I have returned and will, hopefully, now that it is a fresh new year, and my second year of working life, be blogging with greater intensity and regularity. Yes! I can do this!
I’ve recently returned from a wintry twelve-day trip to China and Hong Kong. I had my annual leave in mid-December, which meant that I had to wait pretty much the whole year before having time off, and that unfortunately I missed Christmas with family. I realised recently that I haven’t spent Christmas in Melbourne for, like, three or four years now. So I will definitely aim to be in my beloved hometown this year.
It also meant that travelling pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere = COLD.
We spent our first five nights in Beijing. We booked ourselves into a little hostel that got decent reviews on TripAdvisor: Beijing Downtown Backpacker Hostel. The place was simple but clean (which, to me, is the most important thing!), with big comfy beds and warm heaters. We stayed in a private double room which was a bit on the small side, similar to rooms in Japan, but nothing unmanageable. The Wifi was a bit spotty and slow and there’s no hairdryer or towel, so bring your own. The staff are helpful and speak a little English. The place also offers free breakfast daily, which we only found out on the last day…! (d’oh!)
The best thing about this hostel was definitely the location. The hostel is located in the DongCheng district, in a hutong (definition: ‘a narrow lane or alleyway in a traditional residential area of a Chinese city’) that has been glammed up into a bustling alleyway chock full of milk tea shops, dumpling bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and snack stalls. You can find street food from fried bugs to custard puffs to takoyaki to egg tarts, right outside your doorstep. Plus, you’re only a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest train station, and from there you can subway to pretty much anywhere in Beijing.
On the second day of our trip we did a Great Wall tour with our hostel group. They took us to a more deserted part of the wall, about 2.5 hours’ drive out of the town. Our tour guide dropped us off at the entrance and we hiked along 22 towers, from JinShanLing to Simatai West – 6km in total. There was virtually no one on the wall, apart from the locals who followed us, pointing out the obvious (“this is where they shot arrows from!”) and trying to sell us stuff. Otherwise, we were left to ourselves to explore the turrets and stairwells, and scramble up and down the steep steps, and gawk at the rolling hills of old Mongolia. We breathed crisp air and picnicked on a crumbly tower. It was breathtaking.
I would definitely recommend avoiding the touristy parts of the wall and checking out this hike. A few tour groups do this section of the wall. You also get a decent quadriceps workout from all those steps, so…if you’re after thunder thighs, this is clearly the place to be.
We later stuffed our faces at the Beijing Night Market. This is a strip of red, brightly-lit stalls where shopkeepers will dangle squid legs and candied fruits in front of you and yell at you to try their delicious morsels. We walked along and pointed at whatever looked tasty: lamb skewers, fried prawn skewers, squid skewers, dan dan noodles, pork buns, fluffy sugar doughnuts. And for the piece de resistance…
Fried cricket. Yummo. The feel of those crunchy little legs going down my throat…
Hope my first post of 2014 didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth :)
Obligatory food porn photos. Unfortunately all the photos of me are on the BF’s phone, so you don’t get to see my dazzling bespectacled beanie-wearing face this time.