So, finally our last day of this amazing 60th birthday holiday! It has been a fantastic holiday and we hope to return to China next year before our visas expire in 2019. We are planning on visiting Shanghai, returning to Beijing, having a cruise on the Yangtze and taking the train from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet and taking a tour there……
Despite having already said our goodbyes last night we breakfasted with Chris and Wendy and Ricky and said goodbye again! We packed for the final time and checked out, leaving our luggage at the hotel, before taking the metro out to the Olympic Sports Center stop. We walked all around the Bird’s Nest, the Beijing National Stadium, which is a stunningly artistic stadium. It was used for the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, and will be used again for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics which will be a first for a stadium.
We meandered through the huge (what is not huge in China!) Olympic Green past the Water Cube (National Aquatics Center), Torch Square, the National Indoor Stadium where there were youngsters outside being trained and practising speed skating, and then up past the National Convention Center, and the Chinese Ancient Chinese Literature Search Center before nipping down some stairs to the open air area of the Xin’ao Shopping Center.
We had spied a Costa for coffee but were distracted by a couple of groups of older Chinese men and women playing beautiful melodic Chinese music on their Chinese instruments – another unexpected but not to be missed moment on this holiday.
Coffee done, squatty loo found (am now a seasoned squatty loo user) we rejoined the metro at the Olympic Green stop to go to Nanluoguxiang, to follow the Lonely Planet 2km walking tour through the Hutong. The Hutong is an old-style city alley or lane and is one of the most distinctive features and in Beijing. There are thousands of hutongs in the city, many of which were built during the Yuan (1206-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Nanluoguxiang is one of the top 10 most famous hutongs in old city of Beijing.
This is a very old, impoverished area of Beijing. Many of the residences highlighted in the walking tour info had plaques outside referencing famous residents of past dynasties but now have signs up stating ‘No Visitors’. Sadly the fame gained from being highlighted in Lonely Planet means we can no longer gain access to the courtyards etc. We made it to the Bell and Drum Towers which signified the end of our interesting insight into another part of Beijing.
We walked some more down the interesting and somewhat alternative main street before taking a metro one last time back to our hotel.
We had lunch and some tasty fruity green teas at the RealBrew Tea cafe before collecting our luggage and getting a taxi to Beijing Airport.
The Airport too looks new, is hugely spacious and again, as everywhere in China, is spotlessly clean.
We had to take a shuttle train to the international departure gates and going through passport control and security. Security was slow but extremely thorough and we now await our flight to Hong Kong and then our connecting flight to London which leaves at 00.15 and due back to Heathrow at 6.15 tomorrow.
Distance walked: 19,272 steps / 8.35 miles