Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Day Four [Bird's Nest (鸟巢) & Linglong Tower (玲珑塔) @ The Olympic Park] - My 8D Beijing/Chengde/Tianjin Highlight Tour (8天皇城北京/承德/天津精选游)

After four nights of stay in Holiday Inn Express, it's time for us to move our luggage and depart for Chengde [承德], a city that is famed for being the mountain resort of the Qing emperors! 

Before that, let's return back to central Beijing (once again) to visit the iconic venues of the highly successful 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; one of which is of course the Bird's Nest. 

First entry - going up the 128-meter tall Linglong Tower (玲珑塔). The Chinese character 塔 should actually be translated into pagoda but there is another 玲珑塔 in Liaoning that has already been given the translated title of Linglong Pagoda. 

Taking the lift to the viewing gallery at the highest equilateral triangle-shaped pod which would give us a fabulous panorama of the surroundings. 

The Bird's Nest (鸟巢) in its full glory! I would be covering the nest later so let's turn our heads to the right where a pastel blue building stands.

Known affectionately as the Water Cube (水立方), the Beijing National Aquatics Center (国家游泳中心) was the main site for swimming, diving and synchronised swimming events! 

A panoramic picture - it would be hard to miss that straight road that stretches all the way to the horizon; if you check the map on Google, you would see that it's a straight line that leads to two major Beijing attractions in the South; Tiananmen and the Forbidden City

Its close proximity to the Bird's Nest and Water Cube means that the top floor of the tower was used exclusively by the dignitaries during the Olympics season. 

Every pod (there are a total of seven) has its own restrooms and surprisingly, i found a shower facility! This was likely installed for the crew of the broadcast studios covering the Olympic events. 

Dad attempting to use my point and shoot Olympus camera to take a good picture of the bird's nest. 

A rare family shot - even though i am trigger happy, i am never keen to have pictures taken of me. Oh well, this photograph taken by the Singapore guide was quite well taken. =P

Ground level - on the straight road that leads to the Forbidden City

Behind Linglong Tower was this sky high futuristic building that was still undergoing construction. The design looked as if it would be able to host a few spaceships upon completion!

Ground view of the Water Cube.

Ground view of the Bird's Nest. 

Ticket to enter the Bird's Nest which is officially known as Beijing National Stadium (国家体育场) - costing 50 RMB (approximately S$10), i was kind of taken aback by the exorbitant pricing!

This is supposed to be mini version of the Bird's Nest although i thought it was more suitable to be a golf ball. 

Steel weaving design that gives the national stadium its pet name. Besides having the appearance of a bird's nest, i personally had another reference to it; that of a somewhat flattened ingot.

I was under the impression that the steel beams would be as complicated inside the stadium but it was obviously not. Such intricate complication would make crowd control very difficult. 

Without further ado, interior of the stadium that has a permanent capacity of 94,000 people with the option to increase it to accommodate 100,000!

The field was covered up for an audio visual performance starring Kenji Wu Ke Qun [Bird's Nest: Attraction] that ended on 21 September 2012.

We were brought to one of the spectators' seating and the tour guide just sat there without saying anything. Initially, we thought it was to let us take in the expansiveness of the place. 

It was a long twenty minutes before he ushered us out! I was almost on the verge of asking what the freak was going on and why were we wasting our time sitting when we can sit all we want in the coach! 

I checked out the directory when i was waiting for the lift; there were a number of places within the stadium that would be more worth wasting my precious twenty minutes!

The humongous Olympic Torch. Sidetracked a bit - it was from day four that i became conscious that the tour guide was getting moody; he was less responsive to our questions, not as friendly as before and it's hard not to associate these changes with the low purchases our group made in the agent-commissioned shopping tours.

Coming back, it's time for the free foot massage that was mentioned in our itinerary. Free it definitely was even though your masseur would try his/her best to sell you an extra foot-base-scrapping service that cost a nominal fee or to fork out even more money for expensive sachets of herbal powder to soak your feet. Oh, you have to tip them as well! 

Lunch at a nearby restaurant after the foot massage. To be fair, i did enjoy the massage and the masseurs assigned to my family were thankfully not pushy.

Another "shopping" in Professor Tea - the sale was comparatively worse this round as i am the only buyer. To make matters worse (for the guide that is), i haggled and slashed more than half the asking price. I could have done better but i do not wish to keep my tour mates waiting in case the driver switched off the air-con again!

Finally leaving for Chengde at around 2.15pm!

Passed by another section of the Great Wall known as Simatai. For adventurous travellers, you should seriously consider visiting either Simatai (司马台) or Jinshanling (金山嶺) as they are less crowded compared to Badaling or Juyongguan

Interesting way of stacking up trucks! 

As the journey to Chengde would take us over three hours, the guide took the opportunity to tell us sob stories of how poor the western region is, even though it produces a lot of delicious crops. He followed by kindly offering us local foodstuffs like honey dates, chestnuts, dried apples etc for us to try and if we like them, we can consider buying from him. 35% of the proceeds would go to the charity organisation helping the people from the Western region.

Being the kind souls Singaporeans are known for, most of us bought a few packets at around 10 RMB each.  That should be the end of the story if i didn't go into a local snack shop and realise that a similar pack of honey dates (just to quote an example) cost only 3.50 RMB! 

It didn't take me long to calculate that a company would likely have a profit margin of 100% and the packet of goodies would cost at most 1.75 RMB; 35% of 10 RMB is 3.50 RMB and that the guide would be pocketing around 4.75 RMB. Wow, that's lucrative and that's under the assumption that he would indeed pass 35% over to the charitable organisation! 

Frustration aside, dinner was steamboat with gamey tasting mutton for shabu shabu! I would talk more about the Chengde hotel in my post for day five.

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