Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday Morning in Temple of Heaven

It was hard to wake up late during travelling for me. I was afraid of missing many things the place could offer. That's the insecurity I feel when travelling. When I know the place (thing) is not belongs to me, I won't take it for granted. Mmm...I guess that's the trick for me to appreciate a place (thing), to be always on the move and never settle. But for now, it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. I'll figure it out later :D

While Sunday morning at home usually sees me lazing around on bed or in front of TV, my first Sunday morning in Beijing I woke up to an early sunrise from comfy bed at Steph's house and quickly heading to subway station - to Temple of Heaven.

Sunday morning in Temple of Heaven was enthusiastic. The Maroon 5 Sunday Morning melody keeps playing in my mind when remembering the day, definitely not No Doubt's. The weather was still cold (for me) but the park was filled with so many people that I expected them to stay inside home. As I entered from the North Gate, music could be heard (not Maroon 5's of course) like there was some sort of festival were going on. 

North Gate crowd

The music came from them.

Yes, they were dancing...happily :D
Look at how they enjoyed themselves.

There were so many activities in the park that day besides dancing. The park serves as a place for the local especially the elderly to gather and socialize. As I moved further inside, there I found a man singing and writing on walking pavement and more dancing.

It got more crowded when approaching the Long Corridor.
The spaces in between the red column of The Long Corridor were fully occupied up until the entrance of Gate of the Supreme Hall.

They were playing cards;

Chinese chess;

And even knitting;

And this is....mmmm, i had to peep through in between these uncles to see.

"Excuse me, what's so interesting here?"

Aha, another boardgame. This must be an interesting game because many were surrounding the two players.

If domino is your kind of game, do join this group please. I might need to learn how to play first before joining them.

 Perhaps this uncle could help teaching me how to play

But this one looks more professional, with his cap and all :D

It was too hard to learn by watching (uncles didn't want to let me learn, they were too busy playing). So, eventually I chose to join this 2 lovely aunties.

At least they can teach me how to make this cute panda...on my next visit :p

No, I didn't learn how to play board game nor knitting here. But one thing I learnt from them elders was to have fun in everything I do regardless of the age. You are not too young or too old for anything :D

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekly Travel Photo

Toboggan ride, China

Yeeehaaaa....This fun ride is available at a very historical and magnificent site in the world! A place where ancient and modern meet. Guess where it is. But please don't answer it is in a theme park ;p

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The fastest way to Beijing from Tianjin

Although Air Asia offers dirt cheap flight to Beijing, they don't really landed in Beijing (Beijing Capital International Airport, IATA:PEK) but in Tianjin (Tianjin Binhai International Airport, IATA:TSN), a metropolis 140km away. However, landing in Tianjin and travelling between the 2 metropolis are still cheap than a roundtrip ticket to Beijing. Yay to frugal travelling! :D

While travelling with bus will take approximately 2.5 hours to reach Beijing, why not use a more convenient and fastest transportation, bullet train!

How to get to the station?
There are actually 2 options; Airport Shuttle Bus or Taxi

Airport Shuttle Bus

From departure hall of Tianjin Binhai International Airport, walk straight outside of the airport to purchase ticket at this Shuttle Bus Station counter.

Ticket to Tianjin Railway Station cost only CNY10. Although the counter is at international airport, none of them speaks english (don't panic, this is the time to use your Mandarin you've been practising). Or u can just point the destination at the glass window if u have difficulty purchasing your ticket :p Bus to railway station departs every 30 minutes and duration is 30 minutes.


Metered taxi usually cost around CNY40-50 from airport to Tianjin Railway Station. It will take about 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic.

During my last visit, the bus stopped a bit far from the railway station due to some road closure and I had to lug my [heavy] luggage and tail other passengers to the station.

Tianjin Railway Station (back side)

Like at the airport, all your bags need to undergo x-ray machine for security check here. No exception. This procedure was effected since pre-Olympic 2008 and it gets extended to each subway station too.

The railway station is sooooooo big than I imagined it should! I was amazed at the massiveness and its modern interior. Nothing like any railway station i've been to (I haven't been to many stations to be honest). Well, I think it should be built like so to cater the billions population of China! For this station also connects to other cities in China as well.

If u need to purchase a local sim card, buy it here (near the entrance) at one of China's telco company. I couldn't find anywhere cheaper than here!

Purchasing ticket for bullet train need not to be in advance as there are 70 trips daily between Tianjin-Beijing. I opted to use the ticketing machine as it has english translation.

Sayra helping me buying ticket

Ticket is priced according to its class:
Top Class - CNY99
1st Class - CNY69
2nd Class - CNY58

For just 30minutes ride, the 2nd class seat is decent and comfortable enough. Seat is numbered and you'll get complimentary bottled water.

Just so you know, this is the look of the ticket and the important info u should be checking.

15 minutes before the train leaves, find yourselves queueing with the rest of these people. Did I tell u China has the largest population?

I was queueing impatiently to board the top 10 fastest train in world with them all and when I saw IT, I was super excited like a kid gets a free candy (it was more like 'jakun' actually :p)

 Oh yeah baby, that's the train :D

Let's see how the inside of this train in 2nd class coach.

The seat numbering

The seat

There's overhead bag compartment

Passage to another coach


The complimentary bottled water

Ok, I guess enough about the interior of the train and its services. This CRH train is about speed y'all. It can goes to maximum of 350 km/h!

In 6 minutes;

And this was the fastest speed I captured during this trip; 

In exactly 30 minutes at 6.00pm, the train reached Beijing South Railway Station. And this is me, officially in BEIJING! Yippie :D

That's how u can travel from Tianjin Binhai International Airport to Beijing South Railway Station in total of 1 hour.

Beijing South Railway Station is another big railway station and interconnected with Beijing Subway Line 4. You can connect to any subway station from here. For me, here was the starting point of my Beijing's travel adventure :D I straight away making a ticket purchase to Datunlu East Station, where Steph's house is.

To end the day, I had my dinner (first meal in Beijing) at muslim restaurant next to Datunlu East Station.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where I spent my [cold] nights in Beijing

It was a cold winter for me when I arrived Beijing. But it would not be for someone who already acclimatized to cold weather. Average night time temperature of -2 degree C is nothing compared to -20 degree C isn't it? I was concerned with any temperature lower than Malaysia has simply because I couldn't stand cold. In school's hostel, I would choose my bed the furthest from fan while everybody else aiming to have theirs exactly under the fan. So, the space and the bed in Beijing must be warm enough to keep me sleeping the whole night. 

My bed for the first 2 nights was so comfortable I forgot to capture it ;p
But lemme show u the place. It is situated in JiaMingTongCheng, a walk away from Datunlu East Beijing Subway. According to Steph, my host, this is a very good neighbourhood, the price of this apartment was CNY 3 millions when she bought it! (opsss no, actually her parents-in-law bought it as a gift to her and her husband) Would I marry a Chinese man? Not sure. Depending on what my parents-in-law can buy me :p

Steph's apartment

Steph Zhao, a local Chinese hosted me and Sayra for 2 nights. We had a room to ourselves complete with the most comfortable bed and warming duvet. I didn't wanna get up when I first lay myself down on the bed covered with delicate Pierre Cardin bedsheet and the pillow and duvet made from I-don't-know-what kinda make me lost in total comfort! Totally more comfortable than what I have back home :) She also let us use every other common facilities in her apartment freely. Do u know what I found most fascinating in her apartment?


Yes, it's a coral reef aquarium. I got to see an underwater lives at 20th floor apartment! They are just too amazing I admire Steph's husband dedication and passion maintaining it. I know it's not easy to have one like this. The oxygen, the temperature, the lighting, the water quality must all be correct.

Here are some views from my bedroom and the balcony.

And this is my lovely host, Steph. Thanks for the 2 wonderful nights stay!

The number of hutong decline drastically in Beijing to make way for new building and before they are all really gone, I decided to spend my nights in courtyard hostel at one of the hutong. 

Typical narrow alley in hutong

People here might not be living in posh apartment, but some own a Mini Cooper! My fav car :')

Located at Wangzhima Hutong, Peking Yard Hostel is easily accessible from Zhangzizhong Lu subway station and very near to main road.

If u wonder how does the hostel look inside, first let me bring u to the main door as an introduction.

Welcome to Peking Yard Hostel, Beijing 

Once I stepped in behind this door, I was greeted by one Malaysian family about to heading out for sight seeing. The parents were so cool to stay in hostel with their kids. I mean, not many couple with kids wants to stay in hostel right? But I think I would consider staying in hostel with my family too if it's Peking Yard Hostel. Now, I let u judge the place and tell me how u like it :) 

This is a common area where everybody freely do their stuff anytime they like. Most pictures in the frame hung on the wall are from the owner's masterpieces. You can found her in one of the pictures too! I can tell she has a very good taste in art from how she decorate this place. She managed to turn the old courtyard into this amazing modern contemporary hostel that not only provide bed at night but also bring real feeling of own-home's comfort after thousands miles of travelling.

And here are some of the facilities.

And this is my private room for another 2 nights in Beijing. The room was clean, spacious, sound proof and the air conditioning (heater) worked fantastically.

I LOVE this place.

The last day before checking out, I spent the whole morning till afternoon having breakfast, writing postcards, reading, checking email and talking to the other travellers in the common area. 

The tranquil ambiance they created and relaxing music they played made my mind rest for a while before hitting the busy subway again. I would extend my stay here if I could but I knew somebody else was waiting for my arrival at their home with open arms. So, till next time Peking Yard Hostel!

I was shocked when I saw this when I arrived at my second host's place.

Oh no, is he a criminal?!
I'm sure if he is, many girls would try their best to keep him away from police but under their own good care :')

Ok, that is Matteo. He's not a criminal but my Italian host in Beijing. How can a guy with such look be a criminal aight?

Matt was working when I arrived at his house but Jessica, her girlfriend was at home and welcomed and greeted me and Sayra happily. We stayed at their place for 2 nights until our last day in Beijing. Both Matteo and Jessica are Italian and they first met in Beijing 3 years ago. Since then, they decided to become Beijinger :)

During my stay, they really made me feel like I was at my own house. They even gave me one set of their house key! Having a room enough for the two of us and be able to stay in the same house with them was such a pleasant experience. Jessica cooked a wonderful, authentic vegetarian Italian pasta for our dinner together on the first night and so many stories were shared over dinner until we didn't realize midnight had passed us. Topics covered everything from life, travel, politic, love, future, geography, history to religion. Jessica studied political science for her degree, so it makes the conversation more interesting. Matt on the other hand studied language and it was kinda cute when Jess had to explain some layman term in Italian to Matt when we talked about something factual ;)

Here I present to u my 'Little Italy in Beijing'.

Great people are everywhere :) I am thankful and feel blessed to get to know this wonderful couple and hope our paths cross again one day! Ciao!