We walked to the train station and it wasn't too difficult to work how it all works. The tickets here are really cheap at 2 yuan each, which is about 30 cents US. Bargain! We got off at the Tianamen Square station and then walked to the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is the one with the huge portrait of Mao that is in a lot of photo's
. The first thing that struck us was the scale of the place. I know everyone says its massive, but you really can't comprehend it until you are here. We walked through the gate into the forbidden city grounds and it took us a good 15 minutes just to walk to the ticket gate!! The tickets were 60 yuan each, which is less than 10 bucks and i have to say that is a bargain. Something like this in Australia or the US would cost at least $30 or more. You could spend a whole day here, but quite frankly, we were freezing, most of it is outdoors and we couldn't take it for too long. We ended up spending over 2 hours, which I'm sure some people will say is nowhere near enough, but we saw most of the sites, albeit somewhat quickly. We liked it a lot, but did not think it was as nice or well kept as some of the temples and shrines in Japan. But the thing that blows you away here, again, is the shear size of the place. It just goes on and on and on. Every time you walk past one Hall or Temple and you think there can't possibly be anymore, there is another impressive one just behind it, also with a massive courtyard and stone carvings and ornate rooflines that overlap one on top of the other. It was very difficult to capture it in pictures as it is just too big to get in all at once, and to take it in little chunks does it a disservice.
After we had finished here we walked to the main shopping strip to have a gander
. I had always planned on buying a warm jacket in China for our time in the Himalaya's and Rich also wanted to get some more warm clothes. It is already quite cold in Beijing, I hate to think what it will be like on Everest!! I have to say though, I was disappointed with the shopping in China. I guess I thought the prices would be bargain basement and we'd get some really good deals. But all we saw were the same old brand shops (Gucci, Dior, Chanel etc) and they were just as expensive as everywhere else. We did manage to find some outdoor stores, but again they were just as expensive as home. After looking around for a while and it was starting to get late, we decided that I will have to bite the bullet and just pay for a good jacket. I bought a nice down michelin man type coat which should keep me nice and snug and paid a hefty price for it. I wasn't happy about it, but the thought of going to Everest with something that had a bit of foam inside did not please me at all, so I just sucked it up and paid the price for a good one. I just hope we don't go to a market or something tomorrow and see it for half the price!!
The two things I wanted to do in Beijing at night were to get some Peking duck and to see an acrobatics show. The duck will wait for tomorrow, because tonight we went to see the flying acrobatics show and I am so glad we did. We only showed up about 20 minutes before it started and were hoping there would be some tickets left
. Thankfully there were, we bought the cheapest ones and couldn't believe when we got inside that they showed us to the front row, dead centre!! We couldn't believe our luck, we thought these were the best seats in the house. In hindsight, it may have been better sit one or two rows back, but we still ended up with amazing seats.
I cannot say enough good things about this show. First of all, our tickets cost about USD$25. If this show were in Australia or the US it would cost at least five times that price. It was sooo much better than Cirque Du Soleil and way cheaper. The acrobatics were out of this world, you can't believe that people can actually do these things with their bodies. Every minute or so I found myself "oh my god, they're not going to do...insert trick here...". And then of course they would! The costumes and music were awesome, we both just loved this. If you ever get a chance to see it, do it, it is so worth it.
In the foyer of the theatre they had some souvenir vendors selling some odds and sods. We saw this one lady who was incredible. There were a bunch of paintings in front of her that were of landscapes, mountains, forest etc, which we thought were very nice. But then she showed us how she did them and we were blown away
. She basically just had a pan of ink and would dip the side of her hand in it, then she used her hand to make the scenes in the pictures. I have never seen anything like it. Sometimes I am just in awe at how talented some people are. We bought a couple of the prints for gifts and then headed back to the hotel.
Our first impressions of Beijing are that we do not like it as much as Japan. The people are not friendly, in fact they are mostly quite rude, pushy and noisy. The city also seems dirty and not entirely safe. There are signs warning of pickpockets everywhere. Having said that though, the food so far (all of one meal) has been great. I had Shanghi noodles for lunch and Rich had chicken with cashews and he said it was the best he ever had. I am looking forward to trying the signature dish of the city tomorrow!
Because we got in so late last night, we slept in a a bit this morning to try and catch up on some sleep. We have discovered that the beds in Asia are very hard and these were no exception. However we both felt a lot better after some rest and were raring to head out into Beijing. We decided that we would do the Forbidden City today and headed there first. When we got outside we realized that the weather was a lot colder than Tokyo and the coldest weather we have had so far. It had also been raining over night and was still drizzling a bit. I seemed to have lost my rain jacket (don't have any idea how, the last time I had it was with the snow monkeys) so I was a bit nervous about today's weather. Thankfully it stopped raining just after lunch time.