My full day exploring the many layers of Beijing | Beijing, China | A complete log in photos and text of my full day exploring the many layers of Beijing to include a morning at the Lama Temple + Hutongs + Tea Ceremony at the Bell Tower. Lunch at Zijin Mansion restaurant at the new Waldorf Astoria Beijing. Afternoon at the Beihai Park + Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Afternoon Tea back at my hotel Raffles Beijing. Later visit to the Temple of Heaven. Traditional dinner and Pekin Duck experience at Cantonese restaurant Huang Ting at the Peninsula Beijing. And finally some non-traditional snacks at the pedestrian night street market and bazaar of Wangfujing, before calling the day back at my suite at the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy my last cup of tea and off to bed, happy knowing that I have managed to experience and see the many layers of Beijing.
First stop of the morning, was a private half day tour of the surroundings of the Forbidden City, hosted by Abercrombie & Kent China. The tour included stops and visits to the Lama Temple, Hutongs and the Bell Tower with a private tea ceremony.
Also known as “Yonghe Temple”. Temple and monastery of Tibetan Buddhism located in the Dongcheng District of Beijing, China.
Next, we moved to the iconic Hutongs. A side of Beijing you must explore. Hutongs are a type of narrow alleys or streets, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities. most prominently Beijing. Alleys formed by lines of siheyuan – traditional courtyard residences. Nowadays almost 25% of Beijing’s population reside in them. Beijing is divided in 6-rings, surrounding it epicenter, the Royal Forbidden City. Hutongs are mainly located in the second ring. A mix of middle/low class love there. Some areas are becoming rather trendy and modern, and I would not be surprise to find on my next visit a sort of Hutong SOHO district.
At the very end of the road from the hutong in Dongcheng District, we run into our next destination and landmark, the Bell Tower, were a lovely surprise was awaiting for me. They were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. Playing an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. The surprise, was my own private tea ceremony and degustation, which lasted approximately 30 to 45 minutes, with a very lovely and funny local host. This was my second Tea Ceremony while in China – first was in Shanghai at the Confucius Temple. The tea ceremony at the Bell Tower, despite being very entertaining, felt a but touristy and geared towards selling the merchandise at the very end of the ceremony. Just so you are prepare and don’t feel as uncomfortable as I felt at the very end.
After this, my morning tour by Abercrombie & Kent came to an end, and my guide took me to the main gates of the Forbidden City to finish his guide.
Since I have visited already the Forbidden City, I decided to just explore the surroundings, walking by the parks, following the walls. I started to get a bit peckish … ha ha ha … so it was the perfect time for lunch, specially since I had already made fabulous plans for it.
For lunch I was hosted and invited by the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, in Wangfujing, to come for a walk-around the property follower by lunch at their signature Chinese restaurant Zijin Mansion. I must say that this property caught my full attention, and I would rank it as my TOP 03 favorite Beijing city hotels. It is the only hotel in the city to offer a proper Hutong courtyard experience, with two villas located just across the main building. (see more photos below). As for the lunch, was a degustation menu prepared specially for us.
Time to hit the road again. There is so much to see and Beijing is such a massive city. Next stop was the Beihai Park.
At the Beihai Park, you will find the so known White Pagoda. Beihai – meaning Northern Sea – Park was an imperial garden and now a public park located to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing. First built in the 11th century, it is among the largest of all Chinese gardens and contains numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples. At the center of the park is an island called Jade Flower Island – highest point is 32 meters, where the White Pagoda seats. Kublai Khan received Marco Polo. At the suggestion of a famous Tibetan lama, Emperor Shunzhi, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty agreed to build a Tibetan pagoda to show his belief in Buddhism and his desire for the unification of Chinese ethnic groups.
Next on my itinerary was the Opera of Beijing, or better known as the National Center of Performing Arts. Located over the main Chang’an Avenue and steps away from Tiananmen Square. It literally looks like an UFO has landed over a mirror of water over the epicenter of Beijing. Local people also refer to this building at the giant egg. And after that along the same avenue, is Tiananmen Square and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong and the National Museum of China.
At 3 O’Clock Sharp, I walked back to my hotel the Raffles Beijing, for a very special event. I was hosting to friends from New York, who happened to be in Beijing at the same time as me, for one of my favorite experiences ” High Tea”. And where better to do so, that in China and at a Raffles Hotel, right ?
A brief break plus wardrobe change and off I went again to burn all the calories of my High Tea. This time, my next destination for the afternoon was the Temple of Heaven. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Daoist temple. The surrounding park is quite extensive, consisting of playgrounds, exercise and game areas. These facilities are well used by adults, particularly in the morning, for choral shows, ethnic dances, and other presentations.
Time for dinner. This time hosted by the Peninsula Hotel Beijing. Began with a short walk-around the property, which was indeed quite short, since the entire hotel is under, a well deserved, full renovation, which will be completed by early 2017 (note that the hotel remains open, while the renovation takes place). I was lucky to see the mockup rooms, but unfortunately no photos were allowed. All I can say is that the look and feel, will be pretty similar to their sister property the Peninsula Hotel Paris. After my site inspection, I was hosted to my first Peking Duck gourmet experience, at their signature Cantonese style restaurant Huang Ting, among many other local delights, ordered to the table. I mean, Chinese people do know well how to create a lovely spread. As for the Pekin Duck, it was so delicious and it melted in my mouth. Mind I am not a duck eater, but this was quite on my liking.
IMPORTANT: Book the Raffles Beijing with me and get the following VIP Amenities on me: Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests + RMB 300 equivalent Spa or Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay, not valid on room rate, no cash value + Special amenities for Club rooms/suites: unlimited pressing private check-in/out, breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails + Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability. All amenities are subject to modification at the moment of booking.
After a lovely dinner at the Peninsula Hotel Beijing, I decided to walk back to my hotel, and make a quick stop at the buzzing pedestrian street Night Bazaar and Food Market of Wangfujing. This wasn’t that quiet nor traditional. And YES !!!! I did try the scorpions and water beetles on skewers, and I must say, they were quite tasteful and very crunchy. BTW these two were the safest options, among seahorses, centipedes, sheep’s various body parts, snakes and a whole selection of insects on a stick to your liking.
After traditional dinner, followed by a non (so) traditional one, and a long and amazing day exploring the many layers of Beijing, I headed back to my hotel, the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy a nice cup of Puer Tea and off to bed.
Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
IMPORTANT: Book the Raffles Beijing with me and get the following VIP Amenities on me: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests + A complimentary dinner for up to two people per room, once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities, at East 33) + Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability. All amenities are subject to modification at the moment of booking.
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