16 million dreams

Trip Start Jun 17, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

16 million dreams in one city, 16 million living souls trafficking the streets of Beijing. It is huge, immense, overwhelming. Skyscrapers, restaurants, shops, taxis, buses, cycle rickshas, bicycles, street vendors, traffic lights, lack of road rules, poverty next to immense wealth, subway systems, and commercials commercials commercials in Chinese.. The change from the quiet and sober landscape of Mongolia to the hustle and bustle of Metropolitan Beijing was almost too much.

Upon our arrival we faced the first challenge: buying travellers cheques. In Mongolia my wallet was stolen with my credit card, banking card and a lot of cash in it. It happened in an internet cafe, where I could immediately make the necessary phone calls to block my cards. One of the co-workers at the internet cafe accompanied me to the police station to report the theft, even though it was past midnight. Over the weekend there was nothing I could do to resolve my bank-card problems, and I travelled on to Beijing. Once there my father informed me he would take care of getting new banking cards, and so he did.
However, I still had to overcome the time until the banking cards would arrive in Korea (Yes, jumping ahead of my travel schedule, my cards were sent to Korea where I stay with a Korean friend), so I wanted to buy travellers cheques, transferring money to Otto's account through internet banking. Buying travellers cheques turned out not to be as easy as we thought.. it took for hours, and four banks in different parts of the city, and when we at long last found a bank that could sell the travellers cheques, we sat there for 30 to 45 minutes before the transaction was completed. It was a relief though to have a financial backup again.

In Beijing I did all that a tourist is supposed to do. We saw Tiananmen square, the world's largest public square where in 1989 the student's pro-democracy demonstrations started that resulted in the death of thousands. We visited the impressive Forbidden City which was off limits for 500 years. This collection of ancient buildings used to be the home to two dynasties of emperors. We strolled in the hutongs, Beijing's narrow alleyways with small one-storey houses, hidden between the sky scrapers and shopping malls. We met Dennis and Monique again, whom we had met in Mongolia, and joined them climbing the Great Wall. We chose a part of the wall that is less touristic, since parts of it are quite steep (up to 70 degrees) and at some points there are no walls. We walked, no I'd rather say we climbed and descended, only 10 kilometers, but that was more than enough with the steepness, the heat and the humidity. It is quite impressive to see what the Chinese were able to do 2000 years ago.. After this, Otto and I said goodbye, Otto travelling to Chengdu in order to catch a flight to Tibet, while I would continue my journey to Qingdao to cross the Yellow Sea to Korea. I first visited the Summer Palace though, an immense park with palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors where the royal family escaped to if the Beijing Summer became unbearable. In one word: enchanting! After walking there for some three hours, I still had not seen all of it.. However, I had a night train to catch..

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