Trip Start Apr 07, 2007
41Trip End Sep 20, 2007
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Where I stayed
Arrived Beijing 07:17am and were collected and delivered to Xioxiang Hotel a fairly standard 3 star with awful a/c. the first day it lashed rain but was very clammy. The area itself is near the tacky looking Natural history museum and the very nice Temple of Heaven where Sunday morning saw loads on locals do tai chi and play bat and ball games and all sorts of the other games and communal singing we don't do in Ireland. Also there is the 'centre of the universe' whose I am not sure and our favourute was the '70 year old door' that was made as a short cut for the elderly Chin emperor but he didn't wanted his slacker kids using shortcuts so he decreed only 70 year old emperor's up could use it - but no other emperor got that age so only he used it.
Tianemen square is massive (yes indeed Sherlock) and on it is The great hall of the people and Mao's mausoleum (currently closed) and right beside it is The Forbidden City (complete with a starbucks someone must be turning his grave). the forbidden sity is basically an emperors palce and grounds and has many halls and buildings for all purposes from entertaining to sleeping, and the yellow ones are for the emperor only as this is his reserved colour and the chinese garden in there for the empress is really lovely.
A Beijing highlight is acrobatic shows and we went to Chaoyang theatre and it was impressive. But of course the biggest highlight of all is The Great Wall we went to a bit 2 hours away called Mutianyu (at elevation 800m, while the highest is about 1000m according to guide Wong) and did about and 80 minute walk on it and it really is something else but the best bit for me was the 7 min. toboggan ride down a luge from it to the ground (got a chairlift up). On the ground are many souvenir stalls and overpriced lunch, but you'll have that I suppose.
Meanwhile back in the city we were at The Pearl Market (knock off heaven) and had a guided tour of the back street area known as 'Hutong' where real people live fairly humbly (and for anyone going there it should be noted has great shops, much better than the other places I mentioned). However you will have to hurry as they are knocking a lot of the houses on the hutongs in the big clean up for the Olympics, which seems a shame. Apparently the way to know if a street is being kept in tact is if it has a new public toilet. I know all this as by now we had hooked up with, our russian born tour leader for the trans mongolian train, the lovely Julia, who is really 'dead on' (as I think only we say in Ireland). There were also 5 aussies and 4 kiwis with us by this point and after the hutong walk we all went to the Beijing Folk Food restaurant in Nanxinhua Jie for peking duck (well we had yummy aubergine and tofu stuff).
So liking Beijing which I didn't really expect, again it's a bit smoggy but on day 2 we had a clear day and lovely weather which was a plus (apparently they can force it to rain to clear the smog).