Summer Trip 2017 (Part 1): Beijing and Zhangye
China always calls me to come back, and I am always glad to return to this wonderful country with so many heritage sites and beautiful landscapes spread in all of its provinces.
This trip started and ended in Beijing because it is easier to access Mongolia and Zhangye from this city. I used this chance to go to The Great Wall and other lovely attractions in Beijing because I didn’t have chance to explore when I was in Beijing several years ago for a business trip.
The funny thing was, from Beijing to Zhangye I travelled with Sonya. And in Mongolia I travelled with other girl, Inne. 2 different destinations with 2 different travelmates.
Windy Beijing In June
When we arrived in Beijing that morning, the weather was nice. I tried to find a shuttle bus to the city center after knowing the taxi fare from the airport was super shocking, CNY 400!
And I decided to take the airport bus (CNY 30) to Beijing West Station and took the MTR (subway) to Xisi station which needs only 10-minute walk to reach our hostel, Beijing Youth Hostel Beihai Branch.
I asked for an early check-in as a genius member of booking.com and the reception guy said it was possible if there’s available room. But unfortunately no vacant room so we had to leave our bags at the storage, borrowed the shower room, then went out to Tiananmen. And it was raining! Good thing was we were well-prepared with always having our waterproof jackets in our bags.
Once we reached Qianmen station, the rain was getting harder. We bought raincoats with bargained price CNY 10 from CNY 20, because the jackets couldn’t cover our bottom parts.
Simatai Great Wall
From beginning I already set my heart to pick Simatai trail for accessing the great wall. The trail was not that hard as I had heard before because now there’re cable cars that can take visitors up and down the hill with fare CNY 90/one way. From the cable car station we only need to hike up for 15-20 minutes to reach the top. The admission fee to enter Simatai trail is CNY 40.
I could see that some parts of the walls were already renovated, I was a bit disappointed. But it’s still more authentic compared to other trails.
To access Simatai trail, we headed to Miyun Bus Station first from Dongzhimen bus station by bus no 980. The bus driver told us to take bus no 51 from Miyun to Gubei Water Town. Each bus fare was CNY 15, so total transportation cost was only CNY 60.
The weather was super nice that day actually, but I decided to give up fasting once I did half of the trekking up to top part of Simatai.
We were supposed to take direct train from Beijing to Zhangye actually but we were too late. When I checked the ticket online, all sleepers were sold out. So I took alternative way, buying tickets to Lanzhou (about 16 hours) then another train from Lanzhou to Zhangye (about 4 hours). Luckily we still could get direct train for returning to Beijing from Zhangye.
Zhangye was so hot when we were there, no wonder I got tanned when I left Zhangye. The transportation inside the city is operated by bus lines. From and to the trains station there’s bus no 1 with fare CNY 1-1.5 depending on the distance.
Youyou Youth hostel upgraded our room from dorm to double private room, that was awesome and we got 2 large beds that can fit 4 people. Too bad there’s no one could speak English and the lady of the hostel used android translator to communicate with us.
I tried to ask the lady about tour to Danxia, she said it was CNY 400 per car for Danxia and Mati Si tour. We finally got there by bus because it only costed us CNY 20 from/to Zhangye West Bus Station. The admission fee was CNY 75.
As featured in China Highlights, “Zhangye’s Danxia landscape has lots of precipitous red cliffs, most of which are several hundred meters high, and multicolored ridges of weathered strata, sometimes stretching to the horizon. These formations, sometimes smooth sometimes sharp, stand out against the greens or grays of the plains , looking grand and magnificent, vigorous and virile.
Across the Danxia landscape zone, a kaleidoscope of numerous red rocky outcrops resemble weird and wonderful shapes like castles, cones, towers ; as well as humans, creatures, birds and beasts. Their peaks peeping through the mist and clouds, produce mirage-like scenery of fantastic mountains and pavilions.”
For other attractions, I used maps.me to guide us walking around the town. This offline maps application is very helpfull and 90% accurate.
After we returned to Beijing from Zhangye, I went alone to Muxiyuan Bus Station from Beijing West Train Station for next trip to Ulaanbaatar. I will post about Mongolia trip separately later.
GOING BACK TO BEIJING
The Golden Gobi Tour was awesome and so adventurous. I asked Sunpath Tour to drop us at the airport straightly after the tour was finished because we were going to take the MIAT flight to Beijing. I continued the trip in Beijing alone and Inne took the flight back to Jakarta thru Kuala Lumpur.
I stayed at the same hostel in Beijing because of the location is perfect, just 10 minutes away from Beihai Park and 30 minutes to Forbidden City by walking. On July 5th, the weather was nice and I walked for more than 10 km that day, or more because I took the wrong exit gate while I was supposed to go to the other gate to enter Forbidden City complex. So I had to walk for another 20 minutes to the entrance park 😀
It rained the whole day on June 6th, I thought it was going to stop after lunch time but it didn’t so I decided to leave the hostel with my umbrella to have lunch at my favorite restaurant that sells halal foods. It was just 10 minutes away from the hostel by walking. After lunch I headed to Temple of Heaven by MTR because it’s a bit far from Beihai area.
I forgot my umbrella when I took cash from atm at Xisi station so I had to buy another one at Dongdan subway station. With that umbrella I went around Beijing until 7 pm that day. I happened to spend several hours in Wangfujing to buy some souvenirs before going back to hostel to take shower and leave for the airport.
One suggestion to those who are going to travel in China, download VPN application on your smartphones before arriving in that country because China bans google and some social medias. I used vpn China and Turbo vpn on my android phone, it worked well to access all social medias and google. And they are free of charge! In the past everytime I went to China, I had to use a free-trial vpn that needed credit card to guarantee the registration and after the free-trial ended I had to contact the vpn company to stop the service so they wouldn’t charge my card.
Upcoming post: Mongolia