Dave the Scorpion King
Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
84Trip End Jun 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
The hard sleeper cabins in the train from Xi'an to Beijing consist of 6 beds (each side has 3 beds stacked on top of each other). This works out perfectly for a tour group of 12 as you get 2 berths. However, Robert is the 13th member and has to sleep with locals (comes with being the group leader). Robert doesn't let us pick which bed we get though. He shuffles the tickets and everyone picks a bed at random. Both overnight trains Amy and I got in different cabins, but our groupmates were kind enough to switch with us (even to switch into a cabin with Kimberly).
The train got into the Beijing station at 6:30 am. In Xi'an we had a mini bus to take us to our hotel, but this time we were to take a taxi. Robert broke us into groups and wrote down a piece of paper (in Mandarin) the name of the hotel to give to the taxi driver. Amy, Anna (aka Macca, which is also the nickname of McDonalds in Australia), and I were the first to get in a taxi and off we went. I should have immediately known when the driver spent 2 minutes looking at the paper that had 5 words on it.
Unfortunately, we were unable to check in at this time (now about 7:30am), so we had to leave our bags with the hotel and start our walking tour of the city (bleary eyed). The hotel told us they had no room in the closet for all of our bags, so wanted to put a net around it to stop the 3 locals staring down our stuff. Amy noticed that the closet was filled with a chair and the bellhops cart, so we asked if they would stop being lazy and put away our luggage. They obliged (with plenty of room). Robert then showed a small group of us where the laundry and internet was. While waiting for others to get their laundry done, Amy, Adrienne (the Canadian, eh), and I saw a hole in the wall restaurant across the street. A little hungry we walked over to check it out. I was intrigued by the site of dumpling making at the front of the restaurant, so the 3 of us took one of the three tables. Without ordering anything, 2 kinds of dumplings were thrown our way. They were absolutely delictable and the bill came to 9 yuan (about $1.40 US) for the 3 of us to eat (about 32 dumplings).
The group walking tour started shortly afterwards, with a trip to Imperial Park. A huge park (which costs 2 yuan to keep out the riff raff) where people went to play/listen to music, excercise, and climb the mountain to get a view of the city. Amy joined a morning Tai Chi class to show off what she learned in Hong Kong. After the park, we walked down to Tiananmen Square.
We then moved on to the Forbidden City. This was home to the emperors for a few dynasties. No one could enter, not even the brothers of the emperor, without his permission. Once again, the complex was huge. There are over 8000 rooms in the Forbidden City, but used to have 9999.5 rooms. Despite it's size, Forbidden City felt very crowded. We later saw on tv that China is trying restrict the amount of visitors to 80,000 a day (which they currently get double that).
Most were getting hungry, so we tried to go back to the dumpling restaurant, but the place was packed, and the 8 of us would have dominated the place. Instead we went to a restaurant next door that was advertising free internet. Some in our group have not checked their email in over a week (which is a long time in this day and age), so we stopped by. This place officially received the award for worst chinese food (sorry Panda Express, you couldnt keep the award forever).
Now around 1pm, we were able to check in to the hotel and freshen up. We had time before the evening activity, so 8 of us met up to go to the Olympic Complex. Trying to be smart (since we could easily take 2 taxis) we decided not to take the subway as that would take 35 minutes. Unfortunately getting a taxi in Beijing is not that easy. We found one taxi, but she kicked us out when we told her where we were going (in a language I dont understand she pointed in the opposite direction, meaning she didnt want to go in the opposite direction).
After walking around we went back to the hotel (via the subway) just in time to get the bus to the Kung Fu show. The show was included in our tour, and everyone was very excited to see the demonstrations. However, the show started and it turned into a musical (the actors were lip synching since the music was in English and my guess is they didnt know any). There were still some cool stunts, but the show lasted about 30 minutes too long. It was an interesting introduction to Kung Fu and it's history though.