Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
Trip End Jul 28, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Three basic facts:

1. It is just a little fresh - Kim is waging a continuing battle with the elements! I think Beijing might be winning...

2. There are lots and lots of people here and you can always fit another 50 or so on the bus with a well-rehearsed scrummage technique on entry

3. Ask a question in clear, basic English involving the use of a map whilst pointing at Chinese characters in the guide book and you receive a loud squawk of lightning fast Mandarin followed by a quizzical stare as if saying, "Have you got that? It's simple really..." I feel like Manuel off Fawlty Towers!

The most striking aspect of Beijing (and I imagine much of China) is the city's sheer vastness - whether it be the quite extraordinary complex of the Forbidden City, the sweeping expanse of Tiananmen Square, or the towering blocks of flats in the suburbs flanked by mighty roads often at least 12 lanes wide. Also, don't forget the intense smog that seems to perpetually

We arrived on Thursday and were greeted by a lovely -7 degree chill. Being a little jet-lagged we lazed around and walked to a nearby lake which had been transformed into a huge skating rink.

Friday morning we saw the main sites:

Mao's Masoleum - a very strange paradoxical experience.

The Forbidden City - a beautiful and stunning complex of buildings from ancient Imperial dynasties.

All this based around Tiananmen Square, whose very name seems to carry an awesome significance.

Saturday we visited the Beijing National Theatre, a modern glass and titanium structure which stands in stark contrast to the surround ancient relics. That night we met up with a friend from university (Ellie - for those who know!) who is living in Beijing. We went out for dinner and our first taste of Peking Duck was fantastic and so different from the commercial version back home!! Although neither of us were too struck on the ox soup...

On Sunday we visited the Summer Palace, which was a vast and beautiful park containing stunning architecture.The surrounding lake was frozen solid and littered with people walking and playing on the ice.

On Monday we visited the Temple of Heavenly Peace and went on to the Lama Temple, were 130 monks still live and work around an 18 metre Buddha statue!  We continued on to the site of the Olympic Stadia - hugely impressive but still plenty of work to be done...they had better get going?!?! We ended the day at the Donghuamen Night Market, where masses of food vendors sell scorpions, lamb testicles, centipedes, snake fillets or simple donner kebabs. Our sense of adventure stopped at a lamb filled pancake with spices and herbs, as well as a a kebab of sugar glazed strawberries and crab apples!?!

Tomorrow we head onto the Great Wall of China at Simatai, described as 'heart thumpingly steep' and 'the wall at its most treacherous'... we'll let you know!
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