Beijing - more sights and sounds

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beijing - Hutong Inn.

The Inn was very modern but was just being taken over by an Indian business man, so was undergoing some refurbishment and changes. One of the great things that they offered in the communal area most evenings was a DVD night. They had a roller white screen and a projector that linked to a laptop...brill, and bottles of beer were as cheap as 1 pound!!!!!
After recharging our batteries on what was a slightly hard bed, but not as hard as concrete, we ventured out with our new found friends Mariska and Rene.

Our first stop on the tourist trail in Beijing was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  Tiananmen Square conjured up images of military marches seen on television in the 80s and the infamous student protests where one student laid in front of the oncoming tanks. We spent some time looking over Tiananmen Square before heading into the Forbidden City.  Unfortunately for both of us this was very disappointing. Neither of us are really ones for looking round historic buildings and get bored pretty easy.  We seem to get more from seeing real life and meeting people and experiencing culture at first hand.  We spent around 4 hours in Forbidden City (it is HUGE) and for us this was about 3 hours 50 minutes too long.

To the Acrobatics show! (This was a trip organised by the hostel. Many hostels offer deals and excursions, arrange train tickets, flights and bus journeys for your next destination for a little extra charge which we didn't mind, as trying to organise our own transport could sometimes prove a little tricky.) It cost 150yuan each  = roughly 10 pounds and included transport there and back and entrance to the show with front row seats.  Whilst waiting for the show to start we looked round to see who our fellow audience would be, only to see a massive segregation of western and Chinese people. All westerners were seated to the front and all Chinese were seated to the rear. They really take their tourism seriously!
On with the show!
The lights dimmed and well toned bodies, poised in white Lycra filled the stage for our viewing pleasure, little did we know of what we were about to see. All were clutching sticks with plates on the end and appeared to be spinning them, then they all began climbing rolling jumping etc... and the plates remained on the sticks. You could be forgiven for thinking that the plates were actually stuck onto the sticks with the things that they were doing. But alas no. The end of their routine saw them drop all the plates to prove how bloody fantastic they were. And off they all sprang to allow the next act to wow us. What followed as you can see form the pictures was amazing acrobatics with seriously disciplined children. Their faces showed genuine disappointment in their performance if a little mistake occurred, and so repeated the routine until perfect. (a few mistakes were made so we had extra time in the show, he he he). One act that blew us away was a child that was probably 11 or 12 years old who was so supple it was gravity defying! Another was a man and woman that performed balancing twisting and lifting that looked so effortless you almost wanted to go home and try it yourself.....however we didn't as one of us may have ended up with multiple breaks in pretty much every bone in our body. Yet Patrick and Sally could have put the act to shame, just unfortunate that Sally has other commitments now....Maybe an encore is due???????
Finally the Chinese kebab...WOW they were running up the sticks/ poles jumping from one to the other but catching hold of the other pole between their legs before returning to the other pole in the same way via a back flip and then sliding at breakneck speed with their faces hurtling to the floor, only to brake with their thighs at the last minute, missing the floor by literally inches!!!!!!! It was enough to bring a tear to any mans eye and by the sounds of shocked gasps and groans that reverbed around the theatre there wasn't a dry mans eye to be had in the place.

On leaving the very satisfying show, the mother of all thunderstorms erupted above us. So we decided to eat back at the hostel. However the only sheltered eating area available to us was the parasols and plastic tables. We asked if it was still possible to get food (as the Chinese food served there was brought in from a street seller up the road.) The ever pleasing staff were only too happy to venture out into the wild and wet weather to feed our growling bellies. So we lowered the huge parasol to its lowest point and huddled beneath. Another eager staff member brought us a candle as the power had tripped out. Pat was overjoyed at the prospect of sitting in the rain, as it meant that the cumbersome ski jacket he had been lugging around in the perpetual heat, was now going to be of some use! Good food and lots of beer flowed which resulted in Nic and Mariska singing a little off key to the music that was now playing in the background, whilst accompanying themselves with chopsticks on bottles. They may say they were pitch perfect, but so would the cats in the neighbourhood too. Others who were dining in the same way quickly left (due to leaky umbrellas or something) and so we whiled the night away to ourselves.

After a well needed lie-in we organised a trip to the Great Wall (260yuan each) and our train tickets 870yuan for two in a 4 berth sleeper cabin to Xi'an, our next destination. We had decided to tag along with our new friends as they were on holiday and had a much more planned itinerary than ourselves and it sounded good.

The Great Wall
WOW....WOW....and WOW again. What a day! Words can not describe the sheer magnitude of the work and effort, blood sweat and tears that must have been shed to make this wonder possible. Pictures cannot capture or justify the overwhelming atmosphere or the vast open spaces and beautiful landscape. After climbing from the drop off point up some very steep steps with nothing to see but foliage we found ourselves remarking on, to put it in Mariska's words "Stupid Chinese why did they have to build a silly wall anyway?????? why not the Great swimming pool of China????" (in dutch accent) and we had to agree.......that is until we reached the top of our climb and could see the wall in all its splendour coiling and carving its way through the rugged terrain pointing us in the direction that was to be our journey for the next 5 hours and 15km.
The humidity and baking sun made our journey all the more arduous and the little bottles of water we had with us were not going to be sufficient... Not to worry however as along the wall there were plenty of Mongolian farmers trying to befriend you then pounce with t-shirts and iced water for sale (best Chinese accent ice water, ice water, they repeated as if somehow that would make you buy it ). Parts of the wall required some level of rock climbing agility as steps were missing and in their place was a slight drop next to a sheer death defying drop that if you miscalculated your step you were a gonna! but of course we managed it while Rene and Mariska took the alternative route that wusses had carved out of the hillside running along next to the wall. This was due to the fact that Mariska was afraid of heights and so had a genuine excuse for not scaling the wall down to the next bit. It was at another particularly difficult part of the wall, where whilst gasping for air, sweat pouring down our pink and reddish puffed up faces, rather than a hand to help you up you hear the words "ice water? T- shirt? postcard? 10yuan!" Pats understandable answer to this was "ask me again and I'll throw you off this bloody wall!" although their English is limited to bartering they seemed to understand.
The welcome sight of a distant final bridge spurned us on and we finally made it to Simatai and our lunch which we desperately needed. Mmmmmmmmmm it was good, Chinese lettuce, chicken, beef, rice, tomato and egg and chips and it wasn't on the plate for long. The next day we nursed our blisters and aching muscles, and the following day Xi'an for one night and the Terracotta warriors!
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pierrelepont on

Walls have ears
Nice bit of brickwork their me old china. Did you know that the story about the Great Wall of China being the only man-made structure visible from space is actually an urban myth? Learn summat new every day. Fantastic photos of the wall whoever took them (Probably Pat 'cos there are no chopped off heads visible). I see the Organic farming job didn't last long. Didn't you realise that 'organic' meant that you'd be eating sh*t for you meals? Take care. Pierre

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