Trip Start Apr 27, 2010
36Trip End Apr 13, 2011
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I ventured out on my own the next day to The ‘Temple of Heaven’, which dates from the 14th Century and is situated in tranquil parkland
I met the rest of the group that night – two Aussie couples, three older blokes including a geriatric who fell asleep at the introductory meeting, and 4 younger single people – 12 of us in total. It seems like another decent group, but I have my concerns about the old bloke who doesn’t seem up to this trip at all.
The first excursion was to Great Wall of China, visiting the ‘Mutianyu section’ that has been extensively reconstructed. This section was situated amongst lush green mountains, with the wall snaking over the top of them into the distance. There weren’t many tourists there at all luckily, so we had the place to ourselves as we trekked along the wall in the searing heat, up 45 degree slopes taking photos of the spectacular views.
That afternoon, we visited another Intrepid charitable foundation project- the Huaylin school for the mentally disabled
The first evening was spent taking in a kung fu show. We travelled there on the incredibly clean and efficient subway system. The show featured some great stuff, like men balancing on swords, beds of nails etc, smashing metal rods over their heads and various acrobatics. There was a lot of mincing around too though, and some hilarious lip synching to the pre-recorded American dialogue.
The following day started with a tour of Tianenmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was another scorching day, and the main sights were absolutely thronged with people, mostly tourists from other parts of China. Some of these haven’t seen westerners before so sometimes just stare suspiciously at me, not returning my smiles. Some are more friendly and want their photos taken with us.
Tianenmen Square is a bare, dreary communist parade ground, surrounded by imposing looking official buildings. There is a big memorial building for Chairman Mao in the middle of it
The afternoon was spent on a tour of the ‘Hutongs’ by rickshaw. These are the last remnants of old Beijing – narrow alleyways with houses and shops etc in them. Most of them are now buried underneath the countless anonymous tower blocks that loom everywhere.
I could have done with a few more days in Beijing as there are a lot of attractions I didn’t have time to see, and I have been impressed with how clean, safe and orderly it is. It has been so hot and humid though, with a hazy, featureless white sky , and I have been dripping with sweat the whole time I have been here. The local men walk around with their tops rolled up to their nipples in an attempt to cool off. It is also uncomfortably crowded almost everywhere, with the concepts of personal space and politeness frustratingly absent most of the time.
That evening we boarded a night train to Xi’an. As everywhere in Beijing, the train station was absolutely crammed with people and was swelteringly hot. The train was clean and comfortable. We slept in bunk beds on the train, in compartments of 6 people. I am hoping Xi’an will be cooler and drier.