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Took a good walk around the inner city (square), through some 'hutongs' (ancient alleyways, houses, shops etc) saw a temple or two with the main one being the Temple of Heaven where i stayed for a couple of hours
Headed up to the zoo the following day, using the subway for the first time. Found this an excellent system (20 cents for all journeys) which is easy to follow, fast, efficient, clean etc. Saw about a dozen pandas at the zoo which was the only real aim, not really staying around to see much else, except the golden-haired monkey and white tigers. Lost a couple of hours in the morning looking for the Beijing Underground City, which i just couldn't find, despite being in the right area. Subsequently heard this may well be closed, and is certainly a pain in the arse to find - i gave up. Everything else was ok to locate, though the street names are a bit difficult to understand, and it doesn't help when google images, lonely planet and maps from hotels all differ slightly. Regardless, made it around more hutongs and temples as i did the next day, where the main event was the Summer Palace (or Winter Palace) where the lakes, like a few others, are completely iced over. Went to the night (food) market but didn't like the vibe nor food on offer - silk worm, beetle, centipede, sheep penis, grasshopper - on skewers. Almost as bad as the dog i saw on the menu the previous day.
This confirms some things i thought about Asians and their habits, as did the spitting
Joined the Intrepid trip on the Thursday evening, to find that there are only four of us - me, a Canadian girl and Kiwi girl who now live in Sydney and a bloke from north Victoria. They all booked only a few weeks previous (i booked in July) so reckon it would have been canceled if they didn't. All sound folk, 20's and 20's, as is the guide, so loads of fun (and a few drinks) will be had along the way to Shanghai. Went for a meal on the first night, which again, was excellent, but a bit more expensive - almost a fiver!! (for about 10 courses between us).
Days 152 - 153 First day on the tour and it was a trip to the Great Wall
It was a trip to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City the following day, then had a few hours to ourselves. I walked up to Jingshan Park, and past a couple of lakes before heading to the silk street markets. A bit disappointed at the later, but (and not for the first time) found i was in the wrong place as the Lonely Planet is out of date (despite being 2009 edition!) and there was only a few traders where it pointed to, with the main markets now elsewhere. Anyhoo, no time to check as had to get to the train station to catch the overnight train to Xi'an. What an experience that was. The station was absolutely crazy busy, but we got the train fine, to find that there were already three in our 6 sleeper compartment (triple bunks, with a total size of about 2 x 2 x 3 meters). One other left, but the remaining bunk was occupied by a woman and 18 month old baby who was teething. No one slept well that night, but at least got to the destination shortly after 7am Sunday morning.