I first visited Beijing in 2008 right after the Olympics. I had not expected to like Beijing because everyone who had been to Beijing told me that Shanghai is much better. In my opinion each have their own charm and each city is a place I can see myself residing there for an extended period of time especially when the air quality improves. Though to be fair in my 2008 Beijing trip and this trip I was lucky to visit on great air quality days.
To get to Beijing from Datong, G and I took the slow train which takes around 6 hours. Currently there is no high-speed rail between the two cities, but I am told that within two years there will be one. The below train station is typical of the older style train stations.
The iconic green train that I have taken several times in my childhood growing up in 1980’s China.
The inside has been refurbished. I booked a soft sleeper carriage because I would have choked to death by the smoke in the hard sleepers and hard seats. I had bought lots of snacks to bribe my carriage mates into not smoking. Luckily we ran into a couple from Mississippi who decided to do a 20 China trip. Lovely people.
The countryside in Northwest China is poor. Nothing to do in the villages except farm a small plot of land that is less than an acre.
A small town. Notice the lack of stores. Towns like these have market days where they do their shopping. Sometimes there would be peddlers selling wares door to door.
Most of the six hour train ride was spent gazing at these mountains.
Only one time during the entire six hours we saw water.
As we got closer to Beijing we saw the beginnings of a satellite suburb. Unlike American suburbs, China suburbs are vertical instead of horizontal.
I booked G and I at the Beijing Grand Hyatt because it is the most centrally located hotel (inside the first ring). 20 minute walk to Tiananmen square and to the Beijing Train Station. Inside the largest mall in Beijing that sells everything you need including many food outlets, drugstore, supermarket, clothing. It was also right in the middle of two subway stops.
We were upgraded so the room is larger than their standard room.
I also booked it for their pool (largest in Beijing with a great hot tub that is hidden among the grottos) which G and I swam in both nights we stayed there.
Dinner that night was at 四季民福烤鸭店(灯市口店). It is a local favorite and popular on Dianping. I enjoyed the food but hated the service. This was the worst service G and I received on our 26 day trip. Anything we wanted we had to ask for three times, for things like water. I think it must have been an off day for the waitstaff because service got rated very highly in this restaurant. In fact you could report the waitstaff that gave you bad service and they will be heavily penalized. However, my time was more important so I just left it alone.
We ordered 5 dishes, but three are not worth mentioning. The other two was outstanding. First up: Peking Duck. Price for the two of us was 300RMB($45USD).
This is the second best Peking Duck I have had. First place goes to Da Dong which will be reviewed later. The skin was crisp and the fat all melted off.
The condiments plate to make yourself a duck taco. Clockwise: Two kinds of pickles, onions, sugar, jujube slices, garlic paste, cucumber slices, seafood sauce.
Another dish that impressed both G and I was a simple vegetable dish. Tender pea sprouts with fried potato bits? and crunchy peanuts in a slight vinegar dressing. So good that I tried to order it again at another branch of the same restaurant only to be told that each branch serves different dishes…=(
I post the below as a warning because I saw many tourists eat at these food stands. I overheard the American and European tourists say to each other this is authentic Chinese food because look Chinese people are eating it. What they fail to realize that these are not Beijing locals but rather domestic Chinese tourists. In other words these are food stands that do not care about return customers. Also prices are quite high. Example: A bowl of noodles is 15RMB, which is almost the same price as a bowl of noodles I had for dinner at the Peking Duck restaurant.