We slept fairly late and just managed to get to breakfast before it closed.
breakfast was OK but not great - a mix of Chinese and Western breakfast. The
best thing about breakfast in Asian hotels is that there is always an egg chef,
who prepares omelette, which Steven enjoys every morning. Yanmei dived straight
into the noodles, but soon went cold - as usual and "snailed" her way through
the rest of the breakfast.
It was sunny but cold, after yesterday's cold weather, we were all wearing
several layers of clothes to make sure we didn't freeze. We walked along Baofang
Hutong, a narrow street with Chinese homes, shops and restaurants and up Dongsi
Beidajie - all feeling better for some sleep. We hailed a taxi and drove north
to the Olympic Stadium.
The worlds largest steel structure, the Birds Nest was no less impressive in
real life than it was on the TV - it really does look like a birds nest. We
walked the perimeter and found a ticket office. There were a number of tourists,
mostly Chinese - and a few school parties. The stadium was no less impressive on
the inside, than it was on the outside. Rows and rows of red seats - it was easy
to imagine how impressive it must have been for all the athletes. It did however
seen smaller than on the TV, and was already showing signs of wear and tear -
evidently through lack of use.
We walked across the pitch, took pictures in front of the mascots, sat in
the seats and shopped for souvenirs. The Olympic song played relentlessly over
the loud speakers - it must be awful to work there and hear the song hundreds of
times per day. We left the stadium, saw the swimming stadium, but didn't go in,
and walked back along the Olympic drive, towards Beijing.
The Olympic Stadium is built on a north-south axis with the Drum and Bell
Tower's and the Forbidden City. We walked to the towers, the Drum Tower was
closed for renovation, but we'd visited it on our last trip to Beijing, so this
time we visited the Bell Tower. We climbed the steep steps to up to the clock,
which on a good day offers a great view of Beijing, but today was a bit smoggy.
The bell was used to make ceremonial announcements and rang 108 times (18 slow,
18 fast and 18 neither slow nor fast, repeated twice), is 7 meters high, weighs
63 tons and is reputedly and the largest and heaviest bell in China. The tower
was erected in the 12th Century.
We left the tower and passed the rows of rickshaw drivers and headed towards the Houhai and Qianhai lakes
and their picturesque bridges. We walked around the lake, heading south, and
stopped to see a man with his birds - some tied to his bicycle, others walking
around, probably with their wings clipped. One of the birds could take small
coins from your hand and put them into a piggy bank - much to everybody's
amusement including Yanmei and Daji's.
After a warm cup of coffee at Starbuck's we continued south through Behai Park.
The park was almost empty, but many of the plants and flowers were just starting
to bloom - including the forsythia. Parks in Bejing are kept beautifully, clean
with lots of flowers and trees. In difference to European parks, Beijing parks
are typically surrounded by a wall, and you must pay a small fee to enter them.
It's well worth it. We walked back to the hotel past the Forbidden City and
rested, a little tired and sore after the long day.
By 6pm we were hungry - the children had eaten a sausage and we a cake since
breakfast, so now was time for a real Chinese meal. The restaurant we'd eaten at
twice during our previous visit had closed down, so we headed north to a
restaurant Steven had read about. We were in luck, not only did we find it down
a small alleyway, but there was a table for us - usually to have to book in
advance - or so we'd read! Lui Zhai Shifu in the Jiangjia Dayuan Hutong is a
family owned restaurant. One dines in the courtyard of the family home, 20
tables, lots of colour and noise - an amazing atmosphere. Added to that the food
is fantastic - not least the Peking Duck, but also everything else we eat on our
two visits. We'd eaten too much - usually we order one plate more than we can
eat because we always end up with something we can't eat pr don't like. Not here
- and the food was so good we eat it all - including some caramelised apples,
which you have to be very careful with if you have fillings!
We decided to take a detour and walked along Beijing's first pedestrian street Longfusi Jie,
but the shops were closing down. Lene bought a bag - our first purchase of the
trip. We bought some breakfast for Daji and Yanmei at a local supermarket and
went back to the hotel. We were in bed by 10 and slept quickly, only to be woken
again by our neighbours - luckily we fell asleep quickly again. Daji had had
clocked up 38.000 steps on his pedometer!