Sunday 23rd May:
I don't really like complaining about travelling when I'm so lucky that I get to go away, but there was two sets of flights to be taken before I would arrive in Beijing- around 18 hours of flight time, plus a stopover in Dubai Airport! So I really hoped my journey would be comfortable enough that it wouldn't off set my week in China. I flew with Emirates (make sure you sign up with the sky rewards programme and you can exchange your points for future upgrades or in my case free tickets to see Arsenal play!) and boy were they pleasant! My only gripe is that they make you walk threw business to the peasants section (lol! I joke I joke!). DXB is huge and there is a serious amount of Duty Free shopping to be done. My three inflight essentials are as follows; this Body Shop overnight vitamin e serum- I take off all my make-up as soon as I board for long flights and put on a layer of the oil all over. Ok, I may look a bit funny to my fellow passengers but the air in the aeroplane is so bad for your skin, I like to give it a good treat! My knitted socks- like these from ASOS (for the cold aircon...) and The Economist- my own bible! I don't really sleep on planes, but there was plenty of films and food (#fatlife) that kept me occupied...
Monday 24th May:
I arrived in Beijing at around 3pm, but the baggage carousel and Visa control took about 2 hours!
NOTE: If travelling to China, you will need a visa which can be easily obtained for the Chinese Embassy. Forgery in Currency is also rampant- make sure you exchange from a reputable source- and for Irish travellers, it was roughly 1euro- 7rmb/cny.
I had a car booked already (thank god!) with my hotel because I didn't want to have to deal with transport after flying for so long. I checked into the most amazing hotel- Hotel Eclat and if i'm honest, done very little for the evening. I had a stroll around the area I was staying in and had the yummiest noodle soup for dinner! I'm a big foodie (I eat anything!) and planned my China trip solely around food! Hotel Eclat is a pricey hotel, but you get what you pay for. I only chose the basic room- but it came with a complimentary mini bar (that they re-filled daily), an electronic massage chair, nespresso machine, Afternoon tea, Bose speakers and 3d TV, Happy Hour (with BRUT!!!!! :)) and the most amazing art collection. Apparently, the hotel and it's accompanying shopping mall is owned by a very wealthy art collector who believes that the public should see art for free! It was such a treat to have breakfast with some Salvador Dali artwork every morning!
NOTE: English ISN'T spoken widely but if you have everything you need to know written down in Chinese- you get by really easily- I screen-shotted all my addresses, phrases etc and made an effort to say hello and thank you in the local language. It really does go a long way...
Tuesday 25th May:
I booked a 2 hour treatment in Dragonfly , which is based in the Kerry Hotel building- and pretty sure I fell asleep drooling on the bed. I definitely recommend a massage after long flights just to get the circulation back flowing through your body. My massage worked out about €65 euro which for 2 hours is an absolute bargain. I lunched in what ended up being one of my favourite gems- Honolulu Cafe- Parkview Shopping Centre and gorged on Dim Sum, mixed greens and Iced Tea. That evening I had booked before leaving Ireland a private cooking class @ Beijinger Kitchen with the most amazing host- Carlyle. He runs a low-key cooking experience in a traditional hutong dwelling. We started the evening by visiting the local food market and picking the ingredients we would cook with. We headed to his kitchen and I was introduced to the chef who would teach me three dishes; minced beef dumplings, Kung Po chicken and sautéed Kale. The whole thing was so superbly organised and I had such a fun time. I was worried about it being only me with the chef and Carlyle- but they are so friendly and we had such a laugh (mostly at my lack of cooking skills and inappropriate nail extensions lol!) that I felt totally comfortable. The whole evening cost around €100, but that was because I was by myself. If you book with a partner or a group, it works out to be much cheaper! Carlyle's Food Experience is totally recommended- visit his site here.
Wednesday 26th May:
Ev (my bf) was actually working in Beijing for the World Athletic Championships, so on his time off we trekked a part of the Great Wall. No words or pictures could do the wall justice It was surreal. And the views were so incredibly beautiful! Anyone thinking of visiting the wall in China- do! It's totally worth it but most definitely a work out. Wear appropriate shoes- the steps are uneven, be prepared to sweat (I was beetroot red for most of it lol!) and take a really good camera with you. We booked a tour ticket- which covered transport to and from the wall and tickets. But there were plenty of other travellers who organised everything themselves...it really depends on what you want and your budget!
We later lunched in the a food market and had garlic and chill oysters (cooked!) and an unnecessary amount of mixed noodles... #fatlife
Part two of my Beijing Diary coming up soon...