29th October 2011, Saturday
On day 7, we basically ran low on energy. So, we decided to go to the last place of interest, the Prince Kung’s Mansion. We took a short cab ride there. We hired a tour guide since the girls are interested in the history. The Beijingers were always very fascinated with us – being a foreign Chinese and yet, we knew so many things about China. I didn’t know that, the girls actually studied Chinese History during form 6! All the more regrets I have for not learning Mandarin!
Benevolence & Justice
With my limited Mandarin, I tried to grasp what the guide informed us. Apparently, this minister, went by the name Heshen was Emperor Qianlong’s favorite minister, all because on the mole on his ear. The story has it that, Emperor Qianlong had a favorite concubine who was later sent for execution because she suffered an injury to her face. The Empress (not sure which one) ordered her to be sentenced to death. Qianlong was devastated. In order to ensure that he could recognize his favorite mistress after reincarnation, he marked her ear with dot (a mole).
Emperor’s wish to his grandmother
One day, this Emperor chanced upon Heshen, who strikingly resembled the dead mistress. Eventhough Heshen was a male, he had delicate features like a woman. When Qianlong saw the mole on Heshen’s ear, he was all convinced that Heshen was the reincarnated mistress. Hence, Heshen was lavished with many gifts and money, which in turn made him into this corrupt fellow. It was said that, they were having some homosexual relations too. Not that I am surprised lah.
One of the many bats
Anyway, the mansion is well maintained and it’s almost impossible to believe the magnitude of wealth the place exudes! If you notice closely, the mansion has figurines of bats carved into the railings and windows. Bats bring good luck in the Chinese Custom. So, the palace has 9,999 bats carved into it! I guess it was a good thing that we hired a guide – at least we get to see the place in a more intricate manner. Entrance fee was 40 yuan per person. Cost of hiring guide – 150 yuan.
Walking street at Hou Hai
After a visit to the Mansion, we hired a golf cart to take us around the hutong – 200 yuan. It was then I realized that, we were actually very near Hou Hai and Gulou. We abandoned the idea of visiting the Soong Ching Ling’s mansion because we were just too lazy to walk back to Hou Hai after that.
Pictures of Hou Hai & Gulou hutongs
Since it was already afternoon, we went to have lunch at this Sichuan place, as recommended by the golf cart driver. It proved to be an excellent choice. We had a good lunch here.
“Water cook fish”
After lunch, we took a short walk around Hou Hai and Gulou. Then again, we stop by Qingcafé for coffee before we make our way to Qianmen Jiangguo Hotel. From Gulou, we took bus no. 66 and stop at Hufanglu.
Here at Qianmen Jiangguo Hotel, we went to Liyuan Theatre to watch Peking Opera. Ms Pok called up Liyuan Theatre to book our tickets the day before. For ticket booking, you may call 400 805 1766 ext 94544. Everything is done in Mandarin. We meet up with the lady who helped us to book tickets at the hotel. It seems, if you were to buy the ticket at the ticketing booth at this hotel, you are not entitled for 40% discount. I think we got our tickets at 160++ yuan. Original price was about 250 yuan.
We were surprised that most people watching the Peking Opera here are all foreigners, mainly Japanese and Europeans. So, I guess we had gone to the wrong place. Perhaps, we should have tried Zhengciyi Theatre, which is the oldest in Beijing. Perhaps, there would be some authenticity, to say the least.
Anyway, we practically fell asleep watching the Peking Opera.. so it doesn’t make any difference. Haha! If you are worried you could not understand the Opera, there were actually subtitles being displayed on the neon board at both sides of the stage!
The next day, we just prepare ourselves to take the train back to Tianjin to catch our flight. We took a cab to Beijing South Railway Station since we dreaded to carry our luggage and climb stairs at the subway! There’s a train every 20 – 30 minutes so, you don’t have to pre-book (unless you travel during peak season like Labour Day, Chinese New Year or National Day). The journey would take only 30 minutes. Cost of train ticket is 55 yuan each person. Remember to show passport when you want to buy train ticket – they would key in your particulars. Beijing South Railway is so clean, vast and modern that it actually look like an airport! Then, we grabbed a nice looking aquamarine colored cab at the train station to get to the airport. It took about 30 minutes and 47 yuan to get to the airport from train station.
This post concluded my trip to Beijing. Hope you guys enjoy reading them, as much as I enjoy writing them.