Baltic Beijing

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Days 148 - 151 Arrived in Beijing after shortish flight from Hong Kong to find the weather as anticipated, just under zero. Took me a while to get from airport to hotel, as i took a shuttle bus and taxi combo, which was an adventure in itself. People really don't speak much English here, that said, it tends to be better than my Chinese. Headed for a quick look around the hotel and found a really good place to eat that was ridiculously cheap, though, again, the ordering of food was an effort with the waitress continually speaking Chinese to me despite it being obvious i didn't understand a word. Did get a few Asahi's for the room, so not a bad result overall.

Took a good walk around the inner city (square), through some 'hutongs'  (ancient alleyways, houses, shops etc) saw a temple or two with the main one being the Temple of Heaven where i stayed for a couple of hours. Impressive. Had another cheap, but excellent, meal at night and a couple of large similarly priced Kirin's.

Headed up to the zoo the following day, using the subway for the first time. Found this an excellent system (20 cents for all journeys) which is easy to follow, fast, efficient, clean etc. Saw about a dozen pandas at the zoo which was the only real aim, not really staying around to see much else, except the golden-haired monkey and white tigers. Lost a couple of hours in the morning looking for the Beijing Underground City, which i just couldn't find, despite being in the right area. Subsequently heard this may well be closed, and is certainly a pain in the arse to find - i gave up. Everything else was ok to locate, though the street names are a bit difficult to understand, and it doesn't help when google images, lonely planet and maps from hotels all differ slightly. Regardless, made it around more hutongs and temples as i did the next day, where the main event was the Summer Palace (or Winter Palace) where the lakes, like a few others, are completely iced over. Went to the night (food) market but didn't like the vibe nor food on offer - silk worm, beetle, centipede, sheep penis, grasshopper - on skewers. Almost as bad as the dog i saw on the menu the previous day.

This confirms some things i thought about Asians and their habits, as did the spitting. This seems like a status symbol, who can spit the most, men, woman and children are involved! I have also offered lady boys loads of times when out at night, and expected this as well, but i didn't expect to go into a public toilet and a women to come in and have a piss in the gents toilets - note, there are no doors between the squat toilet and the urinals (in most, and this case). She carried out a conversation with someone then went on her merry way, without washing her hands. Wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't a cook in the 'gourmet street' where i was at the time! I didn't eat there that night, or any night for that matter. Other than that, it seems to be a country which is developing, and is a bit more open and forward than i expected in some ways, but not the internet which is scarce and monitored (scary).

Joined the Intrepid trip on the Thursday evening, to find that there are only four of us - me, a Canadian girl and Kiwi girl who now live in Sydney and a bloke from north Victoria. They all booked only a few weeks previous (i booked in July) so reckon it would have been canceled if they didn't. All sound folk, 20's and 20's, as is the guide, so loads of fun (and a few drinks) will be had along the way to Shanghai. Went for a meal on the first night, which again, was excellent, but a bit more expensive - almost a fiver!! (for about 10 courses between us). 

Days 152 - 153 First day on the tour and it was a trip to the Great Wall. Was an incredible, awe-inspiring, event, and to think we only saw a tiny, tiny portion of the almost 9,000 km structure. A bit annoying to see a 'Subway' at the place, but then again, we did enjoy tobogganing down, which is equally touristy (i did stop short at buying a 'I climbed the great wall tee-shirt however). Headed back to the city for a Beijing duck meal and a trip to a kung fu show, both which were superb. The show included a good story, fighting, feats of strength, acrobatics, magic, dancing and a few other things.

It was a trip to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City the following day, then had a few hours to ourselves. I walked up to Jingshan Park, and past a couple of lakes before heading to the silk street markets. A bit disappointed at the later, but (and not for the first time) found i was in the wrong place as the Lonely Planet is out of date (despite being 2009 edition!) and there was only a few traders where it pointed to, with the main markets now elsewhere. Anyhoo, no time to check as had to get to the train station to catch the overnight train to Xi'an. What an experience that was. The station was absolutely crazy busy, but we got the train fine, to find that there were already three in our 6 sleeper compartment (triple bunks, with a total size of about 2 x 2 x 3 meters). One other left, but the remaining bunk was occupied by a woman and 18 month old baby who was teething. No one slept well that night, but at least got to the destination shortly after 7am Sunday morning. 

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Jan11811 on

Nice pic of the loo's! Hope you got a jacket it looks freeeeezing!! Got yer email
will talk to you when you get to Japan :-)

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