We landed in Beijing at about 2pm this afternoon. Our flight was a little delayed, but not so much that it mattered. When checking in at Wuxi airport we saw a sign apologising for a flight that was delayed due to ‘company plan’. We were pleased that our airline didn’t plan too much of a delay for us.
We were glad we had arranged an airport pick up, because our hotel is in the middle of Beijing’s hutongs and I am sure it would have been a struggle to find it by ourselves. However, it is well worth finding. We are staying at the Orchid Hotel, a boutique hotel, sympathetically converted from an old building. Our bedroom is off the central courtyard. It is small, but has everything we need, including heating and cats. The hotel is great, it has a really cool feel to it and the owners are really happy to help with restaurant recommendations and other advice.
The temperature in Beijing is about -2°C, but we were expecting this so we have stocked up on warm
clothes. This afternoon we kept warm by walking up the steep stairs to the top of the Drum Tower. From the top we had a great view across the hutongs and beyond. The hutongs are traditional style Chinese low-rise buildings. In the distance we could see the skyscrapers of newer parts of the city, but they seemed a world away. After a while, some people started beating the enormous drums in the tower. Historicaly, the drums would have been used to mark standard time for the city.
After tentatively heading back down the steep staircase, we went in search of the lake we had seen in the distance. The lake was completely frozen and there are booths around it where you can hire ice skates or small ice bikes. It was fun to watch people sliding around and we have vowed to try it ourselves before we leave.
For dinner we went to a nearby Yunan restaurant called Hanay (as recommended by our hotelier). Yunan is a province in South West China bordering Laos, Vietnam and Burma. The food was delicious; quite spicy, but just right to warm us up. Our waitress spoke excellent English. She told me the green pu’er teaI was drinking was known to aid weight loss and would make me need to ‘answer the call of nature’ about three times tomorrow. Tomorrow we are going to the Great Wall, so I am now concerned about whether the facilities will be sufficient.