the streets we were on and seemed just as lost as us looking at the map. We finally found a hotel restaurant and they helped us call the landlord who explained to us how to get to his place.

Pretty quiet for Beijing it seems

After getting the keys, we dropped our bags off and quickly left for dinner to try some Peking duck at a famous restaurant nearby called Da Dong. This was a pretty fancy place and we kind of knew it would be an expensive dinner. I can't say the Peking duck was any better than ones I've had in Bangkok so it was a disappointment and it was really nothing special. We still had a nice meal but had to try it out I guess.

Fancy oranges serving plate

The Great Wall Of China - Jinshanling to Simatai

Today is our big day for the Great Wall hike! We got a cab to join a bus tour going to the Jinshanling part of the Great Wall, a less touristy option with original, unrestored section of the wall. We waited at the hostel for the tour to depart and were packed into a van seating 20+ people. It took about two hours to get there and everyone was filled with excitement as we finally got a glimpse of the Great Wall from the road.  The van dropped us off at the main parking lot and gave everyone 3 hours to finish the Great Wall Jinshanling to Simatai section.

It turned out to be a glorious day to walk the Great Wall since it had snowed a few days earlier which left the sky clear and the temperature neither too hot nor too cold.  Also, there was not a lot of people on the Wall since it was winter time there.  We didn't run into any annoying vendors either and at times had the whole wall to ourselves.  All in all, it was a fun experience walking those thousands of steps!

Going down!

Going up!

Kind of like San Francisco!

The start of the unrestored section

Just about 10+ towers to go...way out in the distance!


What goes up must come down, and up and down...

The Great Wall goes on almost forever

We finished in about 2 1/2 hours and would probably continue through Simatai had it not been closed.  I hear it's a really nice section with a lake and a zip line at the end for the ride down.  Unfortunately we couldn't go through this time but if I get a chance again, I will for sure!

We waited down at the other parking lot at the end of the hike for our bus.  Everyone soon finished and got on the bus back to Beijing where we started.  The hostel location was right in the middle of the Hutong, small narrow alleys, where we also wanted to visit.  It was a unique place with lots of small shops and many, many food/snack choices!  Sounds like our kind of place!

3 beef skewers for 10 yuan!

Very busy and lively

Street vendors

Fruit candy cart

Azusa eating a sugar coated fruit skewer

We walked around the Hutongs for most of the evening and eventually connected to Ghost Street (Gui Jie) , known for its lively restaurants and bright red lanterns everywhere!

We picked a random restaurant but they all pretty much looked the same with identical foods, mainly the
seafood hot pots and this spicy crawfish dish I had to try. They gave us gloves and I dove right in! It was really spicy and had a good flavor but sadly not much meat for the hard work!

We finished dinner and didn't stay out afterwards since we had a pretty early start at the Great Wall today.  We've got one more day in Beijing and then it's off to Thailand!

Spicy crawfish

Motor taxi?

Day 2:  Beijing

The next morning we were dying to try breakfast at a small and busy restaurant down the street from where we stayed after seeing so many people there the day before.  We watched as other patrons came in and grabbed the prepared dishes, paid, and sat down and started eating.  We just pointed to things and gave the lady our money and she gave us the change back.  The entire meal was no more than $2!  It was excellent and we would have eaten here every meal had we known!

Definitely the best meal we had in Beijing!

Bikes for rent; unfortunately just for Beijing residents only

Our main stop today was to check out Tiananmen Square and see the famous sites around there.  Even though the sites were close to each other, it was a massive square and we walked plenty!

Zhengyangmen Gate

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

Big LCD screen in the middle of Tiananmen Square

Enormous flower display in the center

The biggest Mao poster I've ever seen

The Forbidden City which we didn't go in

We continued passed The Forbidden City to Beihai Park, having read that it would be a nice walk around the park.  There was an entree fee for the park which we paid but quickly regretted after entering and finding ourselves bored with not much to see so we quickly left.

Beijai Park entrance

Funny sign at the restroom

From Beihai Park, we took a bus to our favorite hangout, The Hutongs, where we wondered the narrow streets some more and explored a lot more of it this time around.

Yes, we ate it all

Selling potatoes I think

That's all for Beijing for us this time.  The Great Wall was so incredible and we had a lot of fun in the city but we have to move on to our next stop, Thailand!  Our flight is at 8pm so see you in Phuket!

Continue to Phuket, Thailand >>

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