Luckily after lunch the sunshine came out for our visit to the Temple of Heaven Park, built in 1420. I had read ahead of time that it’s a park where the elderly spend time – in the morning doing exercises and in the afternoon playing cards. Didn’t disappoint!
A tranquil oasis of peace and methodical Confucian design in one of China’s busiest urban landscapes, the 267-hectare Temple of Heaven Park is absolutely unique. It originally served as a vast stage for solemn rites performed by the emperor of the time (known as the Son of Heaven), who prayed here for good harvests and sought divine clearance and atonement. Strictly speaking, it’s an altar rather than a temple – so don’t expect burning incense or worshippers.
After visiting the Summer Palace, we headed back to the hutongs in search of lunch. We figured we’d wonder around and try to find somewhere that looks good. Along the way we sampled some Old Beijing Yoghurt and shaobing filled with red bean paste before stumbling upon Hua’s Restaurant. This had to be fate. I had researched best traditional Beijing restaurants and had really wanted to visit Hua’s but there wasn’t any time. But then we discovered it by accident! We had a HUGE feast, trying as much traditional food as possible! Hua’s is quite famous because they serve imperial-style food, using recipes from “Notes of Imperial Court Food” written during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Unfortunately for our last day in Beijing, the weather wasn’t so great. It had cooled off quite a bit and we had rain all morning. That didn’t stop us, though! We still ventured out to the north of the city to the Summer Palace! When we were traveling from Moscow to Siberia, we made new friends who also happened to be ending their trip in Beijing. They had just arrived and were able to meet up our last day!
Mao Zedong once said “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man”. No trip to Beijing is complete with a visit to the Great Wall of China, one of the New7Wonders of the World! Such beautiful views!
Peking Duck is the dish of Beijing (formerly Peking), and has been around since the imperial era. I love Peking Duck so much and could not wait to try it in Beijing. Koen and I weren’t in Beijing so long, so we had to decide how many times we’d eat it and where. In the end we decided to try Peking Duck 2 ways: more modern and lean at Da Dong and more rustic and traditional at Siji Minfu.
*At the end of the post I’ll show you step by step how to prepare a Peking duck pancake in the correct way!
After we checked into our hotel we first ventured out for lunch because we were starving. But what to eat first? You should know that Beijing is in Northern China, so the most famous dishes are with wheat rather than rice. So that means lots of buns, noodles, and dumplings! We decided to just venture out and stop somewhere that looked good. That brought us to a delicious hot pot restaurant!
Because I was so happy with our hotel in Beijing, I decided to make an entire post about the Beijing Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel! Our hotel is located in the hutongs: centuries-old, tree-lined alleyways that are the true heartbeat of this unique city and a real-life link to its fascinating past. We had so much fun exploring/accidentally exploring because we got very lost amonst all of the hutongs (there’s not Google Maps in China).
The location is perfect, the hotel is beautiful, and the staff is so nice and friendly.
Our last journey by train – Ulaanbaatar to Beijing! This time we traveled through the beautiful Gobi Desert. We had great timing because it was cold and rainy when we woke up in our ger. And after spending almost a week in nature, we were ready to be back in a big city!
The downside to this part of the trip was border control. I really think we were busy almost 6 hours. First our train was checked by Mongolian border control and then again by the Chinese. That means checking passports and visas, as well as checking our room and luggage to make sure nothing was leaving or entering another border illegally. And to top it all off, the wheels had to be changed before we could enter China (our train car was literally lifted with us inside to take the wheels off and put new ones on). All of this in the middle of the night…
Our last day in Mongolia was my favorite day. I went to Mongolia hoping to experience the nomadic life and was able to in the end. We started the day very early, so we could be on time to see how the cows and yaks are milked before they set off wandering the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Inside the ger we were able to try yak milk tea, yak cream, and yak curd!
We were also so lucky that the weather changed during the night. Still a bit cold, but we had a blue sky and sunshine!