Beijing street food at night market

This post will be about street food in Beijing. To be honest after previous travels in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia it was nothing new to us. I think trying daring food is good to do once and then you can just stick to whatever is tasty.

Now what do I mean by daring food? Insects, chewy creatures of the sea, internal organs that never end up on western plates.

Street food that we love is stir-fry, fried rice and noodle dishes, meat skewers, satay, crepes/pancakes…

More on:

Huayan Monastery Datong China

Huayan Monastery, Datong, China

From Beijing we decided to Go West and visit Datong. Main attractions include Huayan Monastery, Jiulong Bi (Nine Dragon Screen), Datong Hanging Monastery (Xuankong Temple) and Yungang Caves. Check out the full post at:

Forbidden City, Pekin Beijing, China part 1 Outer City

Forbidden City Pekin Beijing China

Forbidden City – Zijin Cheng, 紫禁城; pinyin: Zǐjinchéng; literally: “Purple Forbidden City”. Also known as “The Palace Museum” (故宫博物院). Above Meridian Gate (Wu Men). From the balcony the emperor would review his armies and perform ceremonies marking the start of new calendar.

Tickets to Forbidden City Beijing China

Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing just north from Tian’an Men Square. It’s huge. It really is. Even though I watched travel videos and pictures before we went I was surprised by its size. It really is a city within a city. We devoted one day to sightseeing it and we were able to see Outer Court, Inner Court and some of the Eastern Palaces. We didn’t get to see the Western ones.

There were crowds inside. To be able to see anything inside the building you had to seriously be good with your elbows and persistent. People would use any, even the smallest space to get ahead of you. This was mainly a problem in Outer and Inner City not so much after that.

Gate of Supreme Harmony Forbidden City ChinaGate of Supreme Harmony – used for receiving visitors, later during Qing dynasty for banquets

 gate of Supreme Harmony

Five marble bridges, symbolizing the five cardinal virtues of Confucianism (Ren, Yi, Zhi, Xin, Li), cross the Golden Water, which flows from west to east in a course designed to resemble the jade belt worn by officials.

  • Rén (仁, humaneness);
  • Yì (義, righteousness or justice);
  • Lǐ (禮, proper rite);
  • Zhì (智, knowledge);
  • Xìn (信, integrity).

Marble bridges Forbidden City Beijing China

Pairs of lions guard the entrances to the halls. The male is portrayed with a ball under his paw, while the female has a lion cub.

Chinese male lion Forbidden City Beijing China

Hall of Supreme Harmony is the larges hall in the Palace. It was used for major occasions. Inside the hall there is an ornate throne and a very ornate ceiling. Not much else besides the two.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony Forbidden City Beijing ChinaMarble Carriageway leads to the hall. The central ramp is carved with dragons chasing pearls among clouds and was reserved for the emperor.

Hall of Supreme Harmony Forbidden City Beijing China

An odd number of roof guardians, all associated with water, are supposed to protect the building from fire.

Roof guardians Forbidden City Beijing China

Forbidden City Beijing China

Gate of Supreme Harmony back view Forbidden City

Forbidden City China

Forbidden City China Beijing

Forbidden City Beijing China

Hall Doors gold plated

Emperors throne Forbidden City Pekin China

Copper and iron vats were part of the fire-fighting equipment. They were filled with water to be used to douse fires. From October to February every year, the vats were covered with quilts to prevent the water freezing, and on very cold days they would be heated by charcoal fires. The Qing Dynasty vats had two beast shaped bronze rings, a big belly and small mouth. Now it seems everyone believes that rubbing heads of those beasts brings good luck.

Bronze cauldrons Forbidden City Beijing China

Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony there is The Hall of Middle Harmony (Zhonghe dian) and The Hall of Preserving Harmony. At the Hall of Central Harmony emperor received homage from officials in charge of ceremonial matters before he proceeded to hold court or lead ceremonies at the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The phrase ‘Central Harmony’ derives from the book of Rites in which it refers to impartial and just conduct appropriate to each situation. The hall was also used before he went to the Altar of Agriculture to ceremonially plough the earth and sow seeds every spring, as it was here that he inspected the seeds and the farming tools to be used before the ceremony.

Roof tops Forbidden City Beijing China

Forbidden City Beijing China

and then on to the Inner Court…


Great Wall of China – Badaling

Great Wall of China Badaling

Great Wall of China (万里长城) one of the most recognizable structures in the World. It was originally a series of separate sections build by individual states. Later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall. The wall enabled speedy communications via smoke, flares, drums, and bells, as well as allowing for the rapid transport of troops across the country. It begins in the east at Shanhaiguan in Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in Gansu province to the west. Its main body consists of walls, horse tracks, watch towers, and shelters on the wall, and includes fortresses and passes along the Wall.

The Great Wall of China Badaling

The day day was cold and foggy when we decided to see the Wall. We chose Badaling as it was close and there is a cable cart which brings you up close to one of the towers. I didn’t expect it to be so steep. Even though it was out of season it was still very crowded and we slowly made our way up. We couldn’t see further than 2 meters and lost hope it’s gonna change.

Great Wall China Badaling

Great Wall of China BadalingBut then it rained…

                                     … and cleared…

                                                                     …and crowds stayed behind

Great Wall of China Badaling


I have to say it’s very impressive. We stayed for two hours but could stay much longer. If you have time take the pedestrian entrance and skip the cable cart. Now imagine people actually run marathon there… uff it’s widely considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons. Imagine running here:

Badaling Great Wall

Great Wall china Badaling

Badaling China

Two weeks, China, October 2015

I’m just back from our trip to China. We left on 17th October and came back on 2nd November 2015. We wanted to see The Great Wall and Forbidden City and then decide where to go next. We ended up traveling by train to Datong (Chinese: 大同; pinyin: Dàtóng), then Pingyao (Chinese: 平遥; pinyin: Píngyáo) and finally Shanghai (Chinese: 上海市).

China trip map

We traveled mostly by train. Hard sleeper from Beijing to Datong (K43) for 104.50 Yuan. Hard sleeper again from Datong to Pingyao (K961) for 117.50 Yuan, back to Beijing (K604) for 163 Yuan and finally with bullet train from Beijing to Shanghaihongiao (G107 & G118) for 553 Yuan each way.

We always checked the online schedule and availability before buying tickets at railway station or railway agent. I really recommend Travel China Guide. You need to remember that Google is not working at the moment in China, but Bing is. Also no Facebook.

We loved the trains. They were comfortable, clean and in case of bullet train very fast. Crew always makes sure you have something to eat  or drink (yes you have to buy it) and there is free boiling water in every compartment (think instant soups and tea). We haven’t traveled so much on trains on any other trip.

High speed bullet train Beijing

Above picture of our bullet train. And it’s not 10 trains for the whole country. On every station we saw dozens of them on platforms or on the side tracks. Very impressive.

High speed bullet train China Beijing

Each one has a 1st, 2nd and business class.

Business class bullet train Beijing China

High speed bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai at 302 km/h High speed bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai at 302 km/h

And here is a short video from the hard sleeper. I was expecting it to be dirtier, packed and loud. But it was alright. I read somewhere that it’s best to take middle bunk as on the lower one people join you and sit on your bed and the top one is very warm. We asked for the middle bunk so and we spent all our journey on fold up chairs instead. For the next journey we got low bunk and nobody was trying to sit on it. Maybe cos we are “aliens” and people were keeping their distance.

Departure slip china

Anyway it is true that Chinese (not all but many) talk and eat very loudly. In train we came across a couple of passengers that lived up to our expectations. And yes it was disgusting to hear them munching, slurping, hem and haw. Yes, they do it everywhere in restaurants, trains, streets, but it’s not something that I will remember above all else. In regards to smoking. People used to be able to smoke everywhere but now government introduced smoking ban in most public areas. Still if you smoke nobody will scold you if you know where it’s acceptable.

Train from Beijing to Datong Train from Beijing to Datong

Hard sleeper middle bunk Hard sleeper middle bunk

Besides the high speed bullet trains (G) other trains are classified by the following letters: Z/T/K/L/Y/S and they run day and night.

Train types china

Within the train there are different types of seats available: hard sleeper, soft sleeper, luxury soft sleeper, hard seat, soft seat. For more information with pictures you can visit Travel China Guide.

Beijing Train Station:

Beijing South railway StationBeijing South Railway Station

Beijing South Railway Station ChinaBeijing South Railway Station

Pingyao china train ticket machine

Pingyao ticket buying machine train station

To buy a ticket you need to present your ID or passport. After the visit in China it feels like you need to show your ID on every corner. We were even checked walking down the street in Beijing. They closed the sidewalk, set up a security gate and X-Ray for bags and checked everyone who wanted to pass.

We did not use this machine to buy our tickets. We got the at the counter. Separate for foreigners. In typical communist fashion we waited forever for anyone to come and then to get served, even though nobody was queuing to the other sales assistant. she told us to wait in front of the empty one until somebody comes. We had all details written down in Chinese in my notebook so the operation went smoothly.

Pingyao K961 at 9:32 on 24/10/2015 hard sleeper three ticketsPingyao K961 at 9:32 on 24/10/2015 hard sleeper three tickets

Funny fact:

While queuing we noticed a sign next to one of the tills: “Disabled tick for Export”

You buy a ticket and it’s check at the entrance to the station (with your passport), next you go through security check (just like the one at the airport) plus personal scan, the on to waiting room. Between the waiting room and the platform the ticket is checked again, then it’s check at the entrance to the carriage and again when conductor comes to replace it with something what looks like magnetic card key. They just before your destination the same man comes back and gives you back your paper ticket and takes back the card. There is no use for the card on the train (you don’t swipe it anywhere).

Tocket card for the duration of the journey Ticket card for the duration of the journey

Paper train tickets China

Paper train tickets

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Borneo, Malaysia

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation CentreTo get to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre you can take bus number 14 from mini bus station. You can pay for the ticket on the bus – MR5. Essential – it’s mini bus station!

The mini bus leaves twice a day for morning and afternoon feeding at 10am and 3pm. The journey takes 45mins. I think the bus leaves at 9am so but double check once there.

Adopt an orangutan

Orangutans Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Orangutan Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Orangutan Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

if you ever wonder how to eat a banana


Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Sepilok Borneo malaysia

Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Sepilok Borneo Malaysia

Orangutan Sepilok Borneo

Sepilok Borneo

Sepilok Borneo

Sepilok Borneo

Warning monkeys

5 interesting things about orangutans

Sepilok borneo

After feeding we went for a walk into jungle. Bird trail. I haven’t seen even one bird. Some butterflies, spiders and bugs. But then out of the blu or rather green (as for jungle) this creature shows up and scares bejesus out of us.

Orangutan Sepilok Borneo

orangutan sepilok borneo

and leaves as if nothing had happened

Sandakan, Borneo, Malaysia

We decided to take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. 319km took us 7 hours instead of 5. The ticket costs MR48.

On the way we enjoyed European techno music from early ’90s and karate movies including:

The views are spectacular. The road meanders between high mountains and you can admire valleys covered with forests. The slopes are strengthened with concrete to avoid stone avalanches which might make the journey less picturesque at times. We got to Sandakan after dark and took a taxi from bus station to the hostel we picked from our guide (MR20). Our taxi driver was quite unusual. He told us that the government tells taxi drivers to describe their village to foreigners. “Village” is the word he used. He showed us the hospital where he was born, where the English Tea House is, Catholic Church and day market. He also told us about Orangutan Sanctuary and Discovery Center.

Sandakan BackpackersWe got out in front of Sea View Hostel but we didn’t like it all that much. After short search for a place to stay we ended up in Borneo Sandakan Backpackers.  There we got picked up by Raf (Rafael) from Switzerland. He recommended this Irish place to us called Shamrock Cafe. Hahahhaa if we were expecting Guinness we were totally disappointed. Typical Malaysian beanery. We joined a merry company already enjoying cold beer on the side walk and had a great night out.

One of the people we met was Jonathan who turned out to be a Manager of the hostel we were staying in. The other Mao a tourist guide and Jonathan’s friend. We had a really nice evening discussing culture, tourism and life while drinking cold beer. A bucket of beer (4 bottles) was MR27 and 2 large ones MR36.

Shamrock restaurant Sandakan Borneo

Even though Malaysia is a Muslim country the Sharia law includes only the followers of Allah. Muslims have their own police. It turns out that for a wife you need to pay MR1000, the better educated the higher the price. A woman with higher diploma “costs” MR20,000. A child can only get an ID if parents are married and a wedding costs between MR40,000 and MR80,000.

There is no such a thing as Malaysian cuisine. It’s a mountain country and hasn’t develop it’s own cuisine. The food available is a mixture of Chinese, Thai and Hindu dishes. The best dishes they could recommend us was sea food and Satay.

Best satay in Sandakan

Jonathan recommended the best satay in town to us. The picture above shows the place where it’s done. We were the only foreigners there. I can’t unfortunately say I liked it more than the ones I tried in Thailand. The main attraction in Sandakan was Orangutan Sanctuary. It turned out to be a day trip.  Other than that we just walked around the city, visited market and enjoyed the sun set in the harbor. Just to warn you the food there is not great and it’s very expensive. One of the dishes that got my attention was hot pot. Looked really good but was mild not to say tasteless and I.’s lemon chicken dish had 3 pieces of chicken in it. So do go there to enjoy the view but not for the food.

Next post on Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre but for now some more pictures of Sandakan.

Promenade in Sandakan

Patrol Sandakan

Red Horse beer

Soup Sandakan

My favorite dish in Sandakan, Borneo

My favorite dish in Sandakan, Borneo

A. favorite car in Sandakan ;)

A.’s favorite car in Sandakan ;)

Sandakan city center

Sandakan city center

Badmington real feather aileron

Doctor educated in Ireland/UK

Doctor educated in Ireland/UK

One of 2 restaurants which I can recommend in Sandakan

One of 2 restaurants which I can recommend in Sandakan

Second of 2 restaurants I can recommend in Sandakan

Second of 2 restaurants I can recommend in Sandakan


Food Market, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo Malaysia

Just next to the harbor in Kota Kinabalu there is a huge market. Part of it is located in concrete building with stalls full of souvenirs, clothes, bags, scarfs, shoes, jewellery, drums and many many more. Next to it there is an open air food market with fish, meat, fruit and veg. You can also sit down and have something to eat and drink. Have a look yourselves.

Food Market at sun set Kota Kinabalu Borneo MalaysiaFood Market Kota Kinabalu Borneo Malaysia