The Golden Week
Trip Start Sep 02, 2009
72Trip End Oct 30, 2010
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So, at this moment in time we are at the station with no directions to our hostel and only an English written address, which we later found out was useless if catching a taxi. As we had no clue where to go we did the thing any inteligent tourist would... do we walked blindly ahead for about an hour.
We got to Tianamen square which was absolutely packed full of people, floats and many, many military soldiers and policemen who were either roaming the streets or standing around looking bored. There seemed to be some sort of celebration going on: all the children had Chinese flag stickers covering their faces, almost as if they had no choice in the matter
We tried to call the hostel but with the noise and the fact that the phone was very quiet the only words we could hear were get in a taxi and give them the name of the hostel. So we got in a taxi and gave the name of the hostel and in response the driver promptly yelled at us and stabbed our map a few times with his ridiculously long fingernail. It was obvious he had no idea what we where saying. Instead of getting out like a normal people we pointed to a part of the map which we thought the hostel could be in (but really just blindly pointing at the map to stop him yelling). After some more yelling and a bit of pointing and crazy driving we finally decided to call it a day and leave the taxi.
We spent close to an hour walking through all the different hutong areas and despaired at the fact that this hostel really could be anywhere. Suddenly a rickshaw appeared and we showed the man the address. Rather comicly he ran (or waddled fast) into a nearby hotel then appeared shortly after apearing to know where it was. We decided to get in his motorised rickshaw and went on a bit of a crazy death drive down the wrong way of four laned traffic. A bumpy ride later we arrived and got ripped off. But being tired and slightly grateful we didnt really care so we payed and went into the hostel
The most important thing on our minds was to have a shower which was amazing, but not as good as I had dreamt. Nevertheless, I was still clean and that was amazing, Amy agreed. The second most important thing was food and we didn't hesitate to leave the hostel and head into the hutong to a small local restarant we had seen on the way. We ordered about 3 dishes each, and tea, and beer and it came to four pounds which was confusing at first but the idea soon excited us! Although the language barrier was hard, and explaining vegetarian to the waitress was challenging, the food we ate was delicious and came in large portions.
Then sleep zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The next day we went to the temple of heaven park. After a long walk around a giant wall we arrived at the temple of heaven park outside was the familiar sight of hawkers and touts all seeing us as walking money. Aside from that it was a very large clean park which contained several temples, halls, and gardens filled with flowers. It was huge. The pictures will explain most of it but one thing we didnt manage to (or want to) capture was a man squatting in the open grass area beside a public toilet doing a poo..
The next day we were eager to see the Forbidden City near Tianamen Square. As it was the Golden Week celebrations (which would explain the mass celebrations basically putting most of Tianamen Square off limits for us) it took us longer than usual to make our way through the crowds to get to the Forbidden City which we could only imagine was also full of people. We were right.
As we walked through the main entrance which had a giant portrait of Chairman Mao, we walked through what seemed like entrance after entrance after entrance until we came across the ticket booth which had the usual crowds pushing eachother. We quickly got our tickets and headed into the city. It was similar to the temple of heaven park, only with bigger temples. But the gem of the whole place was a giant courtyard filled with pagodas, trees and rocks on plimths. The place was like a maze and we could see why it was reccommended to spend a whole day there! In the distance we could see pagodas on top of a giant hill which sparked our interest and we decided that would be our next destination.
We left the Forbidden City and discovered that the pagodas where in Jingshan park which only cost 2 yuan (20 pence) to visit. We payed the toll and headed straight for the eastern side of the park where there was a locust tree in the place where the last of the Ming Emporerors, Chongzen, Hung himself as rebels swarmed the city walls. Then we headed to the top pagoda where we got a panoramic view of Beijing and a breathtaking view of the Forbidden City from above... where we realised we had missed out at least half of it.
You would do the same it was huge.
The next day we went to the train station to buy our ticket to Tai Shan, worried that it would be expensive we where soon put at ease when the lady at the ticket booth asked us for 79 yuan ( 7 pounds 90 pence). Bargain!!!
We had decided not to do a guided tour of the wall as it was expensive so we got up early (5am) the next day and ventured out on our own to catch the 919 bus on the other side of town. After being pointed in the right direction by constantly asking people the same question, 'Badaling?', we got onto a noisy cramped bus and sat down
It was a cold morning so we thought the idea of a Hot Baked Sweet Potato sounded like the perfect breakfast! After buying it and deciding to split it between us, however, we realised the potato was neither sweet nor we really think potato... all we knew was that it was rancid and we promptly threw it away.
The entrance to the wall is filled with countless tacky souvenier stalls with people shoving mugs in your face which appear to have your picture on it, after all it is a huge tourist attraction. One thing we didnt expect to see though, was a small dirty pen filled with about 25 brown bears all itching to get out. It was a sad sight and the signs nearby appeared to make out that they were looking after the wildlife which seemed far from the truth.
We decided against the cable car and found a small set of stairs leading to a part of the wall which nobody had decided to venture up. An hour later, and realising it was a dead end, we took in some amazing views and had a small picnic then we headed to where all the crowds were. It was perilous( According to Amy), I however thought it was a piece of cake and often stopped and mocked amy from above as she crawled to the top panting and cursing like a fishwife ( only joking)
Amy here! I just want to add at this point that it was very very very perilous, I thought I was going to die, the steps were about 3 feet high (which isn't easy when you're only 5 foot and wearing tight jeans!) and if it wasn't for the views I would have been miserable after the first hour.
It was obvioius to me that the wall was a bit dangerous and I could see why it failed to keep out invaders as most people where either knackered or barely standing on two feet whilst trying to climb it so I cant imagine anyone being very good at defending it!
We roughly walked nonstop (apart for Amys little rests) for about 3 hours and saw possibly some of the most beautiful views we had ever seen. All that effort seemed worth it. When we had gotten to the top, and avoided the people trying to sell us rubbish, we finally wiped the sweat off our brows and took in the fresh air and the scenery.
It was the most exercise I had gotten in the whole trip and I loved it... Amy thoroughly deserved her pudding.
To sum Beijing up in a few words: it has cheap delicious food, lots of noisy spitting , lots of people trying to sell you things, and chinglish possibly... the best language ever invented!
Dave and Amy xx