Huw's BitSpent first day trying to get into the Forbidden City and failing! This is after Christine made a random new friend walking on the street who turned out to be an art student (!). She took us to see her work, meet her teacher and ended up spending 1900 yuan on her and the art teachers- we can definiteltly vouch for its authenticty! Got some cool, free calligraphy done for us including our names! I can show it to everyone I meet from now on as means of introduction and save me talking like an idiot to people who have no idea what I'm saying, and me them! Paddy O'Sheas Sports Bar an outstanding venue to watch the 3rd Lions test v Wobblies! Was a bit worried as its opposite Aussie Embassy so thought it might be full of Wobbly fans! Needn't have worried, packed with Lions fans including 8/10 Welsh lads, including one from Aberystwyth (where I was brought up)! What a game, what a night, Beijing Beer is OK - genuinely a great rugby experience I will never, ever forget! Locals couldn't understand what all the fuss was about! Smashed them - so, so relieved, thrilled, vindicated! 12 years is a long time to wait for the universe to be put right! Nearly didn't get to Paddy's though as directions were so bad even the local taxi couldn't find it! Had to get out, then saw a bloke on a scooter with a Lions shirt on! Waved him down and he sorted another taxi out for us - he'd been living in Beijing for 13 years and spoke excellent Chinese - makes a living by taking tours to N Korea! Didn't think the tourist industry would be big there! All driving in Beijing is insane! Not like Adelaide and SA where its just bad, just insane, make it up as you go along, but it seems to work! People riding scooters text as they go along, babies onthe handlebars etc, ride up streets the wrong way, on the pavement - generally madness but fun! People blast horns constantly - there's a lot to blast your horn about! Traffic at certain times is horrendous - took us 3 hours to get back from Ming Toombs - cant have been more than 150km!
Christine's bit: Beijing doesn't sleep - its alive night, day, weekends a crazy busy-ness that is exciting, energising , new experiences around every corner. The middle class wealth and the poor mingle amongst the noise, smog, constant honking of horns and traffic that appears to have no rules but everyone seems to understand what is going on. Crazy sights like scooters being driven in horrendous traffic with a child/baby, no helmets. It's the small lanes off streets where you see the daily life of the Beijing residents-sitting, cooking their meals outside small basic rooms attached to shop fronts, vege markets that seem to exist wherever here is a space, everyone doing something to try to earn a living.
The friendliness of Beijing is everywhere. The younger generation will start up a conversation with you to practice their English. There were lots of stares where ever we went! A young girl began talking to me as we were walking - she turned out to be an art student! She invited us to see the student's end of year exhibition - we ended up buying some of her work, her teachers and the master teacher (who she rang and he came to meet us).
Of course we had to find a sports bar to watch the third Rugby test Lions v Wallabies - found a bar by asking a guy on a scooter at the lights, who had on a Lions top, where he was watching the game. He hailed a taxi for us and gave instructions to the driver in perfect Mandarin - turns out he's been living in Beijing as a tour operator for 13 years taking Chinese tourists to North Korea. Ended up at an Irish Bar - Paddy O'Sheas!! A good night, with heaps of Brits and Aussies watching the game, and better still for Huw - the Lions won.
The Great Wall is hard to put into words - such a feat of human endeavour, so awe inspiring-we climbed to the highest point in humidity and heat that was debilitating - very steep. A visit to the incredible Ming Tombs where the 13th Emperor and his wives are buried 100 metres underground - another superb engineering feat ( and a lovely change of temperature!)
Off to the Forbidden City the next day, slightly worn out to say the least, and even more worn out after viewing this amazing, unbelievable period of time with masses of Chinese tourists on holidays! The rain set in as we began the trek to Tianamen Sq to watch the parade and the lowering of the flag along with hundreds of other tourists all with umbrellas! As the light faded, Chairman Mao"s final resting place lit up along with other icons in Tianamen Sq, all in an eerie light with the rain and thick smog enveloping us.
What a city, what an experience! Loved it!