Completing the Loop

Trip Start Jul 11, 2004
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Trip End Oct 10, 2004


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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

************************************** Update - February 2006 ***************************************

I've been fortunate enough to get back to Beijing, and China, as part of the another trip. Check out the entry here. It's a bit more informative than this entry and has some nice pictures (but I would say that, right?)

************************************** Update - February 2006 ***************************************

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment

- Hilaire Belloc

Back on Familiar ground for a celebration
It was a short 6 hour train ride from Datong back to Beijing, completing my loop of China 35 days after I first left the city for Shanghai. It was good to be back (familiarity brings with it comfort) and it looked like the Chinese are just as happy to have me back as I was to be back. Well, not really. They were celebrating National Day. The Peoples Republic of China was founded, following victory in the civil war, on October 1, 1949. Shortly after (December 2nd 1949) the Central Peoples Government declared that October 1st will be National Day, with the day itself marking the beginning of one of Chinas 3 Golden Weeks of celebration (the others being Labour Day, beginning on May 1st, and the most famous of them all, Chinese Lunar New Year which falls in late January of early February). So when I returned to the city the celebrations were in full swing, and that coupled with some great autumn weather ("Look, clear skies!") meant it really was a great time to be in the city. Even so, I won't mention too much about my latest few days here, mainly due to the fact that I was here previously. Plus, I had no plans on being a tourist this time around and would have little to report on. My plans this time were to see me stay here just long enough to get my Mongolian visa and organise a train ticket north, starting my trip through Mongolia and into Russia. I doubt there'd be too much to report from that.... but you never know.

Far East Youth Hostel
This time for my stay in the city I searched out a hostel that had come very highly regarded by a few fellow travellers, The Far East Youth Hostel. Although its address states it's in the XuanWu district of the city, you reach it by passing through the tight and atmospheric lanes of the Qianmen district, which in itself is one of the attractions of the hostel. The other attractions are the clean, cheap rooms, the excellent facilities, the traditional Chinese courtyard some of the hostel room are adjacent to, the traveller's restaurant and, of course, the cheap beer. What's not to like? As well as the rooms surrounding the aforementioned Chinese courtyard, the hostel also occupies the lower floor of the Far East Hotel just across the road (I guess they put the backpackers in the basement to keep them away from the more affluent guests?). While it's more atmospheric to stay around the courtyard - the traveller's restaurant, and the cheap beer, is also here - the facilities are slightly better in the hotel. Take your pick..... either way it's a win win situation and I'll certainly be making this place my home away from home whenever I find myself in the city.

The News
When you're on the road for extended periods of time it's always good when you make contact with loved ones at home - just to touch base, tell them you're alright and see how they all are at home. Well, it is for me anyway. If you've read, and shame on you if you haven't, my summarisation of my 2002-2003 10-month rtw trip Travelogue then you're probably aware how details of your trip, however fascinating they may appear to you, don't really interest those folks back home (if this is news to you then you should check out the paragraph entitled 'The Low Down.... But Only For Those Who are Interestedhere). So while your news from the road won't be changing anyone's routine or plans back home, news from home can certainly change yours. It did mine. While I was in the city I got news of an unwelcome nature from home, news that was to bring my trip to an unexpected end. Ironically, I heard the news having just returned from the Mongolian embassy after collecting my visa, and instead of going to the train station to get my ticket to Mongolia I found myself on-route to the airport to try secure a flight home. In a way I was okay with that because I got to live out a bit of a fantasy in doing so. I've always wanted to approach an airport ticket counter with the phrase

"I want a ticket on the next flight out of here"

I got to do that in Beijing, although it wasn't quite that dramatic (the phrase would more accurately read "I want a ticket on the next flight out of here...... to London"). Living out that silly fantasy was still scant consolation for what was happening to my trip and the planning that had gone into same. But some things, I guess, are more important than getting passport stamps and producing Travelogues that, as I've already hinted to, nobody will be reading anyway. Another consolation is that at I'm glad I was at least able to complete this magic loop of China..... and I'm even happier I was able to immortalise it here. I feel like I've been through a lot since hopping on that Shanghai bound train back on August 30th (today is October 6th), and I guess I have. It's just that this entry, the 2nd one from Beijing, wasn't supposed to be some sort of swansong entry, but that's exactly what it is.
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