Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Honeymoon: Day 3

12/04/12 - After the exhausting day of walking the day before we slept in until 11am. After getting up we swapped rooms, being downgraded back down to the style of room we'd paid for. Had we not had the initial upgrade and seen the size of that room we'd have thought the new room was huge. Even-so, it was still pretty big with all the same furniture and bathroom style, just in a slightly smaller space and with no small courtyard area.

The hutongs near Jishuitan
Our plan from the night before had been to visit an insect market in the morning, but given our late start we ditched that plan and just decided to do a hutong walk from our guide book. As we'd missed the hotel breakfast and it was late we went for lunch before our walk. We gave the beijinger website a second chance to recommend us somewhere and found a Taiwanese dumpling chain restaurant called Chamate. It was very close to the hotel in a very swish 6 floor shopping centre on Wangfujing. The shopping centre was still under construction with escalators being installed around us! There were loads of restaurants in there, so we actually had a lot of choice and we used it more in the next few days. It also contained a lot of western shops including a new Forever 21 being built - like back home on Buchanan Street apparently (this was Jen's observation not mine). In Chamate, which was very busy, we had squid balls, scallion pancake, shrimp noodles, sweet and sour pork ribs, sweet green tea and a papaya milk shake. It was all very good and cost about £16 in total.

After satiating ourselves we got the underground to Jishuitan to start our walk. To start this involved walking down a very busy shopping street (Xinjiekou Bei Dajie), which included a large array of guitar/ instrument shops. We turned off the main street into alleys of hutongs, some of which had been remade and some were more original. In most of the hutongs there was something for sale like fruit, drinks (all food and drink in this area was on sale far cheaper than on the main streets, but we didn't take advantage of this), bike repairs, or even doors. There were generally children about and clothes drying outside, so they were all homes as well as businesses. We purposely went slightly off the directed walk route, but got ourselves back to the right place quite easily.

The shrine to the 'four immortals' (including a hedgehog) in
Prince Gong's palace
Next on the walk, going passed Beijing Normal University, was Prince Gong's palace. Around the palace you could tell it was getting more touristy as we started seeing lots of rickshaws and were getting asked if we needed a ride anywhere. We went in the palace and it looked quite quiet and peaceful. It was very nice, but when we got to the garden at the back of the palace we hits load of tour groups (in coloured hats as before). The gardens were beautiful, and a shrine of note was that for a hedgehog amongst other animals!

After leaving the palace we walked past through more hutongs towards the bottom end of the Houhai Lake, and then on the Qianhai (where we'd ended up on the first night). Looking in to some of the courtyards we passed we could see that they'd been done-up and looked very fancy. We walked round Qianhai (there weren't any bands playing in the bars this time, but we did see a bar by Houhai that sold "Fucking good mojitos") through lots of hutongs that had been rebuilt with tourists wanting to see "old style Beijing" in mind. We stopped for an ice-cream (a rum and raisin Cornetto cup for Jen) before walking up to the Drum Tower.

Armchair dogs on Gu Lou Dong Da Jie 
Walking on from there (passed some dogs on armchairs) we found the North end of the street (Luogu Hutong) we had originally planned to go to on the first night. On this street was also found the hostel that was organising our Great Wall of China walk. There were lots of very cool gift shops along the street, and many cafes and bars. We also found that the other end of the street was actually accessible by going around the building site that had stumped us before.

We walked back to the hotel through a park area in the middle of a wide boulevard (Beiheyan Street). We saw little children and parents playing, many small dogs and children doing homework.

Back near the hotel there was a Dragonfly Spa, so we booked massages for the Saturday morning (the day after our Wall walk). We also bought water/ beers/ crisps for our packed lunch on the walk.

Dessert at Hua's Restaurant
That evening we went to dinner at Huajia Yiyuan in the Macau Centre near the hotel. It was very fancy with a huge reception area and we got a table for 8 people to ourselves. Despite it being not that late it seems that people eat dinner early in China, so the restaurant was emptying and being cleaned-up while we were there (this was a common theme on the holiday). There was loads of choice on the menus and there were pictures, so we knew what to order. We had duck pancake rolls, aubergine abalonie sauce, hau's special cabbage, fish kebabs, veg fried rice, and an amazing special Beijing regal dessert - bird cage pastries! We also got more complementary fruit. It all came to 362 Yuan, but for some reason we were charged 260 Yuan. Jen speculated that we'd got a special ginger discount!