After only a few hours sleep we were woken up by a knock on the door from the housekeeping staff. Shouting out to them didn't work so Dave got up and put our 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door - should have done that last night! We went straight back to sleep and when we woke up again it was 1pm! That's what happens when you're exhausted and you're in a 'black-out' room with no windows! Luckily we have 5 full days to see the sights of Beijing so we can afford to have a lazy start to our day today!
We went down to the next floor in the hostel to check out the 'backpacker's club' which looked good on paper...the reality was very different - one man behind the bar, the computers not working and the 'supermarket' consisting of a few bags of crisps on a shelf...don't think we'll be spending much time there!
We'd read in the guide book about a pedestrianised shopping street called Wangfujing Dajie so we decided to head there on foot. We soon arrived after walking past some huge, impressive buildings and hotels. We took a detour to 'snack street' just off the main shopping street, which is full of food stalls and small cafes. We stopped at one cafe with an English picture menu on the wall and enjoyed some rice and spicy chicken skewers (well we hope it was chicken!). We polished it off with an ice cream for Dave and doughnuts for me! Back on the main street we found an information centre so went in to ask about where we could get online. They had a computer we could use - perfect! We sent a few emails, letting people know what we've been up to (so hard to keep in touch without facebook which is banned in China!) but had some difficulty typing as the keyboard thought we wanted to type in Chinese characters! We eventually managed and Dave finished off emailing while I filled in a questionnaire one of the staff members asked me to complete - quite strange questions, including having to say which colours I think represent Beijing?? Before we left they gave me a gift for completing it which was a nice keyring - how lovely!
We wandered up the street which reminded me of Northumberland Street in Newcastle, browsing in a few shops and stopping for a cold drink halfway up. We consulted our maps and found a subway station in walking distance, so decided to head to Tianamen Square to see the flag lowering ceremony at sunet. Everyday, a troop of People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers emerge throught the Gate of Heavenly Peace and march across the road (traffic is stopped) to the flagpole to raise thed Chinese flag at sunrise and lower it at sunset. The soldiers are drilled to march at precisely 108 paces per minute, 75cm per pace and it timed so that the exact second they arrive at the flag is when the sun rises or sets!! So we thought we had to see it!
Our first sight of Tianamen Square was from across the road as we tried to work out how to get to it (we came out of the wrong exit from the station!). We got there in the end by going under three underpasses to get all the way around the busy intersection. Our bags were scanned as we entered the square which is heavily policed - no protesting allowed here! We walked the entire lenght of the square, which is the biggest public square in the world, to the flag pole at the end. Crowds were already starting to gather even though the sun was still quite high in the sky. After waiting for about an hour we saw the ceremony over the top of lots of heads and cameras held up. Dave managed to film the whole thing on our camera as he's taller than most Chinese people! I didn't see much but watched it on teh many phones and cameras recording it! As soon as the flag was down people started leaving, even though the soldiers still had to march back over the road!
By now we were both exhausted but as it was late decided to head straight out to eat rather than go back to the hostel. We got the subway to 'Ghost Street' which is filled with restaurants. It got it's name because it is lined with red lanterns which apparently makes it feel spooky or something! We chose a restaurant which had a few Western customers amongst the Chinese - good sign! We weren't really sure how to order as it seemed to be a hot pot restaurant where you cook the food at your table. We played it safe and just ordered fried rice with a chicken and pork dish, washed down with some local beers. It tasted good and was just what we needed after walking around all day. Afterwards we found an ice cream place and had a green tea ice cream - Dave liked it but I thought it tasted a bit too much like grass...
We went to bed very tired but pleased with our first tast of Beijing, a great last stop to our world tour!