Beijing & The Great Wall of China

Trip Start Feb 17, 2010
Trip End Feb 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tienanmen Sunrise Hostel

Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To say my journey from Hangzhou was an unpleasant one would be a massive understatement. When I booked my ticket all the "Hard-Sleeper" tickets were sold out as was the “Soft-Seats” which left me with the choice of a “Soft-Sleeper” (very expensive) or a Hard-Seat (dirt cheap) – Needless to say I went for the cheaper option and yet ended up paying a heavy price for it!! The price being 15 hours overnight with no sleep, and a sore everything.

I was squashed into a small upright seat with almost no padding next to a Chinese guy who got the window-seat and another two Chinese people who were opposite me. There was a table but it only reached out past the 2 people by the window, so at best I could put one elbow on it. My seat was also located at the end of the carriage near the toilets and sink where you could hear people hawking and spitting every few minutes.
I will fondly remember this train journey as possibly one of the worst journeys of my life. Yet I was very thankful that I was not one of the many Chinese people who opted to buy a “standing room only” ticket, and spent the 15 hours either standing at the doors or sitting on the floor. Many of them who were desperate for sleep resorted to sitting in the sink or on the stinky floor next to the toilets! Eventually this long and painful journey came to an end I arrived in the City of Beijing.

First mission – Find my youth hostel, of which I had written down the directions from both North and South train station – Unfortunately I had no way of knowing which station I had arrived at. There were no signs in English and everyone I asked knew enough English to offer me a taxi or a hotel but not enough to know how to answer my question. A policeman! - WINNER! He will know some English…. WRONG! All he knew was “Wewl-kom tu Chy-na!” which he looked incredibly pleased with himself about. Finally I found a helpful young woman from Hong Kong who spoke very good English and was able to send me the right direction.

My Hostel was very nice and was walking distance from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City both of which I went to see along with the Summer Palace.

Tiananmen Square was OK I suppose, It was worth seeing but you could “see it” in about 60 seconds and then you just stand around while Chinese people come up to you wanting a picture of you for some unknown reason. What was interesting though was the lack of information about the history of the square, just like the Simpsons episode I half expected there to be a Sign that said “On this site in 1989 – Nothing Happened” A sad reality of the Chinas Communist regime.  Also the Square is closed at night time… just in case!
The Forbidden City  - The only thing forbidden about this place was that I felt like I was forbidden to leave as it was such a maze I could hardly find my way out of the place which was all I wanted to do as I didn't really like it at all.

Some people loved the Forbidden City and said they could have spent all day in there, but maybe it was because I had seen so many temples and relics already during my trip or maybe it was because I generally find museums one of the most boring things on earth, either way I kind of thought the place was pretty rubbish and only spend about an hour and a half there before I managed to find my way out. The main annoyance there was the crowds of Chinese tour groups who ignored the sheer size of the place and huddled together like sheep pushing and shoving to take a photo of a tiny window to a room that had a crappy statue in it (probably of Buddha or something) It became a mission to navigate around the place and just added to my frustration.

The Summer Palace – This place was pretty cool, I liked it here.
The next day I made it to the Great Wall of China! Which is every bit as amazing as you might expect. I was on the wall for a total of about 4 hours walking from the end of one section to the other and back again – all in flip-flops. It really is an impressive structure; it was hard to imagine the amount of man-power that went into building it. The view from the top of it was intense as well. You could pay extra for a chair-lift up to the wall and a luge-ride down again, but I only paid for the luge as it was only a 10min walk up. The luge ride down was really cool, except that a fat Indian man was going really slow in front of me and I crashed into him – but it was his own fault cause I shouted ahead saying to watch out.

There are several sections of the wall you can go to, I went to the Mutianyu Section as I heard it was much less touristy than the more popular Badaling Section. If I had more time I would defiantly have went to the remote Simatai Section that is quite far away but is all un-restored original wall and great for hiking.

On my last day I found a cook viewpoint place in a park near my hostel behind the Forbidden City that offered an amazing view of Beijing – especially at sunset
I was only a short time in Beijing before I headed back down the country to Nanjing with involved another  15 hour train journey! Oh joy…
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