Carlos Melia – Exploring the Many Layers of Beijing

Author: , July 13th, 2015

Beijing - Carlos Melia

A complete log in photos and text of my full day exploring the many layers of Beijing to include a morning at the Lama Temple + Hutongs + Tea Ceremony at the Bell Tower. Lunch at Zijin Mansion restaurant at the new Waldorf Astoria Beijing. Afternoon at the Beihai Park + Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Afternoon Tea back at my hotel Raffles Beijing. Later visit to the Temple of Heaven.

Traditional dinner and Pekin Duck experience at Cantonese restaurant Huang Ting at the Peninsula Beijing. And finally some non-traditional snacks at the pedestrian night street market and bazaar of Wangfujing, before calling the day back at my suite at the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy my last cup of tea and off to bed, happy knowing that I have managed to experience and see the many layers of Beijing.

Early morning began right after breakfast at my hotel – the Gran Dame of Beijing – the Raffles Beijing. My private guide picked me up and my day began.

First stop of the morning, was a private half day tour of the surroundings of the Forbidden City, hosted by Abercrombie & Kent China. The tour included stops and visits to the Lama Temple, Hutongs and the Bell Tower with a private tea ceremony.

Beijing - Carlos MeliaNext, we moved to the iconic Hutongs. A side of Beijing you must explore. Hutongs are a type of narrow alleys or streets, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities. most prominently Beijing. Alleys formed by lines of siheyuan – traditional courtyard residences. Nowadays almost 25% of Beijing’s population reside in them. Beijing is divided in 6-rings, surrounding it epicenter, the Royal Forbidden City. Hutongs are mainly located in the second ring. A mix of middle/low class love there. Some areas are becoming rather trendy and modern, and I would not be surprise to find on my next visit a sort of Hutong SOHO district.

At the very end of the road from the hutong in Dongcheng District, we run into our next destination and landmark, the Bell Tower, were a lovely surprise was awaiting for me. They were originally used as musical instruments in China. Afterward, however, they were used for telling time. Playing an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time. The surprise, was my own private tea ceremony and degustation, which lasted approximately 30 to 45 minutes, with a very lovely and funny local host. This was my second Tea Ceremony while in China – first was in Shanghai at the Confucius Temple. The tea ceremony at the Bell Tower, despite being very entertaining, felt a but touristy and geared towards selling the merchandise at the very end of the ceremony. Just so you are prepare and don’t feel as uncomfortable as I felt at the very end.

After this, my morning tour by Abercrombie & Kent came to an end, and my guide took me to the main gates of the Forbidden City to finish his guide.

Since I have visited already the Forbidden City, I decided to just explore the surroundings, walking by the parks, following the walls. I started to get a bit peckish … ha ha ha … so it was the perfect time for lunch, specially since I had already made fabulous plans for it.

For lunch I was hosted and invited by the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, in Wangfujing, to come for a walk-around the property follower by lunch at their signature Chinese restaurant Zijin Mansion. I must say that this property caught my full attention, and I would rank it as my TOP 03 favorite Beijing city hotels. It is the only hotel in the city to offer a proper Hutong courtyard experience, with two villas located just across the main building. As for the lunch, was a degustation menu prepared specially for us.

Time to hit the road again. There is so much to see and Beijing is such a massive city. Next stop was the Beihai Park.

At the Beihai Park, you will find the so known White Pagoda. Beihai – meaning Northern Sea – Park was an imperial garden and now a public park located to the northwest of the Forbidden City in Beijing. First built in the 11th century, it is among the largest of all Chinese gardens and contains numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples. At the center of the park is an island called Jade Flower Island – highest point is 32 meters, where the White Pagoda seats. Kublai Khan received Marco Polo. At the suggestion of a famous Tibetan lama, Emperor Shunzhi, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty agreed to build a Tibetan pagoda to show his belief in Buddhism and his desire for the unification of Chinese ethnic groups.

Beijing - Carlos MeliaNext on my itinerary was the Opera of Beijing, or better known as the National Center of Performing Arts. Located over the main Chang’an Avenue and steps away from Tiananmen Square. It literally looks like an UFO has landed over a mirror of water over the epicenter of Beijing. Local people also refer to this building at the giant egg. And after that along the same avenue, is Tiananmen Square and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong and the National Museum of China.

At 3 O’Clock Sharp, I walked back to my hotel the Raffles Beijing, for a very special event. I was hosting to friends from New York, who happened to be in Beijing at the same time as me, for one of my favorite experiences ” High Tea”. And where better to do so, that in China and at a Raffles Hotel, right ?

A brief break plus wardrobe change and off I went again to burn all the calories of my High Tea. This time, my next destination for the afternoon was the Temple of Heaven. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Daoist temple. The surrounding park is quite extensive, consisting of playgrounds, exercise and game areas. These facilities are well used by adults, particularly in the morning, for choral shows, ethnic dances, and other presentations.

Time for dinner. This time hosted by the Peninsula Hotel Beijing. Began with a short walk-around the property, which was indeed quite short, since the entire hotel is under, a well deserved, full renovation, which will be completed by early 2017 (note that the hotel remains open, while the renovation takes place). I was lucky to see the mockup rooms, but unfortunately no photos were allowed.

All I can say is that the look and feel, will be pretty similar to their sister property the Peninsula Hotel Paris. After my site inspection, I was hosted to my first Peking Duck gourmet experience, at their signature Cantonese style restaurant Huang Ting, among many other local delights, ordered to the table. I mean, Chinese people do know well how to create a lovely spread. As for the Pekin Duck, it was so delicious and it melted in my mouth. Mind I am not a duck eater, but this was quite on my liking.

After a lovely dinner at the Peninsula Hotel Beijing, I decided to walk back to my hotel, and make a quick stop at the buzzing pedestrian street Night Bazaar and Food Market of Wangfujing. This wasn’t that quiet nor traditional. And YES !!!! I did try the scorpions and water beetles on skewers, and I must say, they were quite tasteful and very crunchy. BTW these two were the safest options, among seahorses, centipedes, sheep’s various body parts, snakes and a whole selection of insects on a stick to your liking.

After traditional dinner, followed by a non (so) traditional one, and a long and amazing day exploring the many layers of Beijing, I headed back to my hotel, the Raffles Beijing, to enjoy a nice cup of Puer Tea and off to bed.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia – High Speed Train Beijing to Shanghai and Back

Author: , July 4th, 2015

Carlos MeliaIf there is a great way to travel within China is by their super comfortable High-Speed Trains by CRH – China Railway High-Speed. We connected three destinations Beijing – Shanghai – West Lake/Hangzhou using both their Business and Economy Class. 300 Kilometers and hour to move across China in full comfort and smoothly. One suggestion, buy your tickets online time before your trip. If you need help with reliable ways to do this, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Our journey began at Beijing Nan South Train Station, which not only was immaculate clean, but also huge. So please allow time to arrive, get yourself familiar with the gates, and DO NOT FORGET, you need to collect your tickets, and than takes at least 10 to 15 minutes. In 4 hours and 48 minutes, after an ultra comfortable ride, we arrived to Shanghai Hongqiao Train Station.

Here you can see all my photos on our experience in Business Class. The configuration from Beijing to Shanghai was totally different from the one back. But on both cases, we had a full flat bed cocoon seat. The downsides are: no internet on board. Despite they do have personal TVs, there was no entertainment available.

During the ride you will get snacks, drinks and a full meal (which you might or not like). The formation has a Cafeteria car, but be careful, you might not like what they have to offer. Our choice was beer and nori, literally. On my way back I decided to buy my own snack at the train station.

On our ride from Shanghai to/from the West Lake/Hangzhou, since this is a one hour and 20 minutes ride, they only offer Economy Class, which was totally fine and comfortable too, with a fine seat and pitch.

Without a doubt, I will chose the High-Speed train over flights anytime. If possible, if you take the trains arriving to Beijing or Shanghai after 11PM, book your car transfer in advance and have someone waiting for you at the train station. Otherwise you might cue for two hours to get a taxi out.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | China Gay Travel Resources

Visiting Ghost Street in Beijing, China

Author: , March 1st, 2014

Ghost Street, Beijing, China - AlainOne of the places frequented by expats is the Gui Jie or the Ghost Street in Beijing. Don’t be fooled by its name–ghosts are nowhere in sight. At least, to my knowledge.

Right off Dongzhimen Subway Station or at Beixinqiao Subway (closer) is Gui Jie, a street teeming with restaurants in traditional Chinese architecture. My friends and I used to meet here for dinner consisted of hotpots, spicy delights and of course, dozens of chuan ‘er (lamb skewer) wolfed down with a bottle of Tsingtao beer.

Bold neon lights compete with Chinese red lanterns strung across and above the sidewalks that make the place like a “red light district”, minus the vulgar whores and pushy, annoying pimps.

Authored By Alain – See the Full Story at The Sojourner

Click here for gay travel resources in China.

My Ten Minute Boyfriend in Beijing

Author: , February 24th, 2014

Beijing, China - The SojournerOnce upon a time, a girl friend of mine asked me a favor to show her newly-acquired boyfriend around — anywhere in Beijing. She was busy at work and couldn’t ask for a leave, even for a day. I agreed, of course. It’s my expertise–showing men what I’ve got. I mean, the city where I used to live. 😉

And so, I met Tomi in his hotel room, not far from where I lived. His room number was odd: double 3 double 4. He’s Indian and of average height. My first impression the moment he opened his mouth was–talkative. I mean it in a good way. And boy, I wasn’t wrong. When we hopped in the taxi, we clicked. That didin’t take us too long to be kind of “shy” to each other. He did the talking most of the time and I did the listening, like I was born to do it beside him. On our way to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we talked mostly about him and his country: politics, Gandhi, the caste system, the dowry tradition, sex, love, work, homosexuality and future plans. It was our first meeting and we already talked a ranged of subjects new friends wouldn’t dare talk about.

I felt like I was the talk show queen herself, Oprah Winfrey! I asked a lot of questions and threw some personal, blunt, honest questions and rebuttal to his answers and opinions. He was just cool and got used to my bitchiness and sluttiness in a short while. That, too, didn’t take him long to notice it.

Authored By Alain – See the Full Story at The Sojourner

Click here for gay travel resources in China.

Gay Guy Goes to China

Author: , November 9th, 2013

Ryan C. Haynes - Destination BeijingGay China is much more apparent than I expected, but with an internal population of over 1 billion people it really is obvious to understand why there is a hive of homosexual activity.

I had the chance to visit three gay venues while in Beijing, I also discovered how people keep in contact. It is worth downloading and accessing a couple of social applications for China; grindr, jack’d, and WeChat. The most popular gay chat device is definitely Jack’d. These weren’t limited to access through a VPN either.

What’s important to note, is that most of the Chinese live outside the central centre to Beijing, but there are a couple of gay venues worth visiting:

Destination, 7 Gongti Xi Lu
Subway – Dong SiShiTaio
Next to walkers Stadium, past Asia Hotel
Great on Friday and Saturday. It has 1 dance floor – where everyone faces the DJ booth and Pole Dance Station, very weird, and has a further 7 bars and several chill out rooms that are well air conditioned.

Authored By Ryan C. Haynes – See the Full Story at Honest Omissions

Click here for gay travel resources in China.

From Beijing to North Korea – Another World

Author: , October 31st, 2013

Ryan C. Haynes - North KoreaWaking to a busy, lively train while cramped in the top bunk of a sleeper is not most people’s idea of enjoyment and excitement but for me it is one of those days in the year that put a smile on my sleep. I had managed to survive the night without rolling off the bunk, kept myself warm from the onslaughts of air con blasts from the roof of my berth (thanks to my Vietnamese silk sleeping bag), and had manoeuvred my way up and down the three bunks twice during the course of the night without disturbing anyone, in pitch darkness on a moving wagon!

As you can tell I was mighty pleased with myself! The top bunk is not many people’s choice but it certainly means people won’t disturb you. I then sit up – bang! I hit my forehead square on the train roof! Good morning! Half crunch and that’s the space in my bunk compromised.

Then I need to manoeuvre out of the bunk, changing clothes and packing while the body is still waking up and muscles aren’t quite stretched. It makes me wonder how I did this during the course of the night. Especially during my mid-sleep pee break!

Authored By Ryan C. Haynes – See the Full Story at Honest Omissions

Click here for gay travel resources.

Getting Around Beijing, China

Author: , October 27th, 2013

Ryan C. Haynes - ChinaI may have only spent time in Beijing, and took a train across the country, but the sheer size of its towns and cities, the growth of the skyline, and its modern look just exemplifies the place that China holds in the world.

Beijing has been flattened and rebuilt with many big block faceless buildings. History and culture seems to have been surrendered, even the Hutong area has been and is being rebuilt.

Speaking to a local, he tells me of the property bubble and how it is growing out of control. Rates and costs are rising, and this is unsustainable.

Authored By Ryan C. Haynes – See the Full Story at Honest Omissions

Click here for gay travel resources in China.

What to Do in Beijing On a Layover

Author: , August 15th, 2013

Beijing, China - Apple Maps

form Apple Maps

China, you may find yourself with a few hours’ layover time in Beijing. It used to be that strict visa requirements would make it tricky for passengers in transit to leave the airport; but that changed when, earlier this year, a new policy allowing citizens of 45 countries, including the U.S., up to 72 hours of visa-free transit was enacted.

Even if you can’t stretch your layover to the full, allowable 72 hours, we have suggestions for what you can do in a much shorter time.

Transportation Tips

If you are on a tight schedule in Beijing, and really do only have four hours, take a taxi from one of the stands outside the airport, which should be able to get you into the city in around 30 minutes. If, on the other hand, you have a substantial amount of spare time, you can save some some money and experience Beijing’s public transportation network by taking the Airport Express train to Dongzhimen and then transferring to the subway lines. Take Line 1 to Jianguomen Station for Tian’nanmen Square and the Forbidden City, Line 5 to Tiantian Dongmen Station for the Temple of Heaven, and Line 1 to Yongali Station for the Silk Market and Ancient Observatory.

Authored By Karen Gardiner Dion – See the Full Story at Shermans Travel

Click here for gay travel resources in China.