Bitch'n Beijing

Trip Start May 12, 2005
Trip End May 14, 2006

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Beijing; what a fantastic city, in fact our favourite in China. Took the hardseat from X'ian overnight; was a bit of a tough journey; packed into very upright seats, the lights stayed on all night, there was a school group behind us playijng cards till 4 in the morning and when Mark finally drifted off, one of the train workers work him up for an impromptu english lesson. Anyways, the first day in Beijing was a bit of a write-off. Made a beeline for the Far East Hostel; very popular place and we were lucky to get a dorm bed. Situated in one of Beijings old neighbourhoods (Hutong) the place has a nice mixture of character and cleanliness (cleanest place we've stayed in fact). The surrounding streets are full of cheap eats and beer hovels..very easy to get lost and a nice neighbourly feel abounds. Went to Tianemen square on our first morning (welll within walking distance) and had our photos taken by some chinese tourists with thier children. It is a pretty big square. Had many touristy things to do in Beijing, however fluffed around for a couple fo days sorting the best way to get into Tibet (which turned out to be going back to Chengdu). The forbidden city was first cab off the rank; an immense compound used as the seat of past emperors; full of tourists (mostly chinese), but some great little alleyways, micro-museums and views over the city. We had a great walk that afternoon north of the forbidden city through a couple of Hutong and some really funky little shopping strips (restrained ourselves.....just).

Great muslim kebab shop near our hostel (really good lamb skewers) and then a bread shop which had layered sort of roti type bread. Clare befriended the bread lady and a couple of lamb skewers, wrapped in pipping hot bread with onion, cucumber and tomatoe ( washed down by the cheapest beer in China) were the order of a few afternoons and cost us about $2 for three wraps each!!!

Some nice people bumping around the far-east and had a few late nights guzzling Tsingtao; cheapest in china at 2yuan (30cents) for a longneck; enjoyed meeting Paul (Ireland), Rennie (England), Marcus (Switzerland), Clare (Australia), Joe (NZ), Dominic (UK) and many others..lots of tall tales swapped and the far east courtyard was always busy until at least 3:30-4pm.

The great wall was simply awesome, the twelve km walk we did was pretty up and down, but the views were just amazing. Walked from Simitai to Jingshanling (spelling) highly recommend this option to anyone going to Beijing; a must do.

Summer palace is a must do also, it was pretty spectacular and large..the emperor who had it built decided the lake wasn't big enough, so he had 20,000 people dig it bigger!! Lots of boats out on the lake and chinese having fun, a nice day spent here.

The other must do Beijing thing is beijing duck (see photo album); this resturant was a great find (thanks Joe) and the duck was simply amazing..making me hungry just thinking of it. In fact Beijing had great/cheap food everywhere; we really enjoyed every meal we had, much more than Chengdu (although everyone from Sichuan reckons they have the best food). One sight which didn't make us particularly hungry was a freshly butchered dog being shaved outside the front of a resturant; we chose not to eat here.

Quite a lot of poverty in Beijing, although i'm sure lots of it is swept into the suburbs and surrounding areas. One very sad sight was a young man wheeling around his recently deceased father, begging, because he didn't have enough money for a proper burial. There was also another man with a very sick father doing the same thing; makes you think...

Had a real hassle getting a train ticket back to Chengdu...being holidays in china the trains were very busy (thus our hard sleeper ticket north from Xi'an) we wanted to buy a ticket in advance. Hotels and travel agents organise tickets, but they sting you with a whopping commission. We went to the train station twice to get an advance ticket for chengdu, one the second occiasion, we queued up for over an hour to be knocked back at the ticket window (after we had been told earlier in the day that this window was the go)...found out that a foriegners booking office (free of charge) was inside the station and sorted out our 31 hour ticket to chengdu in a jiffy. The train ride was fantastic, Beijing was very hectic and it was great to catch up on some sleep and some reading, and we felt like brand-new travellers when we arrived in Chengdu (right on schedule of course!!!)...
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