Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad times. We are all organised and plan to book this train and that and then some 'trying her best' lady behind the desk informs us that the train we wanted is fully booked and so are the trains either side of the one we want. So we have to pay over the odds for a flight - its taken 6 days of careful tracking but finally we have gone over budget.

Forget about these minor setbacks and move on. Slightly tired after 1 or 3 beers too many last night we finally hit the streets to see Beijing. And the streets are busy.

On the plus side, we are getting stared at a hell of a lot less. A nice young girl asked politely if she could have a photo with us and we once again obliged. This life of celebrity is something I can get used to. Sadly it's the sort of celebrity that Vanessa Feltz has to put up with, where it is more a case of finding us a little odd looking than actually popular.

The chinese look different here, its subtle, but you can see it straight off. They are bigger in every direction. Taller, slightly wider (not fat necessarily but bigger built), longer legs. The mandarin language is also more 'discrete' than shanghainese and so I have been able to start making out words in conversations. It was all blur of noise before.

We've been to the forbidden city (so nur). Not so forbidden anymore - every Tom, Dick, Harry, Martin, Kate and Li have been there. Not like a busy day at Alton Towers at all, this is a new form of busy where if you stand still too long you get given a colour coded baseball cap dragged around the 100 or so acres by a tour group leader energetically shouting in chinese and waving a flag. Little stalls selling ice lollies out of boxes, flags a plenty and balls on string, considering how much you could buy - the hawkers tend to leave you alone. The City was interesting, the bits that we saw however the crowds took the shine off it a little. But that is China. A billion people all wanting to be part of something. We looked at some more ceramics, some clocks (there was a little museum inside the city) and then dragged ourselves through the crowds to the exit, worn out, once again suffering under the humidity ( we were semi prepared today by taking a bottle of water with us).

Up on one of the hills built by the emperor from the earth ripped to form the moat around the city,  we took in our last sight of the forbidden city from above as the emperor did in his hey-day. As you can see from the photos; it is vast it is hazy but it is overall something to admire.

Booked a couple of tours for tommorow, going to the Great Wall and some of the venues from the Olympics - First impressions show Beijing of somewhere with a bit of history, but it's still behind Shanghai and definately Hangzhou in our favourite places. A few days to make up for this.

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