Amazing Street Food in Xi’An

Xi’An is not only famous for its Terracotta Warriors, but also for its muslim street food. If you wanna have a look at how it looks like there, here you go.

 

Also, I forgot to post my video about my last day in China, so here it is also:

 

Thank you all so much for reading and watching!

See you next time!

Merveille.

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The Great Wall of China is pretty great!

I was looking forward to editing these videos from my Beijing trip. I feel like I got steadier at holding the camera, plus you can see me talking thoroughly in this one, right at the beginning, so it has more of a vlog-feeling.

You can read my blog posts about the first two days in Beijing here and here.

 

Thank you for reading and watching!

Merveille.

From Beijing to Xi’an: First evening in Xi’An

As you might have followed my previous blogposts about my trip to Beijing and my 3 days there, you know that the city was a very exhausting one. There is no denying it, that it is beautiful, has a lot of culture and history and I saw so many different things I couldn’t have seen anywhere else, I can be sure that I would never want to live in this city, even if the smog disappeared one day. This also doesn’t mean that I dislike big cities, quite the contrary actually, I really love big cities. I am in love with Shanghai for example, and I could seriously imagine living there, but Beijing was something different. It’s nice for a trip, but that’s all.

If you have missed the posts, you can read about them here:

Arrival | Day One: Great Wall |Day Two: Forbidden City

When I woke up on my fourth day in Beijing, I took my bags, checked out and headed to the train station to catch my early train to Xi’An. The train station was smaller than expected and super busy. There were almost more foreigners than chinese people. I also saw like three travel groups full with german people.

Taking trains in China is so convenient and the prices are pretty good. Way cheaper than the trains here in Germany. That’s one of the things that I miss the most about China.

Anyway, I arrived in Xi’An in the late afternoon. By the time my taxi driver took me to my hostel it was almost early evening. While I was on the train and on the taxi, I was texting my friend Qiqi, who lives in Xi’An. I met her on my travels to Suzhou in September as I posted on this blogpost, and I promised her to visit her in Xi’An before I left China.

She told me that her friend would pick me up and show me around town until she made it out of work.

By the time I got my things inside my dorm room which was huge by the way and very clean and almost empty (only 2 other people with me there), Qiqi’s friend texted me that he arrived and waited in the lobby for me. We planned to go visit the Drum Tower and Bell Tower and then go to the Muslim Street Food Square. I was starving, so this was a great idea.

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This guy was legit fire spitting in front of the Bell Tower
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Drum Tower

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It was really nice of him to show me around. His english was also quite good, so he could do a little bit of translation between Qiqi and me. Qiqi’s english was around the same level as my chinese. We somehow managed to communicate, even if it was just through smiles, gestures and hugs. But it was nice to somehow be able to communicate with her through her friend.

The Muslim Square actually blew my mind. It was my favourite part about Xi’An, and I would love to return just for the food sold there. They have everything from Kebap, Nut Candies, Muslim noodles, soups, pita-like breads, Fruits, Juices, Milk drinks, Fried stuff, just EVERYTHING! I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to look at and what to eat.

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This is how the nut candy is made. The white stuff is a sugar mixture they use for any kind of candy. It was very relaxing to watch this. 

We sat down at a traditional restaurant that sold soups and meat. My friend told me that this place was a very old family restaurant, and all the locals knew about it. I ordered a normal noodle soup, my friend ordered the spicy version and he also ordered a dish made of intestines. He didn’t know that I don’t like intestines, but I tried to see how it tasted. I definitely didn’t like it :D But he appreciated that I tried.

The food was delicious. We continued to roam around the streets a little bit more. I found a stand with the pita-style bread and bought one. It looked yummy, but it tasted a little bit dry.

Then I saw something fried. It was dough filled with vegetables and it looked sooooo yummy! We ordered some, shared it, but could only eat a little bit since it was really oily.

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The Street Food market has a lot to offer. I was so full after only 3 dishes, that I could neither eat nor drink anything. I regret not having tried the pomegranate juice and the milk drinks that are really famous here.

I still wanted to buy some boxes of the nut candy though. I love them and I wanted to bring them to Germany so I bought two boxes, one with sesame and one natural.

After that, we finally went to meet Qiqi. She came with our friend’s car which was a Jeep. We then drove to the Wild Goose Pagoda, another famous sight in Xi’An.

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The Wild Goose Pagoda does have its charm when it’s dark

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Bascially, on that first evening, I saw all the famous sights you can see inside of the city of Xi’An.

We took a lot of pictures there, walked around the square, and even found a park which had funny sculptures to pose with.

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One of the few nice pictures of me that day. I looked just so tired and exhausted, that I didn’t want to upload the pictures showing me in the park. 

It’s one of the best things you can do during your travels: Hanging out with locals who can show you around.

Unfortunately, it was getting quite late already, and I was feeling really sleepy. I had an early start and I had to wake up early the next morning as well, to go see the Terracotta Warriors.

Have you guys ever been to Xi’An? And let me know about your favourite street food you ever had.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille

Beijing Part 3: Beautiful people, 600-years old cat, and Kung-Fu Boys

After the very tiring second day, I woke up with only slightly hurting legs. I expected them to be more painful, but it was bearable.

I woke up early and headed to the Temple of Heaven. It was really close to my hostel. Not even 10 minutes walking distance.

I paid the entrance fee and was at first overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place and the activities that the locals, especially the seniors were practicing early in the morning, including Badminton, Taichi, Water caligraphy and more.

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I enjoyed watching them which I found way more interesting than the Temple of Heaven itself.

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Inside the Temple of Heaven

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So definitely make sure to visit this sight as early in the morning as possible. I think I was there at around 8 or 9 am. 

After you are finished taking photos of the Temple of Heaven, you can also have a look at the Temple of Good Harvest. There are also many people exercising.

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Some women were playing an interesting game wich looked like a hybrid between badminton and dancing. And the ball had a chiffon tail, so when it went flying up in the air, it actually looked like a beautiful singing bird.

I have all of that on film, so if I ever get to find a cool video editing program, I will just edit them all together into one video and post it here. If you guys have any suggestions for a good video editing software that is not too hard to learn and not too expensive, then please let me know.

Anyway, after leaving the Temple of Heaven, I took a taxi to the Forbidden City. I could have taken the metro, but the station was kind of far away, and I honestly didn’t feel like taking the metro again. The metro in Beijing is very cheap, but also quite inconvenient since you always have to change lines. 

Arriving at the Forbidden City, I was first confused because it said Palace Museum. I thought the Palace Museum was something different, but then quickly found out that it actually was the Forbidden City. I also bought a beautiful map that looked like drawn by hand. And I also got a electronic guide with a gps function that always told me where I was and gave the most important information about that certain place.

It was nice walking around the grounds and snapping photos of the intricate and unique architecture.

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It’s said that his cat is as old as the Forbidden City itself (~600 years)
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Inside the buildings of the Palace Museum
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Mostly, the concubines lived in here.
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A Pixiu with its baby, garding the gates

I would still advise you not to fall into the traps of the souvenir shops inside the Forbidden City. They are pros, and they will seriously make you buy stuff that you don’t really need. They will actually follow you, run after you to make you buy that thing they are trying to sell you. In the end, I was so pissed, that I just bought it. The best thing is to not even step foot inside those shops.

When I wanted to leave the Palace Museum, I was kind of confused. I couldn’t find the exit right away, so I ended up strolling in the park right before the exit and took some photos of the surrounding.

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These trees were all around the garden right before the exit
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Ceiling decorations of a Pagoda

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Unfortunately, this place was closed :/

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Some high school students then wanted to ask me some questions and take photos with me. They also offered me some delicious chocolate as a thank-you.

In the end, I finally managed to get out of the Museum and headed up to Jingshan Park to get a view of the Forbidden City from above.

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The walk up was a bit tiring, but it didn’t take too long and soon I found myself at the hill. After having climbed up the Great Wall, this ascension was a piece of cake :’D

The views from up there were unfortunately not as perfect as the views I got at the Great Wall the day before. Everything was smoggy and foggy and the pictures just didn’t turn out as well as I expected.

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Still, you can easily grasp the gigantic size of the Forbidden City. It literally is bigger than a german suburban town. I am sure that it is bigger than the suburban town I come from.

After the Palace Museum, I actually planned to visit the Summer Palace, but I realized that I probably wouldn’t have enough time. I still took a taxi and told the driver that I wished to go to the Summer Palace. He then started talking in chinese and told me that it probably wouldn’t be worth it, since it was quite late, and the Palace closed in like 2 hours or so. He also said with this traffic, it would probably take us around 1 hour to even get there. He then offered to drop me off at the nearest metro station. I was really impressed by myself that I understood everything he told me :’D It seemed like he was impressed, too, because he was laughing and talking to me as though I was a local. I then decided to go to Sanlitun, the main area for shopping and restaurants.

When I arrived there, I was kind of disappointed. It was quite a let down and not at all comparable to Nanjing Road in Shanghai. The whole area felt too westernized and kind of out of place.

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I chose to roam around the sidestreets to find a restaurant to eat at. Most places would serve food at 5pm (it was around 4.30). I didn’t want to wait, because at 6.30 pm I had to be at the hostel to be picked up for the Kung-Fu show. I was lucky with a Japanese restaurant which was quite small but very, very cute.

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I ordered rice and sushi (as I can remember), quickly finished my meal, went to Starbucks, got a drink and then stopped a taxi.

That was probably one of the longest taxi drives in my life. It took me 1 hour and around 80 (!!!) rmb to get to my hostel. If I knew how long this would take me, I would have taken the metro. I was almost late for the pick-up. I still had to get changed and leave all my bags in my room, but I made it in the end.

Upon arrival at the Kung-Fu show, I went inside and looked for my seats. The last few hours didn’t go well with the let-down that was Sanlitun and the long taxi ride, but I met Lisa again! The girl I met on the Wall. I also met another friend of hers, Lynette, a french girl who stayed at the same hostel as Lisa. They also just met at the Kung-Fu show. How random! That was the best finish to that rollercoaster trip that was Beijing.

The Kung-Fu show was amazing! Waaaaay better than the opera. I can only recommend you guys to visit it. Here are some pics:

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Before the performance, we could watch the performers practice

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At the end of the show, everyone was allowed to take a photo with the crew.

After the show, we walked all the way back, trying to find a metro station. By the time we found a metro station, I realized that we were right in front of the Temple of Heaven which meant that I could walk to my hostel from there. It was quite late in the evening, but I wasn’t scared at all. I said goodbye to my newly-found friends, bought fruits and snacks for the train ride the next day and then headed to my hostel to pack and go to sleep.

Although my trip to Beijing included a lot of fails (Getting lost, wrong hostel, longest taxi ride ever,…), I can say that I truly enjoyed Beijing. It is not my favourite city though, and if it wasn’t for the Great Wall, I probably wouldn’t have visited.

This was my last day in Beijing, and the next morning would start with a train ride to a different city.

Stay tuned to find out where I was headed to next.

Have you guys ever been to Beijing? What were your experiences? Tell me in the comments.

Beijing Part 2: The Great Wall and the Great Duck

I was really excited for this day since I have arrived in Beijing.

I woke up early in the morning, had breakfast and waited until it was time to be picked up by the driver.

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I remember that the pancakes were bitter as hell. At first I thought it was the chocolate sauce, but I realized it was the pancakes. I guess they forgot to put sugar inside or something. I have no clue.

Anyway, there was another family of four waiting with me. They were speaking spanish and their 2 sons were around the same age as me. I started talking to them in the bus and found out that one of them was actually working in China and his brother and parents came to visit him. Now they were travelling around China together. As fas as I can remember, they were from Madrid. They were really friendly.

Our driver let us out at one point so we could change into a bigger bus. There were different young people from different hostels all being picked up into this one big bus. Most of the people seemed to be from the US, but there were some Europeans as well.

With this bus, we drove around 1 hour again until we arrived at the Mutianyu Section. This is one of the oldest sections of the Great Wall, that’s also why it was so far out of the city. There are different sections you can choose at your hostel. There is a renewed, more touristy section, close to the city which seems to be always very filled up with people though.

When we arrived, we got our tickets and took the cable car up the Wall. Walking would take too long and we wouldn’t be as high up with such a great view over the great Great Wall. We had to pay extra for the cable car, but it was okay. Some people walked up, but I am glad I didn’t walk. I would have been pretty exhausted, and I think I couldn’t have made it back again, since our meeting time would be after 3 hours (which, in my opinion, is quite enough for a massive wall like that, because I just possibly, couldn’t walk any further after those 3 hours).

After being up after the cable car, we were rewarded with an amazing view.

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Almost alone on one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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If you think these pictures are breath-taking, then you should try climbing up that wall, and you will know what it means when your breath is literally taken away :’D

It was a very, very exhausting ascension. At first, I walked together with the two guys from Spain, but the steps were getting steeper and more irregular, which means that the height and width of the steps is irregular, so it is  more exhausting to climb them up.

At some point, I had to tell those guys to just go ahead and not wait for me, since I had to pause every 5 minutes or so.

A little recommendation for the future: if you plan on climbing up the Great Wall, be prepared. Run marathons if you want to, but make sure your condition is good, because that Wall is a huge chunk, even if you only walk a small section of it. I wasn’t fit at all, and I actually thought I was gonna faint and tumble down the steps.

But while I was trying to climb up the stairs and pausing every 5 steps, I met a girl from America, Lisa, and she was struggling as well. We started talking and motivated each other to climb up the stairs. Before the last watchtower, there were almost vertical steps leading up, and I actually thought twice before climbing them up. I felt like a goat (which I actually am regarding my chinese zodiac sign :’D)

Anyway, we did it together, and up there, a man was selling drinks and snacks. Since I felt quite dizzy, I really wanted that snickers. It was around 4 times more expensive than a regular snickers you could get at a shop, but I really, really wanted it. And I don’t regret it until this day, because it was the best snickers I ever had. After that day, I started to have a special appreciation for snickers :D

At that last watchtower, there was a sign that using the following path is on own responsibility, since that part has not been restored properly, and it said that parts of the rocks could break which was actually true. Lisa and me decided to continue walking after a short break. The next part of the Mutianyu section was pretty isolated and really old. It was still a wall, but some parts were so broken, that it was quite dangerous walking on them.

We came across a woman who sold snacks and drinks as well, but what caught my eye were the red wish ribbons she was selling for 20 rmb (around 3€). I really really wanted to do something like that in China, so I bought one. You could choose a character (Love, Family, Fortune, Luck, or Career), and could write down names or a wish on the ribbon. I chose Family and wrote down the names of my parents and siblings. Then, we could tie it around on one of the trees around there.

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Lisa did it as well, and then the woman took a picture of us. She was actually really friendly and such a cute woman. We got into talking to her, how she walked ALL (!) the steps up there every morning to sell her stuff to the true travellers, the heros as she called us and others who made it up to her. I was madly impressed by her and I am sure that this woman is probably gonna live at least until her 80s. I decided to buy a souvenir for my cousin there, since she really wanted a magnet from China and that woman was selling some beautiful ones. She was also selling beer and she kept them in the wall between the stones :’D pretty clever!

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Soon, we had to say goodbye to her and head back to the cable car to meet up with the group for lunch. Lisa and me collected the last bits of our strength and walked down. Of course it was easier, but we could feel how heavy our legs were getting and we still had the almost-vertical steps at the last official watchtower.

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This was after we walked down the steepest and longest part of the stairs. After I stood still, I realized how my legs were shaking. It was insane. I have never been so exhausted before.

When we finally met for lunch and had all the food in front of us, I was delighted. It was probably the best-tasting lunch I ever had. It was just the most simple chinese food you can think of, but everything was infinitely delicious.

Unfortunately, our trip was already over, and we soon found ourselves back at the bus. This time, I sat next to Lisa and we talked all the ride through about why we came to Beijing, what else we wanted to see here, and what our next travel plans in China were. She only came to travel, but she wanted to see as many places as possible before returning back to the US. We both wanted to see the Kung-Fu show, so we thought we might see each other again. That would be funny, actually.

When I got back to my hostel, I decided to sleep for a little bit again until it was time for the Beijing opera show. The driver took me to the place again. I was there pretty early, so I lost myself in the souvenir shop and bought SO. MANY. THINGS! I want you guys to be cautious with your money in Beijing, because those sales people are pros. They will manipulate you in such a gentle and smooth way into letting you think that you absolutely need that picture or tea set or whatever it is you are going to buy.

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Yes, I bought a beijing opera mask, not this one on the picture though, but a similar one, and it hangs on my wall now. I actually don’t regret it. To be honest, the stuff they were selling at the opera shop was pretty useful and of very nice quality. I did buy a lot though. A mask, a bunch of bookmarks, 2 pouch bag sets, and one tea cup set that I actually bought as a gift for my father’s aunt.

The Beijing opera itself was actually a bit disappointing. I actually liked the Sichuan opera way better.

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After the opera, I still wanted to have some good dinner, so I took a taxi to the famous duck restaurant, DaDong Roast Duck Restaurant. It looked extremely fancy and I kinda felt weird there, all alone, but I just ignored it and tried to have a fab time, which I did.

First of all, they cut the duck into its pieces right in front of you. Plus, you get a lot of free stuff, like that red bean soup or strawberries for dessert.

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This was chiezi, an eggplannt dish.
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I forgot what this was, but I didn’t like it.
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This was the red bean soup I got for free. It was yumm!
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And these the fancy strawberries on ice.

The restaurant was a bit expensive of course. I spent around 200 rmb for all of that (around 25€), which I think is quite okay for the location, the food and the extraordinary service. If I didn’t buy the extra chiezi and that other yellow dish, I would have even paid less.

This dinner was the perfect end to that adventurous day.

Have you guys ever been to the Great Wall? Would you like to go?

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

Beijing Part 1: Getting lost and overwhelmed

As promised, I am writing about my final trip I did around China in March, before I headed back home last year April. I still had Beijing and Xi’An on my list to tick off, so I decided to do the typical trip to those two cities. I heard many tourists and travellers take that route between the two cities via train, and I decided to do that as well.

That was not all, though. Last minute, before I left for Beijing, my boss told me that I had to go to Hong Kong one last time, because I had to extend my visa once more, for only a few days. That did piss me off, because I have already booked all the planes and trains already, and I could have taken the plane from Shanghai airport. This way, after arriving in Shanghai from Xi’An, I’d have to take the train to Yuyao, my boss would pick me up, take my suitcase, and take me to the hotel for me to catch the bus to Ningbo airport. Such a hustle can only happen in China :’D

During that one week, I took 4 trains, 4 planes, and 2 busses in total :’D If it wasn’t enough, we even planned one last Shanghai trip after I came back from Hong Kong :’D That was insane! Never travelled to so many cities in such little time :’D Almost felt like funforlouis :’DD

Anyway, my flight to Beijing was early in the morning from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. I took one of the earliest trains to Shanghai, and upon arriving at the check-in, I was happy to see a great seat which turned out to be an emergency exit seat. The views from the plane were great. The sun was blasting and the sky was clear blue. A pity I didn’t use my camera to take a photo.

I flew with China Eastern Airlines, and I really liked it. Everything was on time, the stewardesses were friendly and the flight was smooth.

I think everything was just too good.

After landing, I took the metro to find my hostel. I had the directions and I also had the address in chinese. I was doing fine, but then, I completely lost my way. It was ridiculous. I was already on the way for almost 3 HOURS!!! Walking around in circles, asking for the way, trying to stop taxis to take me there. Nothin worked.

Because I was so stressed, I didn’t take so many pictures. I was despairing. Finally, a taxi stopped and took me to my hostel. But he was driving in the opposite direction that I came from. I was starting to get really confused. Then, he just let me out in front of a construction and told me I had to walkd behind it to get to the entrance of the hostel since cars couldn’t drive there. It was ridiculous. Ive had enough. I walked and walked through bumpy streets with my huge suitcase and finally, FINALLY found the entrance. It was very hidden, the taxi driver was right.

I entered, relieved and they were looking for my room on the computer. And the bad luck didn’t stop. They said there was no room unter my name. I was panicking. I showed them the e-mail and the girl understood. I was at the wrong hostel. It had basically the same name.

Happy Dragon is a hostel name that is used for three different hostels in three totally different locations in Beijing. They called the hostel and asked if there was a room booked and they confirmed. The receptionst was so kind to organize a driver for me to take me there. And again, they took me back to where I came from.

As it had turned out, I had the directions to the right hostel, but wrote down the wrong chinese address. So guys, please, if you decide to book a room at Happy Dragon, double check which one it is you are staying at and make sure you have both the right directions and the right address.

I paid for the drive at the reception and was told that I got a room upgrade. I actually booked a dorm, but I got a private room. And I didnt have to pay anything extra. I was so happy, and even happier when I saw how clean and beautiful it was. The bed was soft as well. I was so tired and exhausted that I could just lie down and sleep. Even my hunger couldn’t keep me from sleeping for around 2 hours.

When I woke up, I was still tired, but I had to get something to eat and I wanted to explore the city a little bit. It was slowly getting dark, so I got out of bed, got dressed and left. First, I also signed up for the Great Wall trip the next day.

I walked to the metro, and since it was already around 7pm, the streets were full with people. The metro as well. I thought Shanghai metro was full, but the one in Beijing was even worse. I couldn’t believe when I saw how many people were still getting in.

I somehow got off at my station which was the entrance to the Forbidden City.

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Of course, I wasn’t planning to get inside, since it was already closed, but I just wanted to explore the area. I guess I would have done a better choice if I went to get some street food somewhere.

After walking around the area, I quickly got bored and felt my hunger. I took the metro again, this time to find a restaurant somewhere. I didn’t have to walk too far from the metro station. It was a modern american-korean-mexican fusion restaurant in a Hutong. The area was very quiet and old but it looked very authentic.

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Nachos and a salad, Although I was pretty hungry, I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy at that hour.

When I was soon finished with dinner, the only thing I wanted to do was go sleeping in my warm, comfy bed. I took a taxi and enjoyed the late night views I got from Beijing. A beautiful, big city with a huge history, but very overwhelming for me. I saw the beauty of Beijing, but it was still very confusing to me.

What about you guys? What were your first expressions of Beijing?