My Pre-Olympic Beijing Vacation

Author: Anna
Beijing, July 2006

I had a short Beijing vacation in July 2006 with an intention to see how the Olympics preparation was going.

I must admit the tour leader did a good job and at the same time a bad job. The good job was to squeeze as many activities in a day as possible. The bad job was making us all exhausted after the first day. For the other three days, we all walked with a pair of soared legs. If you had never experienced ‘exhausted’, follow my footprint. Frankly, don’t plan your itinerary like my tour guide did.

I am well aware that a Beijing vacation is never relaxing. However I certainly don’t expect to visit the Summer Palace, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square all in one day. At the end of the day, we finished by walking about 500 meters to meet the coach, as areas around Tiananmen Square didn’t allow parking.

No matter how many times I had been to Beijing, I must find something new each time. This time I managed to go up the Tiananmen. This place is not always open. So it’s my first time to look at Tiananmen Square with a bird’s eye view. At the National Museum next to Tiananmen Square, there was a big Olympics countdown calendar. Actually the whole of Beijing downtown was heavily decorated with Olympic designs.

Beijing vacation - long corridor

I visit Summer Palace and Forbidden City almost every time I come to Beijing. But this particular Beijing vacation is very much different from my others. At the Summer Palace, I actually saw nothing other than people. You can’t image how crowded the place was. The Long Corridor became short as 90% of it was closed for renovation in preparation for the Olympics. So I missed the most important scene of the site.

Beijing vacation 2006 - Forbidden City

Beijing vacation - Great Wall in rain

Renovation work was ongoing also at the Forbidden City, so I missed the three major halls. However for those areas where renovations were done, they looked so lovely. I just called them new antique.

Walking on the Great Wall on a rainy day was a real challenge, especially with a pair of soared legs. I was at Juyongguan again. Number of visitors didn’t reduce due to the rain. Holding an umbrella while watching the steep steps made me so busy that I was unable to look at the surrounding beautiful scenery. Actually it was so misty that there wasn’t much to see. A good tip to walk the Great Wall is: mind your steps while walking, look at sceneries only when you stop. If you want to keep your hands clean, a pair of gloves and some moist tissue would help.

Beijing vacatin - Tian Tan

If you have kids with you, please do take extra care of them. They’ll get scared especially when looking down. A local kid almost made me fell off the Great Wall as he was so scared. He just grabbed anything (my pants) tightly and that was dangerous. Though I didn’t fall off the Great Wall, my pants almost fell off my body.

Perhaps Ming Tomb was the only site that no renovation work was ongoing. However there wasn’t much to see.

At Temple of Heaven, again only the Hall of Prayer was opened. The sacred road and the other two halls are all closed. I managed to check only one third of the whole site. Luckily I had been to these places before. My major interest was to check on the 40+ procedures of the praying ceremonies. I never have enough time to take full notes. I do want a book could be published and let the world know how sophisticated Chinese imperial protocols were.

Beijing vacation - 9 dragon wall

A hutong tricycle tour including a visit to a home of a courtyard owner was quite good to get to know local people’s life. A house of 60 square meters to hold 30 guests was a little packed. The rental was only ¥130 per month, quite a good deal. Perhaps it was because the family head was a retired government official.

There are two nine-dragon walls in China, one at the Forbidden City and one at the North Sea Park. I’m afraid both of them need a bath in order to welcome the 2008 Olympics.

My Beijing vacation was a luxury one and I stayed at the Shangri-la at Zizuyuan, a 5-star hotel. A new block was under construction in order to cope with the increased number of guests during the Olympics.

Any Beijing vacation is incomplete without shopping. Believe it or not, shopping of Chinese medicine was on my itinerary. May be it is only unique to Chinese compatriot visitors. A Chinese doctor had a brief check up on me and was wondering why I was still alive. I ended up bought almost ¥2,000 Chinese medicine in order to improve the quality of my health. This became the most expensive Beijing vacation I have ever had.

Shopping of jade and enamel artifacts was more interesting. Unfortunate I lost my way inside the handicrafts shop as it was such a huge shopping mall. Even worse I left my mobile phone in the hotel and had difficulty in re-connecting with my tour guide.

Tip to all visitors - Have your mobile phone with you everywhere. You can get other tour guides to help locating yours, but it is important that you have your guide's phone number with you.

Anna's Beijing vacation, July 2006

All the renovation work mentioned above were set to be completed by end of 2006.

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