Beijing , Birthday and Bird's nests
Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
40Trip End Jul 17, 2010
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Where I stayed
We pulled into Beijing with drizzle hanging in the air and found a taxi to make our way to the fabulously located Homekey Hotel. The biggest eyesore in the Hutongs - historic streets in Beijing - the Homekey is a rather inauspicious end to our 180 day accommodation bonanza (about 73 different beds we make we've slept in)
secret floors. At around midnight on our first night here, and after a long day exploring the Hutongs, we became aware of a dull thudding noise as we were trying to sleep. I got up to investigate, left our room on the 3rd floor, and tiptoed down the hallway. As I descended the stairs (which double up as ashtrays at the Homekey) the noise grew louder, the air grew thick with smoke, and the atmosphere darkened; double doors stood before me, beyond which who knows what lay? I pushed ahead in my pants, through the doors where an unlikely scene played out
before me. A man sat in a glass booth, surrounded by piles of
cigarettes, an old woman reclined on a leather rocking chair in a reception-cum living room, dimly illuminated by pink neon lights, and frowned at me.
Well, my senses were bombarded: all around the sound of
screeching Chinese, the flash of behind-glass video screens caught the eye, and the stench of stale smoke hung in the air - swirling now around the burly proprietor looking down at me from his glass box
there remains a mysterious, unexplored stairway up to a padlocked
double doors to a part of the building not served by the lift - I'm not planning any late-night excursions.
We're enjoying our last week in Beijing. For Kanan's birthday we set out for the fabulous-but-swarming-with-tourists Forbidden City. An overwhelming complex of ancient (700 year old) buildings, beautiful halls and palaces, my favourite bit was the collection of mainly English-made 18th century elaborately mechanical and ornate clocks, maybe I am hankering for home after all...
The evening Kanan turned 30 - a fact we're both struggling to come to terms with - we watched the cream of China's young circus performers try out their new routines in a mind-boggling stage show at the Tiandi Theatre. From 12 girls on one bicycle to a gravity defying loose wire walker, we saw a wonderful array of acts.
We've been enjoying Beijing's night-life too, we spent a smoky night at a lakeside Jazz Bar, and have relaxed nicely into our final week by enjoying some astonishingly cheap beer (25p for a 500ml bottle)
798 Art District - a series of dilapidated electronic factories, but
the real highlight has been wandering the Hutongs. Old men gather to watch their friends play Mah Jong, drink beer and communally snooze; impromptu spit-roasts appear on plastic tables and chairs; ancient buildings, converted into boutique shops vie for our Yuan; kids play roller-badminton in the streets whilst all kinds of rickshaw-based transport whizzes people around the cobbled lanes. As I mentioned, our hotel is slap bang in the middle of it all, an ugly eyesore in the Hutong Landscape proudly proclaiming itself the tallest building of the neighbourhood.
Today we braved the Summer Palace, the less said about which the better really - think a lake awash with pedalos, an abundance of tat sellers and a million tourists on whom to prey. We followed that up with a visit to the Beijing Olympic stadium, the famed 'bird's nest', where I got far too carried away with photographs (as did the locals, who set a record for the trip in the number of times they asked to have their photos taken with one or both of us), and forced us to stay for 5 hours - see pics. We had seen it on the TV obviously, but it's one of those rare things which is actually rather better than you expect it to be
We have 2 full days left now, and I'd be lying if I said our thoughts weren't turning to home. We have one last trick up our trip though, and plan to head off to the Great Wall on Friday... a rare and little-visited bit apparently, so watch this space for one last update on Friday or Saturday
We're both looking forward to seeing everyone very soon!
With Love and 2 days left
J & K