Bejing, Land of smog!

Trip Start Jun 29, 2008
1
9
45
Trip End Dec 23, 2008


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Well our flight to China was interesting!! Well not the flight as much but when we arrived at the airport to check in our flight had been cancelled, we think due to a problem with the plane. They were ready to send us away from the airport but I think they could tell I was going to cry so they found us another flight with another airline which just meant we had to get to another terminal and wait a bit longer. The flight itself was ok and after going through the 'Olympic' passport lane we were greeted by a man from our hostel.

After a 40 minute ride along some of the scariest roads in the world we arrived at our hostel and spent the rest of the afternoon finding our bearings and some food - surprise surprise a MacDonald's. In the evening we found a couple of bars to have drinks in - about 10 yuan per bottle of lager which is about 80p....HAPPY DAYS!!

On our first full day in Beijing we first walked to Jingshan Park, which is North of the Forbidden City. Walking through the park there were groups of people practicing Tai Chi and women practicing with hoops which we think were for the opening ceremony for the Olympics. On the East side of the park the is a locust tree where the last of the Ming Emperors Chongzhen hung himself. From the highest point in the park there were magnificent views of the Forbidden City, however due to the thick smog hanging over the city we struggled to get a photos where you could actually see what we were taking.

From the park we walked to the Forbidden city and luckily we had just enough cash to get in as there was not a cash point in sight. Most people spend at least a few hours here exploring all the courtyard, alleyways and building but as we had no money and no water it was straight through for us as the temperature was soring!!  It still took over an hour and the size of the area - the largest ancient buildings in China - was huge.We left the Forbidden City through the Gate of Heavenly Peace into what we think was Tienanmen Square - it looked familiar but due to all the Olympic preparation and high security it was not what we expected.

From here we got the tube to a recommended roast duct restaurant (our first real Chinese meal) The duck was lovely and the portions were huge although we were not too keen on the locals spitting on the floor of the restaurant! The rest of the afternoon we took it easy and in the evening we went to watch the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe. The show included and man on his head riding a unicycle... on a tightrope, 12 girls all on one push bike, ans a woman thrown 20 foot in the air to land in a handstand on a stack of 4 men all whilst balancing some pots on her feet!!! All very impressive and amazing to watch but unfortunately we were censored by the local authority (the steward told us off for taking photos!!)

On Friday morning we were up at 5.30am to do an organized trek along the Great Wall of China. The trek was along and original part of the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai- just over 8km and not the typical tourist area.We had to take our own food (pringles, Snickers and strawberry flavour Koala bears as opposed to everyone elses well prepared lunches) and 4 liters of water. We took the cable car to the first of 30 towers we would pass by along the way and by the time we were finished we were well and truly FCUKED!!! It was a grueling 4 and a half hours - in blistering heat and extremely steep in areas - more like climbing that walking. As much as we were ready to give up we made it to the end and were very pleased with ourselves. Along the way there were the odd Chinese woman who would fan us, sell us souvenirs and generally try to get money off us - but they were a great help and at some points I had one on each side pulling me up the steps as it was such hard going. We felt obliged to buy a fan and some water from them. They must be super fit as they do this everyday!! Nearing the end Carl had a celebratory beer (probably not wise when your whole body is tingling) then across a suspension bridge (my biggest fear!) to a zip line. Down the zip line (scary) where a small boat was waiting to take us to the finish. We were the last back to the mini bus, half an hour late but overall a very exhilarating experience (although we will not be repeating it!!)

In the evening we joined another couple who we had met on the trek and tried a local Korean restaurant. The beef rice was very tasty but Carl's Kim chi (vegetables which had been put underground to ferment mixed with fish served on pumpkin) had an interesting flavour to say the least!! We tried the local rice wine which tasted like pure vodka then hit a couple of bars for some Connect 4 and Jenga - 2 very authentic Chinese games made more interesting by the rice wine!

The next day was less grueling and more chilled. We took a taxi to the Summer Palace which is where the Chinese Royalty took refuge from the summer heat. It contains lots of temples, pavilions, lakes and corridors although we took it easy and didn't climb any of the steps to get in the temples as the day before had worn us out!! In the evening we took a taxi with our new friends to Donghuamen Night Market - this is quite a tourist attraction and just has a long strip of stalls selling obscure foods!! The smell was rancid and that was enough to turn anyones stomach without trying any of the food!! Snail, snake and sea urchin we on the menu for Carl although not sure if he will be trying any of them again. Then we bought deep fried scorpions which tasted very much like pork crackling and were very crunchy!! For some reason though, both the men as tough and macho as they were being, wouldn't try the lamb testicles...WIMPS!! Having not filled ourselves up with food from the market we went to a small Chinese place which was full of locals and basically you are given a large silver mixing bowl with ginger, coriander, chilli's and other spices and just pick your meat or vegetable you want going in it. This was a very flavoursome dinner and very cheap - but you defiantly knew you had eaten it the next day!!
Our final day was spent just chilling out at the hostel - preparing for our night train journey in a hard sleeper, travelling to Pingyao.
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