20 May 2015
Beijing is definitely a city of many contrasts; the perfect blend of old and new, history and contemporary. One of the most visited cities in the world, I can see why. Once proudly declaring itself as the “Center Of The Universe”, Beijing’s rise and fall of imperial dynasties left behind a rich legacy making the city essentially the center of art and culture of modern China.
The history buff in me unashamedly squealed excitedly like a kid in a candy store visiting Beijing’s various tourist attractions. From opulent palaces and temples to beautiful gardens and of course the engineering feat that is The Great Wall of China; everywhere was truly a magical discovery to behold.
The Great Wall of China was certainly an eye opener. An engineer by profession myself, I was most amazed at the level of engineering feat and ingenuinity that the Qin Dynasty managed to achieve some 2,000 years ago. WOW! I spent a good half-day scaling The Great Wall. Some parts were admittedly steep and I practically huffed and puffed my way up… so I was really amazed to see groups of Chinese senior citizens going up and down without breaking a sweat! As expected, the views were absolutely fantastic. Not to be missed!
The Forbidden City was another must-visit. Having grown up with my dose of Hong Kong films and TVB dramas set against the backdrop of The Forbidden City, I have always envisioned how I would feel like coming face-to-face with the real deal. Well, I felt… small. The grandeur and massiveness of the palace complex was way beyond what I imagined it would be! Walking through courtyard after courtyard, I visualized how life for the emperors, concubines, eunuchs and palace servants must have been like…
On the second-last day of my week-long business/pleasure trip to Beijing; I decided to check out the Summer Palace and Yi He Yuan Gardens. There was an inscription which stated that the Gardens were modeled after those in beautiful Hangzhou. Having been to Hangzhou, I understood why the Emperor fell in love and wanted to recreate back the same scenic, dreamy spots nearer to home (Forbidden City). Hangzhou was breathtaking, but it has to be said that the Summer Palace and it’s gardens, temple and massive lake is definitely in a special league of it’s own. The best way to explore and to see everything is by boat; where I passed by pretty pavilions, bridges, pagodas and of course the hilltop temple. Having gone in early spring, the flowers in the royal garden were in full bloom. Just beautiful!
And lest I forget, Shangri-La’s China World Hotel was simply the BEST place to stay especially if you are attending a trade fair/ exhibition at the adjacent World Trade Center or have business dealings at the adjacent office towers. Superb hospitality and grand ambience aside, the central location was fantastic! There was also a huge adjacent shopping mall (China World Mall), making it really easy and convenient to buy necessities. Public transportation was also extremely convenient with a bus station and metro station right next to the hotel… the Forbidden City was just 20 minutes away! The night views from the room was stunning as well. Definitely nothing but praises to sing here. Beijing and China World Hotel, I hope to be back soon!