Our White Christmas I – Beijing (22nd – 25th Dec)



Elkan is excited.
He is looking forward for another white Christmas. He has been bugging me for the snow. He was only 4 when we took him to the snow mountain in Korea back in 2008. Amazingly, he remembers those snow encounters clearly – more than the recent 2009 Japan and 2011 Australia holidays. This year’s holiday travel brief is simple and obvious, Elkan wanted to play snow and Harshad wanted to climb the Great Wall. We decided to spend this year’s Christmas holidays in Beijing and Harbin. Another good news for the group – Santarina Kalinda is spending her Christmas with us in China! The more the merrier!

Our first stop was Beijing – the city with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To date, China is ranked 3rd (after Italy and Spain) with a total of 41 World Heritage Sites (and another 52 sites under pending).

We spent 4 days in Beijing. We visited 4 key World Heritage Sites (The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China), 2 Olympic icons (The Bird Nest and the Water Cube) and 2 prominent shopping sites (The Village and The Place).

This is going to be another memorable trip (with many “firsts”). At the Great Wall, we had our first scary chair-lift rides up to the fortress. I was petrified by the shaky chair-lift. Not to mention our first thrilling Toboggan down the hills.

Outside the Bird Nest, we experienced our first nerve-breaking walk/dance on frozen lake! Honestly, we had no idea if it was safe to walk on the ice. It felt thin and dangerous. We could see the water underneath the ice sheet. Anyway, we repeated the same dangerous “ice-walking” stunt on the big Lake Kunming at the Summer Palace a few days later where Elkan was jumping and rolling carelessly on the icy floor.

In the coming days, we will be experiencing our first “overnight soft-sleeper” carriage. For some of us, this will be our longest rail travel ever – covering over 1,200km on rail on a 14-hour train from Beijing to the snow mountain at Yabuli, Harbin. (In total, that is almost 28 hours on rail, covering 2,400km.) This is also the gang’s first taste of -25˚ winter. And many more “firsts” yet to be discovered.

Beijing is a popular and familiar city amongst many. Therefore, I shall let the pictures tell the story.


Here are our Top 5 favorite Moments in Beijing:

NUMBER 1 – THE GREAT WALL AT MUTIANYU (慕田峪长城)
Located 45 miles away from Beijing, Mutianyu offers some of the best scenic views of the Great Wall. It is also “quieter” and less crowded than the more popular “Badaling (八达岭)”. To enjoy the view and avoid the crowds, it is worth waking up early in the morning and heads for the Great Wall.


NUMBER 2 –
THE SUMMER PALACE (颐和园)

A beautiful summer retreat for Empress Dowager Cixi, UNESCO declared the Summer Palace “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design”. To date, It is the best-kept existing royal garden in Beijing. It is a beautiful composition of man-made structures and nature. The pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges form a harmonious relationship with the natural stone walls and lake. It is truly a living space of outstanding aesthetic value. This is a living museum to witness the great Chinese landscaping.


NUMBER 3 –
THE FORBIDDEN CITY (紫禁城)

Home of 24 Chinese Emperors, the 500-year old Palace is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. It is also the world’s largest surviving palace complex, consisting of 980 surviving buildings with 9,999 bays of rooms. (Number 10,000 is a scared number exclusive for the Emperor only). Today, it is an empty Palace with little artifacts. Many national treasures were stolen during the Japanese Invasion and civil wars. Some of the iconic treasures are now displayed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.


NUMBER 4 – THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN (天坛)

Larger than the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven. It is also the place where General Yuan Shikai, then President of the Republic of China, performed a Ming prayer ceremony at the temple, as part of a wishful effort to have himself declared Emperor of China.


NUMBER 5 – THE BIRD NEST (鸟巢) & WATER CUBE (水立方)
Iconic structures of world records – The Bird Nest and Water Cube were made popular during the 2008 Beijing Olympic. To maintain the structures and attract crowds, the Bird Nest is now converted into a Snow Theme Park while the Water Cube has now becomes a Water Theme Park.

Christmas is here! And we are having our little Christmas shopping and dinner at Sanlitun and The Place. Tomorrow morning at 5am, we will be setting off for our long-awaited white Christmas at Harbin and Yabuli. It will be a 14-hour journey on rail. This is going to be exciting and I am expecting a couple of surprises! (And I am sure the ladies and my baby prince will be shivering in the cold!)

Merry Christmas to all my friends and families! Stay tuned for our Harbin photos.

5 Responses to Our White Christmas I – Beijing (22nd – 25th Dec)

  1. Regina says:

    Hi Wahbiang, we are planning a family trip to Beijing from 1-7 Dec. After booking my tickets then I started researching. And then realised that December isn’t a good time to visit Beijing due to the cold winter. Well, we are going to be brave & be prepared since our tickets are non-refundable.
    You recommended Mutianyu, but the chair lift was scary…. how long was the ride? And how many paxs can a chair lift take?
    I was told that the ground at the Great Wall was wet and slippery and we can easily slip & fall. Was that your experience?
    Was the weather dark and gloomy? Was it also dark within the summer palace, temple of heaven? Did you get a local guide to bring you around?
    What would your advice be when travelling during winter?
    Looking forward to your reply.
    Regina


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js

    • Wahbiang says:

      Hi Regina,

      Sorry for the late reply as I am traveling in Europe now.

      Dec will be bitter wet cold (minus 2 to 5) depending how well you can take the winter cold.

      The chair lift was indeed scary, without any safety belt (dangerous for small kid who can easily slips through the seat). That blog was about 5 years ago so I won’t know if they have renovated the place. Each chair can take 2 pax.

      Mutianyu was a lot more quieter than Badailing (away from the bus tour groups). I advise you to read more recent reviews from TripAdvisor’s and other bloggers.

      When we were at the Great Wall, it was sunny and not wet or slippery (as long there isn’t rain and ice overnight). It rained and turned icy one morning and everywhere on the streets are slippery! Best to get winter spikes soles that you can wrap over the shoes to get more firm footing during such days.

      As it is winter and you will be much up north. Day time is short. Best to wake up early and avoid the tour crowd and make full use of the daylight.

      For all our tour, we didn’t have a local guide. You can hire a driver (taxi or Didi Uber app) to bring you guys around. It is much comfortable than waiting for a cab during the cold winter by the side of the road. And if it rain or snow, it will be difficult to get cabs, so it is best to have a driver for a day or 2..it cost no more than 600rmb to 800rmb depending on the distance and hours.

  2. Leon says:

    Hi Wahbiang, your post looks amazing. Thanks for sharing your travel experience. I like the photos in this post, they all look beautiful and professional. My friend and I are planning to travel to the Beijing city this year, and just wonder how you think this itinerary, https://www.43km.co/published_trips/638b236d-1b6e-451c-8ff9-eab16a4fc679, if it is good, we’d like to follow its route. Thanks.

  3. flamebeans says:

    hi wahbiang, I’ll be heading to Beijing in december during the christmas/new year period. was wondering if you can advise what to wear, especially for bottoms.
    also, is it easy to travel around using the metro? I’ll be going alone. 🙂

    • Wahbiang says:

      Hi Flamebeans,

      December will be extremely cold and wet in Beijing. Temperature can be minus 1-2 degrees and feels much colder due to the dampness and wind. It is best to wear a wind&rain proof jacket and thick inner-wear to keep warm. It will be useful to wear a head-wear to cover your ears.

      Metro isn’t too difficult for Mandarin speaking tourist. However, it may be more convenient for you to take a taxi to most of the attractions (so you save time and away from the cold). I find it extremely convenient to engage a taxi driver or a private driver (from local 4-star hotel) for a day’s tour. Plan your trip so you can cover 3-4 key attractions around Beijing. Avoid joining any cheap tour package as many includes “shopping tours” instead of spending ample time at the key sites.

      Travel safe and have a great time!

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