Great Wall and Gardens

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
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Trip End Jan 04, 2012


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Where I stayed
Happy Dragon Courtyard Hostel

Flag of China  ,
Sunday, August 14, 2011

We have now actually moved on from Beijing and looking back on our entry a few days ago when I think we were a little hesitant on first impressions - I can say that we were sad to leave such a wonderful city. Hazy, warm slightly murky in places but it was also vibrant, still hot off the back of the Olympics and thriving. The people are friendlier than any of the other cities so far and just let you get on with things. The city has new areas that are taking over a little and losing some of the old charm that you find in the local Hutongs, but they are trying to keep to the architectural style of Beijings past.

To summarise, positives - Easy to navigate, plenty to do, entertaining, friendly, escaping the crowds - always feels local, but yet becoming cosmopolitan.

Negatives - Opressively hot in the summer, crowds (but you can escape this), Spitting (it does happen, but in nowhere near the context you are made to think)

On our last couple of days which has made this oh so positive I will wind up quickly as to what we have been getting on with.

We walked along a stretch of the great wall at Mutiyanu (finding some people properly incorrectly dressed for such a task - this wall is in no way an easy walk!). The wall was impressive as a structure - it stands winding its way across the hilltops (right at the bloody top where it is steep) and stretches for miles (sadly with the haze it was difficult to see further than a few hundred metres). But it's not visiting the wall that makes it impressive, its when you look at it up close and then the tour guide starts running out the stats (3500 km long, million people died etc). Who the hell builds a wall 3500km long?!?! By the time we got to the top of the hill, we would have been in no fit state to attack a country anyhow.

This was followed by a nice little night tour - see the pics. I was pleased to visit the Birds Nest and the Water Cube from Olympics fame. And all in an area totally redeveloped, infrastructure everything. The benefits of a one month sporting event still showing 3 years later as a huge pull to a tourist crowd.

The last day and night (probably my-Martin's favourite day) was given to chilling a little more as we sauntered around the Temple of Heaven Garden. Quieter, great gardens, nice temples for praying about harvest and what not - and better than that, chinese people dancing ballroom around in little sociable groups, kites being flown, chess being played. Such a friendly sociable people. There was also some little old lady who was dancing like the famed 'uncle knobhead', using pretty much the same moves for every style of music being played.

We chilled a bit, watched the most extroadinary Acrobatics show I have ever seen, argued a little with the theatre seat controlling people (we were at the front of the queue and then stopped from sitting in the good seats as they were reserved for tour groups - and so true to form I started arguing with someone that didnt have a clue what I was saying, and I didn't have a clue what he was saying - We moved though, with me feeling that at least I'd made my point!).
This acrobatics show was astounding with a couple of times the stunts going slightly wrong which made it all the more exciting - they were trying stuff that would make Simon Cowell wet himself in delight.

Last night we both were awoken by the most devastating thunderstorm either of us has ever heard with near constant fork lightning and a growling thunder maintaining for a good couple of hours. The worst thing about this was we had to get up at 4.30 to get ourselves to the airport for a 7.50am flight. Two metro trains (30mins), an express train (20mins), a flight (2 hours - ran by non-descript budget chinese flight company.com essentially out of a shed round the back of Beijing airport - but still a much higher quality flight than that provided by BA), a shuttle bus (2hours) and a walk (30 mins) and we are in Xi'an. Newly christened by ourselves as the hottest place on the planet bar none (no exaggeration at all there). It's meant to be 38 tommorow and with a 80%+ humidity - great stuff。
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