Friday, July 2, 2010

Fashionista Travels: Beijing, China

I bought a ticket in August 2009 for a trip to Beijing in June 2010. Wasn't really sure that I was able to make it but since the fare was really, really low, I decided to jump at the chance of going to visit China, a place where my ancestors once came from.

To cut a long story short, we finally did go to China and it was wonderful! The people are really nice, the transportation system is really efficient and there wasn't much occurrences of cheating and swindling that I thought I would be subjected to.

An old man playing a traditional instrument at one of the subway's alleys.

Another busker. Life certainly is not easy in China, but they're not begging for money, which is a good sign of self-respect =).

There was certainly a lot of places to go to. The first on the list was Great Wall of China. It's HUGE. The walk is not for the faint hearted. It made me wonder how on earth did these people manage to build such a huge wall at a distance of more than 600km. Gosh, it's amazing.

The Great Wall of China via Badaling.

Forbidden City

Bird's Nest Stadium.

Water Cube Stadium.

This is where we stayed, Qianmen Hostel & Cafe. Right in the middle of Qianmen, Mei Shi Jie Street. I really recommend the place as it's location is very strategic. To get to the hostel, you can use the subway and stop at Qianmen station. The hostel is just 2 minutes walk to the left of the station.

The hostel's entrance.

And there's a common area for house guests.

My room at Qianmen Hostel & Cafe. My room costs me about RM100 per night. There's actually cheaper options (i.e. hostel bunks, 4 people sharing room and shared toilets at RM50 per person per night) but I prefer a single room with an ensuite bathroom to myself =).

Urumq Muslim Restaurant selling halal food. It's located not far from the hostel. If you're staying at Qianmen Hostel & Cafe, just walk slightly to the left of the hostel where you'll find a street. Walk about 7 minutes into the street and you'll find this restaurant on your right. Halal food is not that easy to find in Beijing so be prepared to stick with a halal outlet that you know of. Or alternatively, you can always opt for McDonalds, fish fillet or french fries are fried with vegetable oil, so you should be safe =).

At Dazhalan Street, looking for souvenirs.

Qianmen Street.

If you want to get souvenirs, get them at Qianmen Street. The souvenirs are simply amazing and you could even bargain for lower prices =).

Can you see the Tiananmen Square building in the back?

At Qianmen Street. To read more on the street click [here].

At one of the Hutong in Beijing.

Cheongsams are definitely cheaper in Beijing than they are in Malaysia. So make sure you stock on your cheongsam here. One of the popular place to shop for cheongsam and other stuff is the Pearl Market or also known as Hongqiao Market.

Managed to pick up a souvenir or two from Hard Rock Cafe, Beijing =).

Raden and his dislike for any team that opposes Manchester United.

At Xidan, one of the shopping areas in Beijing.

An outdoor escalator. How cool is that?

Tips for those who are planning to go to Beijing:

1. DON'T LISTEN to WHAT PEOPLE SAY. Well, at least, take it with a pinch of salt. If we listened to what people say, we wouldn't have gone. There are so many negative stories of vacations gone bad in China and all I can say is, you have to experience it for yourself. However, do take extra precaution because the stories are a result of other people's experiences and there is always a probability that something bad could happen to you.

2. SURF the NET. Try to find out as much as you can about where you want to go and what you want to do. It is a haven of information and there are a lot of other tourists out there who are willing to share with you their travel experiences. It actually made our trip a much better experience.

3. DO BRING a DICTIONARY (if you don't know Mandarin). I took a basic Mandarin class for four months and was able to converse basic Mandarin which really helped in cases where I had to ask for directions to the nearest subway or halal eatery. If you don't know the language, a dictionary would be most useful.

Oh, a map of the city (or at least the subway map) is definitely very handy for trips like these =).

Lastly, just relax and enjoy your trip. If something doesn't happen according to plan, well, you can't plan everything, right? So have fun and enjoy!

xoxo Fashionista in Action xoxo