I made it to China!!: Beijing
Trip Start Jul 11, 2006
32Trip End Jun 28, 2007
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Where I stayed
The train from UB to Beijing was a pretty straightforward affair, and the border crossing was way quicker than the Russia-Mongolian crossing! Even though they had to change the bogies (wheels) of the train to match the width of the tracks in China, it still only took 5 hours or so. The Chinese decided to make their train tracks a different width to everywhere else so that if they were invaded the train network could not be used... hmmm, right. Anyway, I arrived in Beijing and as soon as I stepped off the train I felt an immediate buzz about the place. I just felt very comfortable there, not sure why, perhaps coming through Russia and Mongolia (UB) it simply felt more safe. I shared a taxi, after some faff finding one, with a South-African couple who were in my compartment on the train
The following day I headed off to the Great Wall with Cat and some German guys; the girls had contacts in Beijing and had arranged to go to the Great Wall with a private driver- luckily there was space for me too! We drove to a less touristy spot of the wall Simatai with the aim of walking the 10km along to the next village, which we did! The climb was intense at some points and the sweat was pouring off me, but the views were breathtaking! I can't believe they built the wall like they did, it's crazy! It stretches out along mountain ridges, up 70 degree slopes and is still standing today! If you ever come to China, you cannot afford to miss this!
After bouncing around Russia and Mongolia for 6 weeks I decided that I needed to chill out for a while before heading off into China
The hostel I was staying at (Leo Hostel, right near Tianamen, and 3 quid /night) was fantastic; good atmosphere, reasonable food, fantastic staff and loads of other travellers (Big shout to Danny, Mel, Megan, Paul, Will, Hayley, Charlotte). I ended up eating out most nights with people I met in the hostel, but it was still dirt cheap. I had the famous Peking Duck a couple of times! It's way different to back home, sliced duck and the usual pancakes, but it comes with soup made from some of the bones, and the rest of the duck bits are deep fried, including the whole head! I wasn't brave enough to eat the head, but I did each scorpion at the night market! It looked pretty menacing but after the initial crunch it wasn't too bad, just salty.
One day I was sitting on the internet when the Aussie guy (Danny) who was in my dorm in Moscow rolled in. He didn't even do the Transiberian like me so it was crazy meeting him again! This seems to be pretty common though, I've bumped into quite a few people for a second time now. I guess people are just following the usual routes...
I did a few of the usual tourist attractions, The Forbidden City and The Summer Palace. The Forbidden City was very disappointing as it was covered in scaffolding for restoration work for the 2008 Olympics, but was pretty boring anyway, not to mention swarming with tourists! The Summer Palace was a different story; really tranquil gardens and scenery and definitely worth the 1 hour bus journey across Beijing to get to it.
For my final night in Beijing a load of us from the hostel went out to bar street (Well Danny and Paul wanted to watch the Aussie football but it was a good excuse to have a load of beer). We ran into Jim who I met in Mongolia, so we sat and had a few drinks before going to a club. It was a crazy night, as always with me, and everyone was steaming. Justin took his camera so I've got a few pix of the night and hopefully I'll be able to put them up on here soon.
I woke up the next day as rough as a badgers backside, and had to take a overnight train to Pingyao on a hard seat.
The adventure continues...