Hi, my name is Alana Magestro. I have been at Fox World Travel’s Brookfield office in
Milwaukee for the past 26 years. My personal travels have taken me all around the world to destinations such as the Mexico, Costa Rica, various countries in Europe, along with my most recent trip to China! Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an action packed adventure, I am ready to make your vacation one you’ll forever cherish!
I stayed at the Fairmont Beijing, a 5 star luxury hotel in the heart of the capital business center of Beijing. There are two restaurants, three bars, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and spa. All rooms have broadband and wireless high speed internet options, Bose wave radio music systems, Nespresso coffee machines, 42-inch flat screen plasma televisions with wireless keyboards, safety deposit boxes, and refrigerator with mini-bar. The highlight was the spa-inspired bathroom with heated floors, over sized bathtub, rain shower and heated toilet seats with built in bidet and dryer. The bathrooms had a glass wall separating it from the main area of the room, but there were blinds that you could close for privacy.
The Fairmont is a short walk from the famous Silk Market which we visited that evening. This is a great place to do your bargain shopping. The vendors expect you to haggle; nothing has a price tag on it. I feel this is part of their daily entertainment. You could find great deals on knockoffs of top brand named merchandise from purses to watches and luggage. There was plenty of variety from souvenirs to custom made clothing. USD was accepted here for those that didn’t have Chinese Yuan. You could exchange currency at the airport or the hotels, and time machines were readily available as well.
The next day we visited the famous Tiananmen Square. It covers 44 hectares (about 26 soccer fields), reputed as the largest square in the world, and can hold 500,000 people. This is where Chairman Mao held the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, proclaiming the birth of New China. It was later well known as the site of the massacre that took place in June of 1989. Military troops inflicted thousands of casualties on unarmed student-led protesters trying to block the military’s advance on Tiananmen Square, which the demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks. The Chinese government refused to admit student killings took place in the square itself and even prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events within China. To this day if you Google Tiananmen Square while in China, there is no mention of this historic occurrence. Our tour guide “Ken” said he purchased a book about it while in the USA so he could learn more about it as the visiting tourist to China frequently asked questions about it. When he flew back home, it was confiscated when he went through customs.
We continued on to The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace. This is a maze of palaces built between 1407 and 1420 as the residence of the emperor. It was used from the Ming Dynasty all the way to the end of the Qing Dynasty (almost 500 years). In total 24 emperors lived in the Imperial Palace. It ceased being the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China. There are over 9,000 halls and rooms. It is the largest palace in the world and considered one of mankind’s major cultural legacies. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
After lunch at the Wu Yu Tai restaurant that specializes in cooking with Chinese tea, we took a rickshaw tour of a typical Beijing Hutong. The word ” hutong” means of narrow lanes and was formed during the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century when the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, occupied Beijing; then the capital of the Jin Dynasty. During the takeover by the Mongols, the old city had been largely demolished, and so he decided to rebuild the city. When the new city was finished, there were clear definitions of streets, lanes and hutongs. A 36 meter wide road was called a “big street”. An 18 meter wide one a “small street” and a 9 meter wide lane was called a “hutong”. Most of the residents in the hutongs surrounding the Imperial Palace were imperial kinsmen and aristocrats. Hutongs far to the north and south of the Imperial Palace were for merchants and other ordinary people. The hutongs of today house typical Beijing people who enjoy a mix of the old and new Beijing lifestyles. We were in the Drum area of Beijing, where the best preserved Hutongs are located.
As part of Brendan’s Boutique Journey a visit to a local families’ hutong was included. We met several of the family members and learned about their family life. They also taught us Chinese calligraphy. We tried our hand at it and had the opportunity to purchase hand painted wall hangings made by the family.
We had a dinner hosted by the Fairmont that evening. Typical Chinese meals at a restaurant are served on round tables (as a symbol of unity) and many of them have “lazy Susan’s” built into the table; for ease of serving, you just turn the table to move on to the next dish. This is also due to a typical meal serving many people at one time. Peking duck is the Beijing specialty and it was served several times during our three day stay. Those that like duck raved about it. Similar to Europe, most Chinese hotels include breakfast, but this can vary by city. At breakfast they did cater to a “Western” clientele in the chain hotels and had a mix of Chinese staples (dim sum, fish etc…) as well as eggs, fruit and Danish. There were some very interesting things served throughout our stay (jellyfish, quail eggs, “bean curd with collagen things”, and numerous things that I had never heard of before), but there was always something that the less adventurous eaters could satisfy themselves with as well. Brendan does a really good job in picking restaurants that cater to both the “Western” and “Eastern” clientele. There were always chopsticks, but if you wanted a fork and knife all you had to do was ask and they didn’t make you feel like an outcast if you did!