Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Beijing Central Hostel

Flag of China  ,
Thursday, March 1, 2012

So I got to Beijing early in the morning to what I thought was the more central train station. I went out of the station and went to find some food and heat and there was a KFC open across the road which was packed with people with the same idea. I had some breakfast and then headed to try and find how to get to my hostel. After studying the book and trying to figure out where I was I went back to the station and wandered round for ages trying to find out where to go. I was trying to find the metro station and there was a hub inside the station which didn't look open then after walking for ages outside came inside and it looked open. Tried it but it wasn't going where I needed to go. I walked around for about an hour in total trying to find out how to get to the tube station and in the end I just had to get a taxi. I had already asked one guy and he told me a stupid price so told him to do one but then just had to suck it up and get to the hostel so eventually managed to negotiate a taxi and got there. Taxi driver didn't fully know where it was himself and I was a little pissed off by now but it was literally right in front of me by the train station and about 10 yards from the tube station which was dead handy. So checked in and it was a really nice hostel. I was in with another couple of people. I went on a mission to go see the Great Wall so I got the tube out to the outskirts of town a little and eventually negotiated a bus out to the wall. It was bloody cold especially getting up into the hills a bit where the wall is. There was a bit of snow on the ground and my pretty thinly soled shoes didn't handle it too well. I bought a ticket which also, I didn't realise, included a ticket for this kind of cable kart type thing which drags you up to the top so you don't have to walk. I had to pay extra for this but didn't realise I was doing so I went and got on it anyway and was up to the top in a few minutes. I went for a walk onto the wall which was pretty mad to actually be standing on something so famous. It was pretty funny as I walked around the wall paths were covered with ice and stuff as it was so cold. But there were steps only up certain bits and the rest was a relatively steep hill. So people were literally sliding and slipping all over the place trying to get up and down. The Chinese obviously didn't think about this too much when building the thing. Needless to say health and safety would have shut it down years ago in England! But I had a good hour or so wandering up and down the wall and taking loads of photos. It was cool but also literally bloody freezing so eventually my feet and hands need to get back to warmth so I went back down and got the bus back to the hostel via the tube. I chilled at the hostel then at night I went on the tube to Tiananmnan Square so I'd seen that. You couldn't get into it but it looked pretty good all lit up and stuff. I went from the tube across the road and ended up going to this cool shopping parade at first. Loads of really nice shops selling all sorts. Some designer, mainly sports, shops but then food shops and restaurants and loads of other stuff too. There is the entrance to the Forbidden City right at the top end of the square too. So I wandered round a bit and then decided to call it a day and head back to the hostel. The square was cool though and worth a good look particularly at night, I think also this was the night at the hostel where I was enjoying a nice beer and this Chinese guy called Stephen came across and wanted to speak with me. He was quite awkward but it was ok for a bit. Just went to bed afterwards.

Next day I went on a mission to the Summer Palace. Again this was a tube journey out to the end of the city and then a walk into the grounds. It's pretty impressive going through the various paths and stuff leading to various mini palace type buildings and summer houses etc. The entrance has a mini river/pond system which has shops and stuff surrounding them which was all frozen over at the time I went. The paths lead out eventually onto this massive lake where you can see the main palace overlooking it and then an island or two and trees surrounding the lake. There is in fact about 3-4 lakes but they all kind of look like one. But it is a pretty impressive place. I wandered around the main lake and all the way round which took best part of an hour. Saw this guy fishing on the ice with just a hole in the ice like an eskimo. Didn't look like he was catching much. Then loads of bird spotters and this guy going right out onto the ice to get better photos of some of the birds. If he'd have fallen in he'd have been fooked. Then when I'd got round I wandered up to the main pagoda type thing which was cool to see right out over the lake from there. Eventually I decided to head off as I had a full day planned with some other things to do and it was already a bit later than I had planned. I eventually managed to find my way out of one of the entrances which was more difficult than I thought. On the way saw some soliders wrestling some corn off this woman she was trying to sell. Don't know if she didn't have a permit or sommot or they were just hungry but she wasn't happy at all! When I got back to the tube station I went off to find the famous 'Hutong' or alleyways of Beijing which are supposed to be a must see for all their vibrancy etc. I got the tube round to Dongcheng and started to walk around. Saw some alleyways which looked ok but nothing to spectacular but some stuff going on so snapped them. Then stumbled down this street which was really cool. It was full of really cool, retro type shops selling clothing and loads of other mad stuff. Would have been good to go and be able to spend some cash in there. Anyway at the end of the street there's a bell tower which I had a wander round into this square where kids were playing a game of footy and stuff and they had coffee shops etc. Was cool to see some local 'culture' if you will. So I wandered a bit more then stumbled across a street which had loads of older style buildings and loads of cool shops again. The network then opened out onto this frozen lake thing with basically a series of shops, cafes and bars surrounding it for people to go and chill at. It looked like THE place to go at night as most of the bars were shisha bars with live music and stuff. I had a wander right down one side watching all the people walk on the frozen lake and then all the way back up and round taking in all the atmosphere and stuff. If I had more time it would have been really cool to get there. After I bit I decided to head back and went to Jingshan park which is a massive park built from loads of old earth from the Forbidden City I think so it has a great lookout over the city. Inside there were loads of groups of slightly older people doing stuff. Mainly groups of classical singers belting out various songs. All wasn't the best but was funny to watch. So climbed up to the top and spent an hour or so just looking round, watching the sunset and gazing at the Forbidden City from above. Really nice view. Then I wandered back and chilled at the hostel with some beers and stuff.

Next day was my last one and I got up dead early to go to the Forbidden City. I spent a good 2-3 hours or so in there wandering round the maze of buildings and walkways. There are so many courtyards and walkways it's a bit rediculous to be honest. I went to a few of the main things which is an amazing clock exhibition, many of them from England, which houses clocks such as one with a full working model of the solar system which moves around as the clock moves and that was just one example. I never thought I would be so enamoured with a clock exhibition but they were amazing. There was also a jewellery exhibition, an old stage they used to have for shows and then loads of buildings housing loads of different stuff like carvings, jewellery, paintings etc. It's pretty amazing some of the stuff and a massive bloody palace. You can see why they never really bothered coming out. Although it would probably take them too long to find their way out anyway! Next I went out of the back of the Forbidden Palace to the tube and went a few stations along to the Lama Temple. It is a really cool  Buddhist temple which has about 10 temple buildings in this complex, many of them housing really cool statues/carving mainly of Buddha's. Some of them are massive too like a good 4-5 metres tall I think. I took loads of photos from here and then got the tube back to the hostel and had a chill there. I got my stuff and then headed to the airport on the tube. And that is the end of my trip.

All in all I had the most amazing time and even though I went on my own this was probably a better thing as I met quite a few people along the way and I could do what I wanted when I wanted. It is definitely the best thing I have ever done in my life and I plan to head off back to some of the places to explore them further. Just wish I had gone for longer and maybe I hadn't spent so much cash but you live and learn!

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