Friday, November 21, 2014

Beijing : Mutianyu, Wangfujing and Shichahai

Tue, 21 - Fri 24/10/14

Alhamdulillah for the opportunity to go to Beijing again this year, this time with a new team and staying at the luxurious Grand Hyatt Beijing at Chang An avenue, near Wangfujing street. The MAS flight from KL has a new departure time now at 6pm, but our flight today was delayed to 8pm. We arrived at Beijing in the wee hours of the morning and only arrived at our hotel at 3am

living room
work desk

The swimming pool at Grand Hyatt is also simply marvellous. But unfortunately, I didn't get to swim as I accidentally packed 2 swimming tops instead of a top and bottom swimming suit. Le sigh.

marvellous pool

We had a free day today before the meeting on Wednesday. Since the other team members were first timers, they decided to go to the Great Wall of China of the Mutianyu section as it is the nearest to the city centre. We took a taxi from in front of the hotel and paid RMB 800 (RM 440), 3 persons to a taxi, for a return trip, with the taxi waiting for us. I decided to follow the group although I had been there earlier this year in April, hoping to see the autumn foliage. It was getting to get cold already at the end of October, with temperature of about 15 deg C in the morning and around 20 - 25 deg C in the afternoon.

There is a new entrance complex built at Mutianyu where tourists disembark before taking the feeder bus to the Wall entrance. Last time in April, we parked near to the Wall entrance and didn't have to take the feeder bus, just walking to the entrance. There are shops selling souvenirs and cafes at the new entrance complex. But beware of being ripped off, as one of our team members were charged an exorbitant price of RMB 140 (RM 77) for just a piece of pancake with a cup of coffee at one of the stalls here. If there are no prices on display, make sure you ask for the price first and agree to the price before making a purchase.

The entrance ticket cost RMB45, the return cable car ticket cost RMB 100 and the feeder bus ride cost RMB15, totalling to RMB 160 (RM 88). Some history on the Great Wall excerpted from Wikipedia was posted here in my earlier post.  I did manage to see the beautiful autumn foliage of the mountains surrounding the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

Mu Tian Yu Great Wall entrance

shops and cafes at Mutianyu entrance complex
souvenir shop

the many angles of the Great Wall

hello again

autumn foliage

That night we decided to eat at Dong Lai Shun Muslim restaurant at which could be accessed from our hotel through the Oriental Plaza mall at the shopping area near Wangfujing street (ala Bukit Bintang). Unfortunately, the queue was just too long and we couldn't afford to wait (hungry tummies already since we didn't have lunch). So we decided to walk a bit further to another smaller Muslim restaurant, but the food was good and cheap for only RMB 160 for the 7 of us!

Oriental Plaza mall which we accessed from our hotel to the shopping area near Wangfujing street

Dong Lai Shun muslim restaurant

signage inside Dong Lai Shun...try to figure what it's trying to say

the shopping area near Wangfujing street

beef with dried chilli dish

lamb skewer

yummy halal chinese food


The next night, we decided to go the "famous Hutong" where the local people hang around, supposedly located near to the Behai North Metro station according to the concierge at our hotel. Alas, we ended up at a dark and deserted place with no happening places around. So we decided to turn back to Wangfujing street to have dinner at our favourite Muslim restaurant again (we don't know the name as it is written in Chinese).

walking towards the Wangfujing Metro station

Where's the famous hutong?

On the third night, I decided to split ways from the group as the rest wanted to do some shopping at Silk Market which I had visited last April and did not find much stuff to my liking (but the rest enjoyed it so much that some of them had to buy extra luggage bags to fill in their catches of the day). I went to the Yonghegong Lama temple, via theYonghegong Lama temple Metro station, unfortunately it was closed and it was not illuminated. I then proceeded along the Guanshuyuan hutong which is a street with a row of shops housed in traditional buildings to take photos.

senior ladies doing the dance
Yonghegong Lama temple already closed

row of shops at Guanshuyuan hutong

From there, I took the Metro to the Shichahai station. Upon exiting the station, I didn't see anything interesting at first and had to ask around if there was "a lake nearby where tourists go"? Fortunately I asked a person who spoke English and directed me to the right place. It was indeed a place where people hang out at cafes and restaurants, eating and listening to live music by the Qianhai Lake which is near to the Beihai Park. There is also a halal restaurant here, but since I was alone, I didn't go there.

boats at the Qianhai lake

Shichahai scenic area

another view of the Qianhai lake

view of a bridge at Shichahai

restaurants by the lake

outdoor dining at Shichahai with live music

a halal restaurant at Shichahai

On the final night in Beijing I did some souvenir shopping at a happening shopping street very near to our hotel. We are not sure what it is called but we term it as "Petaling Street" as it is reminiscent to the famous shopping street in Kuala Lumpur. There are stalls here selling exotic food such as fried scorpions, seahorses and erm larvae.

fried scorpion and seahorse


"Petaling Street"

souvenirs at "Petaling Street"

so many people buying souvenirs

After shopping at 10pm, we departed for the airport to catch our flight back to Kuala Lumpur at 1am. We were hungry as we had yet to have dinner. The immigration queue was extremely long that night (and then my free power bank was confiscated) and there were people cutting queues, claiming they had the right to it as they were Business Class passengers (shamefully an uncle who claimed so is a Malaysian as we saw him again at the Lounge and he was seated a row in front of me in the flight). Luckily halal instant noodle was availabe at the lounge so we had that to fill our empty stomach.

halal noodle cup

Goodbye Beijing, will I see you again?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Versailles, France

Sun 31/8/14

Selamat Hari Merdeka!

Today we would be spending the Independence Day of Malaya (Malaysia was formed in 1963; 31/8/57 was the day Malaya gained independence from the British) far away in Versaille, visiting the Chateau Versailles, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The weather today was pleasant again as the day before at around 20 deg C and cloudy. To travel to Chateau Versailles, we bought the Mobilis 1 day ticket for Zone 1 - 4 (EUR 11.20) since Chateau Versailles is located in Zone 4 (Versailles Rive Gaucheon the RER C line) and we had to change line at Gare du Nord which is in Zone 1.

We didn't plan to enter the Palace, only visiting the Gardens, which is huge on its own. A bit on the Chateau and the Gardens from Wikipedia and the official site:

Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful. - See more at:
Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful. - See more at:
It was the palace for the French Kings since 1682 when when Louis XIV moved the court and center of political power from Paris to Versailles until the French Revolution in 1789. In the 19th century, it became the Museum of History of France. The Gardens of Versailles is situated to the west of the palace, on some 800 hectares of land, landscaped in the classic French Garden style.  Manicured lawns, parterres of flowers, sculptures and fountains are located throughout the garden.

We read on the official website that the entrance to the garden is free except on the days of the Grandes Eaux musicales et Jardins musicaux show and on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from April to October. We visited the park on a Sunday during the Grandes Eaux musical fountain show, so we had to pay for EUR 9 for entry. However, please note that the water displays run from 11am - 12 noon and 3.30pm to 5pm. It was unfortunate for us that we arrived at almost 12 noon. We only managed to catch the fountain show at the Mirror Fountain at 3.30pm. So plan your date and time of visit carefully.

Entrance to Chateau Versailles

long queue to buy the Chateau ticket

the Chateau view from the Garden entrance

North Parterre garden
North Parterre garden
Water Avenue

perspective view of the groves

statues at the North Parterre garden

Pyramid fountain

Water Parterre

South Parterre garden

fountain of Apollo's chariot. Chateau is at the background

beautiful flowers

woods near to Little Venice gate

fountain show

We then went back to Pantin for early dinner and retired for the day. Tomorrow we would split ways - I would be going back to Malaysia while Partner In Crime back to his workplace.

Nevertheless, it has been an enjoyable 2 week trip as a team for both of us, with a lot of learning and of course, immersing ourselves in the history, environment and culture of Morocco, Spain and France, each with their own unique identity. Thank you for the enriching experience!