Beijing - Part 2

Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
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24
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, October 23, 2003

One of the most anticipated aspects of our trip to China was the Great Wall, and it definitely surpassed our expectations! We decided to do the hike from Jinshanling to Simatai, a 10km expanse of the wall with touristy bits at the start and end, but a huge abandoned section in between. The wall was well paved at first, but became more and more treacherous, steep and crumbling the further we went. The views were amazing - for as far as the eye could see, there were huge undulating stretches of the wall dotted with watchtowers, surrounded by autumn tree covered mountains.

It was tough going in parts (that burning thigh sensation just wouldn't go away!) and occasionally we were chased along the wall by old Chinese grannies selling postcards and warm cans of Coke (literally chased - these were some fit old ladies!). The walk took around 4 hours all up although it felt a lot longer. It's hard to do justice to the experience with words, and even photos don't really capture it. Basically it was one of the highlights of our journey so far!!

The next day we dragged our weary feet around yet more Beijing must-sees. We visited the Temple of Heaven - some temples/an altar/prayer hall set in a huge park in central Beijing. As well as the great architecture, there was an Echo Wall, where you could stand at one end and have someone stand 50 metres away, whisper something at the wall and they could hear you. Immature maybe, but fun!!

We also checked out an antique street, which had some great art shops with calligraphy brushes, wall hangings and lots of Chinese art books. We ventured away from the shops down some winding alleys through a 'hutong' - a traditional Chinese neighbourhood consisting of old style buildings, courtyards and alleys tucked away behind city blocks. It was amazingly peaceful wandering around this hidden little world, away from the traffic and crowds.

While in Beijing we also had to try the world famous Beijing duck. It's known as Peking duck in Australia so it sounds kind of funny saying Beijing duck..but anyway..we went to a huge duck restaurant (right in front of Hepingmen subway station if anyone needs to know!) and it was amazing. They wheel out the whole duck to your table and carve it in front of you, then you eat pieces of the meat wrapped in thin pancakes with shallots and plum sauce. They also serve you the head (which we didn't touch!) and duck soup made with the bones and other bits and pieces. It was the tastiest meat, and wasn't even very fatty like duck sometimes is. We're even going back there tonight for our last night in China! Other food discoveries have been a really cheap, yummy, 24 hour dumpling restaurant, and a food night market selling all sorts of things (a lot of gross things though!). We had some great beef skewers at one of the muslim stalls, cooked over flames and coated with chilli and cumin.

This part of our trip is just about over - tomorrow night we farewell China and fly to Bangkok, where we're meeting up with some new and old friends, organising our trip to India, and relaxing on a Thai island or two! After travelling overland from Kuala Lumpur all the way to Beijing, we're ready for some R&R (and plane travel, yay!) before hitting the sub-continent.
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