Day 17

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, October 1, 2006

We woke with a thin layer of sand covering most things in the cabin. Fortunately my top bunk had some protection thanks to the curtain, but Steve below wasn't so lucky. I watched the Chinese landscape for some of the morning - an interesting mix of corn fields and small towns. Some of the housing was appauling but there were definitely people living in them.

While out in the carriage corridor, I was asked by some Mongolian women what my nationality was. Impressed to have Englishmen on board we were invited in to their cabin along with the Swedish girls to play cards! About 10 people were soon crammed in to the cabin. They didn't speak much English and we certainly didn't speak Mongolian! The first game was impossible to understand so that was ditched for a far simpler second game. We were all dealt four cards and had to keep passing one card left until someone had all four cards matching. That person would slam their hand in the middle and was quickly followed by everyone else. How could this game possibly be entertaining you ask? Answer - forfeits to the last person to slam their hand in. First loser was Nathalie, and after a heap of Mongolian chatter it transpired that I had to kiss Nathalie 5 times for her "forfeit"! I was confident that I would never lose this game, but since me and Steve were the only men playing I figured out that we could be involved in most of the forfeits. I didn't deliver my kisses since Nathalie protested about having a boyfriend - kill-joy. I the next hand one of the Mongolian women lost and this time I had to flick her forhead 5 times! I was shown the technique to use but it wouldn't have been my first choice and as a result flick number 3 landed straight in her eye to the raucous approval of everyone watching! One or two hands later I did deliver my kisses but this time it was a married Mongolian woman on the receiving end not 20 year old Nathalie!

The card game broke up as we caught our first glimpse of the Great Wall. I'd seen photos from the train window taken by other travellers and recognised the area. I didn't get too excited by the wall as we we're planning to do a trip later in the week so I will get a good look at it then.

We pulled into Beijing Station at 3pm and walked to our hostel. The hostel is in a "hutong" area - small streets where cars can't really go, they're lively places full of people and their daily hustle and bustle. We checked our emails and Malin had met up with the Welsh guys and was inviting us to their place for drinks. We ate some street food - I had a vegetable wrap for 3 Yuan - 20p which was really good. Street food is everywhere in the hutongs, it's fried up in temporary carts and is popular with locals and travellers alike. We found the girl's hostel and had a good reunion drink. At 1am we made our way back after agreeing to meet up at noon next day to go around Ti'anenmen Square.
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