Laura and Jenna in the Drum Tower
Drum Tower – When the book stated the stairs were an exhausting climb, they were not exaggerating.
Bell Tower – They look even steeper from the top down.
The girls & I spent an extra day in Beijing to visit the Drum & Bell Towers, and what was described as the “best restored historic home” in Beijing. We visited those towers in Xi’an and I thought they were really interesting. These two buildings were found in nearly every city in China at one time because they were important in telling time. The people woke up, worked, went to sleep, attended special functions, etc. all to the sounds of the bells and drums. Plus, these are typically tall buildings with great views of the city.
It was a real treat to see and hear the beating of the drums.
We enjoyed these two in Beijing. We heard a musical concert with bells in Xi’an. In Beijing, we were able to hear the drums. Unfortunately, in Beijing you don’t have the great views of the city because you are not able to get out onto the balconies.
Pair of doors at Prince Gong’s Palace
Called the Hau Zhao Lou, this building was the back for all three sections of the palace and is 150 meters long. It seemed to stretch on and on.
A covered corridor at Prince Gong’s palace
Our second stop was at a site called Prince Gong’s Palace. Built in the 1700s, Prince Gong moved in after its first occupant was executed. The compound is surrounded by a wall with courtyards and covered walkways connecting the various buildings. It is described as one of Beijing’s most lavish residences. The various buildings are beautiful, but unfortunately very few were open for us to see inside.
As is typical, this compound also has beautiful gardens with lakes and ponds, pavilions and courtyards. The girls and I took advantage of a comfortable shaded spot atop a rockery to have a snack.
Laura and Jenna pose on one of the rockeries in Prince Gong’s garden. Rockeries are man-made rock formations, originally held together by glutinous rice.
The entire time we have lived in China, we have seen various kinds of rickshaws, tuk tuks, baby taxis, or whatever name you would like to use. The pedal-powered ones have long been synonymous with China, but are quickly disappearing. In Beijing, the pedal-powered rickshaws are relegated to one area, around a park near the Prince Gong residence and Drum and Bell Towers. As we left Prince Gong’s palace, we were approached by one of the drivers and I negotiated a price for the 3 of us for a 30-40 minute ride. The driver we initially were talking with, was a little slow to accept our offer and another driver tried to “steal us away.” Not willing to lose the sale, the initial driver shooed a Chinese couple out of his rickshaw and Laura, Jenna and I climbed in. It was a very enjoyable ride. We went through the hutongs (historic Beijing neighborhoods) and around the park. Surprisingly, the driver did not ask for payment until we were two-thirds done. He was quite friendly, we felt very safe and are glad we had the experience.
Our first rickshaw ride. It lasted about 35 minutes and cost about $50 USD, but he had to work pretty hard since he was pedaling the whole way.
Our view riding through the hutongs in Beijing, their historic neighborhoods with winding alleyways like this one.
Our afternoon was to be spent at a market in Beijing that I had researched. There are two major markets in Beijing and this one was supposed to be less aggressive and less chaotic/busy. It was neither. As we walked along, I mentioned to Laura that I was shocked at how aggressive the sales people were and how busy and chaotic it was. She agreed and we could not imagine what the other market would be like. After a few hours of shopping and haggling, we found several gifts and a few take-homes for us. The market was supposed to be a short walk from our hotel, so rather than take a taxi, we set out walking. Yet, nothing on the map seemed to match what we were seeing on street signs.
After 30-40 minutes of walking, we realized, our taxi driver had not dropped us at the market we wanted to go to, but the busy/aggressive market. Our hotel was not a short walk away. But undeterred, we decided to try to walk anyway. An hour later, we were hot, exhausted and frustrated by street signs that still did not match our map. As we stood on the corner, we were approached by a powered rickshaw. I almost waved him away, but not knowing exactly how much longer we would have to walk, decided to take another rickshaw ride. So, through afternoon traffic, across busy streets and through cars, buses, bicycles and motorcycles, the girls and I bounced along in our second rickshaw ride. In Laura’s words that afternoon, “This is fun in a nervous sort of way.” She was right. It was fun, but you do feel a little nervous in all the traffic.
Our view during our 2nd rickshaw ride. The ride took about 10 minutes and cost less than $10USD. This rickshaw was battery-powered, we think. The driver pedaled some, but not all the time.