Beijing and Beyond

Whenever I hear the word, Beijing, two things come into my mind, the Great Wall of China and the Peking duck. Beijing may be synonymous to plenty of words, but architecture and food come first for me.

Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, a country with a very aggressive economy, and a super power in the making. China has a very rich history and culture, starting from its era of dynasties, to its era of communism under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. The legacy of each emperor/leader can be seen until today through many things.

Beijing, China in a glimpse of 2 nights and 2 days. (02.24-25.19)

I arrived in Beijing around midnight as part of the crew operating for MNL-PEK-MNL. Our hotel is located right in the downtown of Beijing, accessible through metered taxi cabs, local MRT, Didi (local version of Uber in China). We were in the last week of February, and the season is still winter (although the snow was starting to melt). Since our crew were mostly first timers, we were planning to get around the city, and visit the famous landmarks. One of our seniors shared with us their local contact, who can speak good English, and who can take us around the Great Wall. It was in the wee hours when I tried my luck and called Mr. Qian, and to my surprise, he answered. He said that he will be picking us up from our hotel.

It was 8am, and Mr. Qian was waiting for us at the lobby of our hotel. I was joined by my 2 colleagues, and another 3 from the crew operating KLO-PEK-KLO-CEB, and together we took the van bound for Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. The trip was about  an hour and a half from the city, and the temperature dropped at 1 degrees C. There are actually other sections of the Great Wall that is open for tourists, but this one is less crowded and most areas of the Great Wall are still intact and tourist friendly.

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As we arrived at the Mutianyu entrance, we have to pay for our entrance fees and transfer fees (shuttle, chairlift and toboggan). From the main entrance, we have to walk a little bit more, passing by some restaurants and souvenir shops, before we can take the chairlift that we will bring us to Tower 6.

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chairlift to Tower 6

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Bucket list check- Walk along the Great Wall of China

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toboggan ride down- slide away!

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Picture with the guards for 10RMB each

We had an ample time going around the Great Wall before we decided to have lunch and buy some souvenirs. For lunch, we had roasted duck (super crispy), dimsum, yang chao rice. The meal was quite expensive, although this is expected as the restaurant is located in a tourist area.

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Before finally calling it a day, we stopped at the nearby Frozen Lake. It’s starting to defrost as the climate rises. We were not asked to pay for an entrance fee (although the ones before us were charged)

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Frozen Lake

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the squad with Qian (guy in the middle)

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Since it was a 2 day layover in Beijing, we had another day to spend around the city. We started our day after brunch, to recover from yesterday’s trip to the Great Wall. We visited the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace, and the Wangfujing Street. We had everything DIY. From the hotel, we walked about 15mins to the train station. From there, we took a train ride, and alighted at Tiananmen Square. Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square are just next to each other. The train ride was pretty easy to understand as long as you know where to go (there are English translations.) Going to Tiananmen Square on a weekend can be a little crowded, as you may have to line up to get in. When we were there, they never asked for IDs or passports, but a few months later, I heard from some crew that police are starting to do some random check, so it’s always best to bring your passport whenever going out (be sure that you won’t lose it). If you’re planning to really get inside the Forbidden Palace, it’s best to go there in the morning, so you can maximize your visit, and entrance comes with a fee. I was really looking forward to our stroll along Wangfujing, but to my dismay, most stalls are closed due to renovation. Wangfujing is known for its street food and the exotic food that it offers. I have no plans to eat it, but I just want to see it.

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Tiananmen Square

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Mausoleum of Chairman Mao

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I personally think that most Chinese are misunderstood. If you can only visit the mainland, and you’ll probably understand. I have several encounters with them, and based from experience, they’re really nice. They may not be fluent in English, but trust me they try their best to help you out.

TIPS

  • Before going to China, make sure that you have a VPN (at least 3, just in case that it fails to work or it has been blocked) to have an access to the outside world. All those apps that we use are forbidden and blocked in China, and they have their own.
  • Download Mandarin from the Google Translate. It works offline too. This will help you to break the language barrier.
  • China has a reputation of producing fake items, and that includes food. When in doubt, order from your hotel. (Although, I have eaten in decent restaurants, and food is yummy)
  • Don’t touch anything if you don’t intend to buy the item. The old ladies will shout at you and probably curse you.
  • Always haggle with the lowest price possible that you can imagine. Stick with your price until they give in. If they don’t agree, walk out, and they will run after you and give you your price.
  • It’s best to have your money exchanged at your hotel to avoid being scammed
  • Be careful when paying. Make sure that it’s the money that you handed. Some might trick you and tell you that it’s fake. (when in fact they have already exchanged it with another paper bill)

If you need a driver/guide around Beijing, you may contact Mr. Qian.

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A Dose of Doha

Qatar is a Muslim country located in the Middle East, and it is an open city. However, there are restrictions, like alcohol consumption. Doha, the capital, is a great and multi-cultural city and home to a lot of expats in this bustling country of Qatar. A taste of traditional and modern is what Doha offers to its visitor. In my 3-day layover in Doha, I get to see some of the things that they are famous for.

Doha, Qatar in a glimpse of 3 days and 2 nights (05.02.17-05.04.17)

We arrived on 2nd of May at 4 in the morning. Doha, is 5 hours behind Manila time. After checking-in at our hotel, I immediately went to sleep. I woke up at 10am, and the breakfast buffet is about to close. After our breakfast, I stayed in our room for a few hours, because it is still too hot to go out.

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Free chocolates in our hotel

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  • Shawarma

At 5pm, our group went out, and our first stop was to eat shawarma. We found this shawarma place on our way to the Casio store. For QAR 7, you can choose between chicken or beef shawarma, and QAR 2 for your soda. It’s so authentic and good. I can’t even finish a single serving.

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  • Casio Store

The famous store where my fellow crew hoard watches and sell it in Manila at a better price compared to shopping malls. I got to buy a couple watch for only QAR 150, and yes, you can ask for discount.

  • Gold Souk

I was overwhelmed when I went inside the jewelry store of Shine Gallery. There are so many to choose from, and at a very affordable price. You can even ask for discounts that could go as high as 30%. I got myself an 18k bracelet for QAR 290, originally at QAR 365.

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Alley way to Gold Souk

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This was inside an elevator

  • Souq Waqif

It is a traditional flea market that sells variety of goods such as spices, paintings, souvenirs, traditional costumes, carpets, incense, and even pets. There are restaurants in different cuisines, and of course, shisha places. I bought a ref magnet for QAR 10.

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Souvenir items

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05.03.17- Day 2

Right after our breakfast, we left our hotel and went to Casio. While we were inside, it was about 1pm and the store has to close. I’ve learned that stores close from 1pm to 4pm to give way for their afternoon prayer. We had no choice, but to leave and all stores were closed. We just went to Souq Waqif to see the birds that are being fed. While walking along the alley, we went inside a sweet shop. We got ourselves a bag of chocolates for QAR 20 per kg.

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Tourists in Souq Waqif

  • Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel

There is a little restaurant open right beside the boutique hotel. We spent our lunch here and until the stores have opened. I got myself a Qatari Breakfast for lunch.

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View outside the restaurant

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Qatari breakfast

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My fellow MNL-DOH crew

  • Shine Gallery

We went back to the jewelry store, and I bought again. This time, a pair of 18k earrings for QAR 200, originally at QAR 350. While waiting for my fellow crew, I was browsing through the beautiful rings on display, and I saw the ring of my dreams, but I didn’t bother to ask. As a result, I can’t stop thinking about it and I can’t sleep.

05.04.17- Day 3

After our breakfast, I spent a few hours in our hotel room because it was too hot to go out. At 3pm, I decided to go out alone and I was supposed to visit the Museum of Islamic Art. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out my GPS, and it was too hot to continue. I just went to the shawarma place, and bought a chicken shawarma, which I took home in Manila.

I returned to the jewelry store, and asked about the ring because I kept on thinking about it. I even tried it on.lol However, I won’t get into details about that. I want to keep that a secret. Next thing, I was walking inside Souq Waqif, and strolled around, before I could find myself in a coffee shop. While having coffee, I saw 2 men in traditional white outfit riding a horse. I asked the barista who they are, and apparently they are the Qatari police roaming around.

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Qatari police on duty

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Felt like I was transported back in Jesus’s time and passed by the 3 kings

In the coming months, for sure i’ll have another flight in Doha. I have more to see in Doha, and i’ll keep you posted.

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