Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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Thankfully no immigration formalities to fool around with this time so we were out of the station and into the subway within minutes. The Beijing subway system was nothing like I had imagined. The place was incredibly quiet for a start. After the manic start in Shanghai I was expecting the same from the capital city. Maybe they all decamped to Shanghai for the holiday week? It was also incredibly basic. No machines at all and the ticket was like a raffle ticket that served pretty much no purpose. I believe the situation will be very different come 2008.
Took the subway as close as possible to our hostel and then walked the rest of the way. A helpful sign even pointed us in the right direction which was nice, still managed to get lost though. The hostel (Far East International Youth Hostel) was pretty great. Restaurants, TV rooms, Internet, shops and best of all beer for 2 yuan (14p) for a bottle bigger than a pint! 6 bed dorm also looked pretty good and a bargain at 60 yuan a night.
It was now 8:30am so we thought lets go sightseeing. I wanted to see Tian'men Square first so we started walking. Took a route round some dodgy back alleys and ended up near some futuristic dome that is surely going to be used as a venue in the Olympics. It looked totally out of place and was right next to a housing area. In fact it is probably built on old houses. Either way it doesn't look right but it is very close to the Forbidden City so that must be why it is sited in that position.
Saw loads of people across the road and a big picture of Mao so figured it was around there. After 10 minutes of walking around we realised it was the Forbidden City and we had gone the wrong way, turned around and saw Tian'men Square across the street. I had visions before I got there of a massive open space with maybe a few hundred people. What I got was a big square with about 60,000+ people and no room to move!
Seeing as we were there we thought we may as well check out Mao's body. Joined the queue and about 30 minutes later found out no bags were allowed inside. Couldn't be assed to queue again so went to the National History Museum instead. That was pretty crap as well but had a funny exhibit with wax works of pretty much no one I knew.
Outside we were confronted again by a group of college girls inviting us to go to an art exhibition. We had heard it all before in Shanghai and it is just a ploy to practice their English and show some crappy art. I think we were asked well over 10 times that day alone.
After a quick bite to eat we headed to the Temple of Heaven. It didn't look too far but we certainly realised how vast Beijing is! It took an age to get there and one street must have been the longest single street I have ever walked down! The Temple of Heaven was quite a let down really. The main building was closed and had scaffolding all around. The other 2 big domes you had to pay again to go inside and they were pretty much empty.
Outside we started what looked like an easy short walk back to the hostel. It took ages! Close to 2 hours and we got hopelessly lost along the way. I was also wearing no socks with my shoes so ended up with a ridiculous amount of new blisters.
In the evening we ate at the hostel and followed it off with a night of heavy drinking in the courtyard to celebrate a month on the road. It turned out to be a pretty eventful night where I said to a girl that she sounded quite posh (she sounded like Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean) and she went totally mental! Her reaction was absolutely ridiculous, considering everyone agreed and it sort of spoilt the night. By 12 I was knackered so left everyone to it and went to bed.