The last time I was in Beijing was about 8 months prior to the Olympic Games, in late 2007, and because of work commitments, I could not make it to the city (or the Games themselves) during all this time. That all changed on the 21st of November 2009, as fate allowed me to come back to this great city- but only for one night on a stopover. I had to make the most of my 21 hours to the journey down memory lane. My flight from Kunming arrived just before 3pm at Beijing airport’s impressive Terminal 3. My next flight was at 12.30pm the following day. I was excited, and very much looking forward to reliving the experience. Rather strange as it may seem but I had carefully planned out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in the short time that I had. I suppose the key advantage I had was that I knew where everything was - and hoping that it didn’t change from 2007! Much to my surprise, the heavy smog still lurked around the city- and the traffic is without a doubt worse than in 2007 (In actual fact I should say there are more Cars on Beijing's roads' than in 2007).
After checking in at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, I quickly made my way to the Xidan shopping area. This enormous shopping centre is one of the two main areas for hardcore shoppers (the other being Wangfujing- and I did not have time to go there this time). It looked the same as in 2007...except a few new shops had opened here and there. After about an hour there, I made my way to the Hilong Electric City (海龙电子城), a seven storey building specializing in electronics products. I wanted to see if I could get a reasonably priced Camera as a replacement for the one I had lost in Kunming the day before. Just as I had started to be mobbed by a group of eager sellers, an elderly Chinese gentleman offered to translate for me. He actually happened to be a professor emeritus in Automation at Tsinghua University (the Oxbridge of China). With his assistance I managed to purchase a bargain and a spanking new Camera (under from my insurance!)- I am highly grateful to this great man for the assistance he provided. It also worked out to be a great networking opportunity and we have kept in touch since then.
With ample time remaining, I made my way to the Quan Ju De Restaurant on 32 Qianmen Street for a delicious meal of fresh roast Beijing duck. The restaurant, the largest Roast Duck restaurant in Beijing and rumored to serve at least 8000 meals a week, is popular with Government Officials, VIPs, VVIPs and Celebs. I would highly recommend sitting on the 2nd floor as it’s a bit quieter, and provides a view of the open kitchen at work. The duck was accompanied with some fine Chinese red wine (“Great Wall Wine”). This was followed by about an hour’s stroll around the ever impressive Tiananmen Square- the scene of the recent 60th Anniversary Parade on the 1st of October. The square is busy with tourists and locals excitingly taking photos against the backdrop of the Great Hall or Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum; and even the occasional march by young Army cadets can be observed.
The following morning, I got up quite early and spent the remaining 4 hours taking photos around the Shangdi, Xizhimen and Wudaokou areas, before returning to the hotel. Breakfast consisted of a scrumptious Lai Huang Bao (White bun with sweet Egg yolk), fresh Soya milk and a delicious crispy pancake- all worth only 7RMB (Approx US $0.90).
Instead of going straight to the airport, I asked the taxi driver to take me around the 5th Ring Road to the north of the city, so I could get a glimpse of the Olympic Stadium- I had come all this way and thought why not spend the extra fare just to catch a quick photo opportunity! As the taxi approached the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube (which by the way are remarkable pieces of architecture- it’s almost like entering a different world), the only thought that came to my mind was “Wow, this is where it all happened!”. I am not a specialist on architecture, but you don’t need to be an expert to see the obvious large scale projects that are filling Beijing’s skyline- it’s like entering a large playground full of so many weird and wonderfully shaped buildings which cannot be found anywhere else in the world! 21 hours (Minus the 6 hours I slept for!) were not enough to digest the full flavor of the city, nevertheless, I am thankful to fate for allowing me to at least refresh my memory- and hopefully I will come back soon. Oh, by the way, for those of you who don't know, there is a song called "One night in Beijing" by Xin Yue Tuan (and no, the title of my blog article is not inspired from the song!).
Where I stayed:
Grand Hyatt Beijing*****
1 East Chang An Avenue
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