Welcome to Beijing China. After flying in last night and getting at least ten hours of sleep Jenn and I were ready to go this morning. We both woke up at around 6AM and began getting ready for our first full day. We mapped out our plan of attack for the and headed down to the first floor for breakfast.
The JW Marriott has a few options for breakfast but given our light dinner last night we were ready for a breakfast buffet. Breakfast buffets can go one of two ways for me. Either its a cheap buffet that tries to entice with a mountain of badly cooked bacon or its a buffet with an expansive variety with actual chef prepared stations. Luckily for us this was an example of the second and it turned out to be one of the best hotel breakfast buffets we have eaten at. They had a ton to choose from, including asian cuisine to your typical eggs, bacon, sausages, and a couple of chef prepared stations. We absolutely loved and devoured our breakfasts. It was amazing to see Jenn who five years ago would have been strictly eggs, bacon, and toast, venture out and try things. It was the perfect jolt to get us ready for a busy day of touring Beijing.
Originally we had planned to take the subway everywhere but I got the bright idea to have the taxi take us to the first stop on our list of things to visit and use the subway going forward. More on why that wasn't the best decision later. We left the hotel and asked the taxi to take us to the Forbidden City. The taxi drive lasted twenty minutes, but he dropped us off at the exit of the Forbidden City which meant we were going to have to walk back to the entrance.
Jenn and I are pretty seasoned travelers and have gone to enough tourist traps to know you just ignore anyone trying to sell you something. However I knew rickshaws used to be super popular in China so I buckled under pressure and took a guy up on a ride to the entrance of the Forbidden City. At first it seemed like a great idea and we were having a blast even if we thought our lives were at risk from oncoming traffic. And then things turned for the worse. He took us down this back alley and then another rickshaw pulled up next to us and we were asked us to move over to the other one.
That's when Jenn and I knew something was up. They dropped us off in some sketchy back alley still a good couple of blocks from the entrance and then tried to jack up the price of the ride by a ton. This was an obvious trap and both Jenn and I knew right away this wasn't the most optimal situation to be in. I've never been one for confrontations but this was a breaking point for me and I got back in the guys face. Once again not the smart decision but no one likes getting taken advantage of. We ended up paying way too much for a rickshaw ride but were happy to get out of there alive and in one piece. It took me a couple of minutes to regain my cool but luckily it didn't put a damper on the day; but instead a story we now can't stop laughing about. Right after the rickshaw a very nice guy did come up and sell us a very inexpensive umbrella which came in handy.
We made our way into the Forbidden City; which is massive. The weather was far cooler then expected with off and on drizzle which made it far easier to walk around and enjoy the beautiful architecture. Jenn and I went crazy taking pictures in the Forbidden City, its very photogenic. We spent an hour or so walking through its various squares only to come out at the exit where we were originally dropped off at by the taxi.
From the Forbidden City we made our way to the adjacent Jingshan Park. This was one of the highlights of the day. The upkeep on this park is pristine and we had such a great time walking around while the park was almost empty. We made our way to the very top of a hill (a ton of stairs) where a few beautiful temples gave us great views of the surrounding area. Like I said a highlight of the day.
From the park we made the long walk back to the front of the Forbidden City where the famous picture of Mao resides. From there we made our way across the street to the infamous Tiananmen Square. From our research before the trip we saw tons of photos of Tiananmen Square full with wall to wall people. Luckily for us, September must be off-season as it was pretty empty. The square is gigantic and we made sure to take in one of the historic areas of Beijing. At this point it was late afternoon and we were exhausted.
Luckily there was a subway station right next to Tiananmen Square. We made our way down to the station and took the subway via the Red Line to the Dawanglu stop. Jenn has always been the master subway navigator but today was ridiculous how good she was. With the little english provided she got us tickets, put us on the right subway line, and we made it to our hotel stop in fifteen minutes. One thing to note was how packed the subways are. Having road subways in many metropolitan cities during work days I know they can get busy but todays subway was packed in like sardines.
From the Dawangly station we made our way back to the hotel, stopping at a few clothes stores on the way. As we approached our hotel we noticed a Starbucks and both of our eyes lit up like a kid at a candy store. We made a bee-line for there and got our normal drinks. They were incredible, just like home. After downing our wonderful beverages we looked through our photos and then Jenn took a nap while I began to write this post.
After a couple hours of rest we made our way back out to a local restaurant which we went to based on the hotel's concierge recommendation. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant translates into english because no one there spoke a word of it. In all honesty I'm not even sure what we ordered. We got two of these house specialty drinks that tasted like ginger and Sprite. We then split some sort of meat soup which was pretty good but a bit salty. And then for our main course we had a beef plate with tofu, peppers, and onions. It was a good meal but the language barrier made it tough to order anything with confidence. It was an experience nonetheless, and one that I won't forget anytime soon.
After dinner we got a nice croissant at a little bakery and called it a night. We couldn't have asked for a better way to start the trip. Even with the language/culture barrier we made memories today that will last a lifetime.