Continue Sun 27th September
Found the right bus to take us nearer to hostel, BUMPY RIDE, they drive just as crazy here as they did in Shanghai. Wasn't sure where to get off, but stayed on till last stop and went passed Tinanmen Square, so we knew we were not far, the square looked amazing, can't wait to get a closer look.
Tubbed a few stops and walked deep into the hutong, looked a bit run down, but was nice to be in a traditional area. Was a bit of a walk with our ruck sacks, but found the hostel in good time and the room was really nice, no bunkbeds for a change.
Chatted to a nice couple whilst on the web and they recommened a nice restaurant just around the corner, but we really fancied DUCK, seeing as we were in the place where the pancake rolls originated from. Found a gorgeous restaurant, which looked way too expensive for us, but hey ho entered it anyway. Luckily for us they were kind enough to offer us the duck to share - even though the menu said the price was for each person. The duck was delicious, best we've ever tasted and that was just the first plate they brought out, when they brought out a 2nd we thought we'd got it by mistake, but nope all for us mmmmmmmmm. Too much for one night though, so we took away a doggy bag, ready for lunch tomorrow. (Chinese always order way too much, so this is where takeaways come from). Felt quite bad really cos the cleaner looked a little worse for wear and we wanted to offer him some, but thought it would not go down well in a restaurant like this, nice chap though, very smily.
Chilled at the hostel for the rest of the eve, tried to play drafts but forgot the rules, so I just left it that I had won te he.
Monday 28th September
Caught the tube into Tiananmen Square - was absolutely packed with tourists, managed to squeeze our way through and get some nice pic's, but crazy area, they are getting set up for the festival on the 1st, seats all being laid out and areas were closed off.
Had the duck whilst walking around mmmmmm, still just as tasty as last night YUM!!
Found a really cute little park just behind the square, was actually looking for the entrance to the Forbidden City (which I can not stop calling Forbidden Forest - taken from Harry Potter), but was a nice place out of the way of the crazy people and busy traffic, so strolled around a little before moving on. Another english couple asked us if we knew where the entrance was - at least we were not the only ones in search of it.
Wandered down a long street full of shops and stands, mainly full of souvenirs and food, with the odd little house in between, Ad took a pic of the cutest little boy, staring out at us. Was quite a walk, thought we'd found the entrance, but turned out to be one of the exits. A good hour or so and we finally arrived at the Southern exit of the Forbidden City with only 3 hours before closing, so we went for it.
Was well worth the walk, the Forbidden City was full of little arches, walkways, temples, gardens and the largest court areas you can imagine. You may have seen it in the films, but in real life it is soooooooooo much better. Each section seemed to get bigger and bigger as we moved through the grounds, it was very impressive. Maybe the fact that it was a scorching hot day helped, but I just think this City was one of the best I have ever seen, so beautiful in everyway. Beijing is the highest polluted city in the world, so to see a clear day doesn't happen that often. Well worth a visit, certainly not to be missed.
Almost got kicked out at the end, cos we were trying to get into the Clock museum that the lonely planet recommends, but no luck, headed over to the park just behind it called Jingshan Park. The perfect place to go after Forbidden City closes, you can walk through the very well landscaped gardens, up to a high pavillion, where you can look right over the Forbidden City and get some beautiful pictures and to the other side watch the sun setting, what a lovely end to the day, gorgeous.
Headed back to the square and stopped for some Chicken and Cashew Nuts dinner mmmmmm my favourite, was very nice. My first trip to the public loo's was very interesting, lets just say, not like home.
Stopped at the National Grand Theatre on way back, looks like an alien ship, really different building, very nice. Unfortunately the main square was now closed completely, getting ready for the festival, so we just headed back for an early night, ready for the Great Wall of China tomorrow.
Tuesday 29th September
Nice early start about 5:30am to be precise and boy did it feel early. We got ourselves downstairs with enough time to eat some jam on toast before following the crowd to the coach. A fair few of us which was nice.
4 hours on coach, in and out of sleep and we arrived at the beginning of our treck, with the option of catching the cable car up the first section or walking. We came here to walk, so that is just what we did. What we didn't know is a group of locals are waiting for you and every morning they walk up along side the travellers, chatting politly to start with then try and flog you some souvenirs, which seemed perfectly fine, but we just came to enjoy the experience. Felt sorry for them having to do that every morning, but they looked healthy and well and at least they didn't need to join a gym ay. Once we said we had no money on us, they left us alone. Was surprised at their stamana though.
What an experience, you see it in pic's etc but nothing can beat the feeling of actually walking along those walls, it has the best views and although it is not the most easiest walk, it is very enjoyable and nice to feel you have actually accomplished something at the end of it. We met lots of nice people on the same trip and chatted to them on the way. A nice guy and his mum were chatting to us for a while, they were from Tazmania, really nice people and hearing their views on Tazmania and details of their beaches etc, really made us want to add that to our trip.
Back to the Great Wall of China, def a tour I recommend, don't do the part nearest to Beijing because apparently it is very busy with tourists, but doing this treck means not only do you get to avoid all of them, you really feeling like you have seen a lot of the wall and had a great experience. Amazing place, was quite hard to take in at first, you really need to take time out and just look around you.
Was fun when we found the highest point on this section of wall, we spent a while jumping at the top, trying to get pics at the right moment and we did it, although think everyone around us thought we were crazy, but they then started to copy, so we didn't feel so mad. Great pic's, plus our little travel bear got a pic to, OH YES he/she has visited the GREAT WALL OF CHINA - Rina will be proud.
4 hours of trekking and we reached our final point, was a brilliant and very sunny day. Off to lunch now and surprisingly it was better than we expected, a buffet of delicious chinese dishes mmmmmmmmmmm filled our trays full and ate every little bit, was nice to try a range of foods.
First experience of a public loo (without sections parting you from others), oh yes everyone together now. I waited till all the ladies had left, it just didn't feel right. I guess this was a culture shock for me. The whole bus was waiting just for me te he.
Bumpy ride back but some how managed to sleep and when I awoke, everyone was laughing because the coach did not sound good, they were just waiting for it to break down any minute, but luckily we got back in good time, about 6ish.
Trying to see as much as possible, we decided to go and visit the Olympic area, as we were told it is really nice all lit up at night. So hopped on the tube and made our way there. Wow whatta sight to see, it was lovely, the birds nest stadium was gorgeous, all lit up in reds and the swimming pool area in blue, so pretty. The whole area was exceptionally clean and laid out really nice. We had a good look around and took lots of pics, spent ages in the area full of photos from the Olympic games in 2008, such amazing pics. Did not venture into the park as it was now quite dark, but a local lady who is a volunteer in the area told us we should come back in the day because it is well worth seeing, really sweet lady.
Got a bit carried away looking around and forgot that the tubes shut around 10pm here, so we walked for a while before finally getting a cab to stop. Think he got a bit lost when trying to find our area, as we seemed to be in the car for ages, getting a bit worried we showed him the area again on a map that he passed us. YEP he's apologised and tried to explain that he went the wrong way, luckily he did not charge us full fair PHEWWW!
We knew we were in the right area, but for the life of us could not find our way, took a couple of wrong turns, then Ad luckily recognised a building and YEP we found our way. Now 1am, very tired and def gotta give our legs a rest.
Wednesday 30th September
Had a slight lie in, which I think was well deserved after yesterday. Did some sorting out for next place etc then headed out to Temple of Heaven.
The park just inside the entrance was really nice, Ad spotted some people kicking about a toy which looks a bit like a shuttle cock, he was dying to join in, we had seen the same game being played in the park by the Forbidden City. Ad decided he wanted to get one of these to try.
Saw what looked to be a childrens play area within the park, but as we got closer we realised, it did not just have swings etc for children but a whole range of exercise items for adults and it then became clear that it was not children playing in it, but heaps of adults doing their morning exercises. Saves going to the gym I suppose. Of course we could not resist having a go on a couple of things, but seemed like too much effort, so gave up quickly te he.
Found a shop where Ad could purchase the shuttle c*** kick toy and I found some lovely chopsticks with panda's on them, with Ad's help managed to haggle them down in price from 85 yaun (8.50 pounds roughly) to 20 yaun, not bad ay.
The Temple of Heaven was nice, not as spectacular as I had imagined, especially after visiting the forbidden city, but it was still well worth visiting. Bumped into Rich at the temple which was kinda cool, small world ay, he was there with a couple of friends he'd made at his hostel, so we all chatted and walked around together, nice people. Was nice to catch up and swap stories, hearing about the interesting foods Rich had tried at the market made us wonder if we could do it, we shall see.
The place was bigger than we expected and we kept finding more areas, was a great day out and nice to stroll around, most the temples within looked similar, but we made the effort to see all of it. Came to a nice spot under some trees where a local guy was singing away and lots of people were up dancing, was really fun to watch, they all seemed to be clapping and joining in. I was pleased that the park wasn't any bigger, don't think my legs could handle too much today te he.
On our way back we found a Kodak store, perfect timing, managed to get our latest photos burnt to disc, was well needed as we were both running out of space on our cameras. Plus the shop computers didn't take half as long as computers in some of the hostels, so it was nice to get them over and done with ready to send home.
HOSTEL PARTY - In light of the Beijing Festival that is due tomorrow, the staff at our hostel decided to throw a hostel party, was not sure what to expect but thought we'd go along and find out.
It seemed that almost everyone within the hostel turned up and there was free food and beer for all, they were not stingy either, we had plates full of duck and pancakes, fruit and nuts and at least enough beers for two each, well generous of them. Was a great chance to meet others and we chatted heaps. We even got to meet the girl who was staying in our room, had not met her yet because we got to the room as silly hours and left when the other one was not there. People were from all over France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland etc etc. Great bunch of people.
What started as a simple gathering of people turned into a full blown drinking party. Thanks to Ad and the lovely irish girls we some how ended up playing RING OF FIRE noooooooooooooo. Was hillarious though, the girls added extras that they play (animal noises) and Ad informed the quite large group of about 15 of us - how the rules work.
Lets just say I don't think anyone was soba by the end of it and Ad brought it on himself to be the one who had to drink the dirty pint in the middle te he. Thank goodness he did, otherwise it would have been me. Everyone looked as though they had a good laugh, I know I did, what a great laugh.
I think they'll be some sore heads in the morning.
Thursday 1st October
Bit of a nothing day today and probably well needed after last night. Felt quite bad about getting up so late until I saw one after another of the others from our drinking group, it would seem we were not the only ones suffering.
Hoping for a stodgy breakfast we found a greasy looking cafe and thought it would be just the ticket, really nice staff and seemed to be quite cheap, so took our seats. Probably should have checked the menu first because everything on it was Donkey meat, well not just donkey meat, but everything donkey - you name any part and believe me it was there. We thought oh well it can't be all bad, others in the cafe seemed to be enjoying it, so we picked donkey sandwiches, a peanut dish and some tofu. OK not exactly what we expected, infact pretty YUK if you ask me. The donkey meat tasted salty and was as tough as nails, the peanut dish was exactly that cooked peanuts - best thing we had (Ad didn't think so), the tofu was cold and tastless, so all in all not the best breakfast ever and we couldn't wait to go. Felt horrid walking out when a couple sat down and stopped us to ask what we thought, we tried to be polite as possible and said, it was a little salty and tough but why not give it a try, they didn't look impressed.
Fancied walking off the awful meal and tried to get as close to the square as possible. Was the strangest feeling walking through the main streets of Beijing with no traffic and very few people to be seen. Plenty of police and soldiers everywhere though, was very odd, reminded me of London on may 1st years ago, when they closed up following protests the year before. As we got closer to the square the roads were all sectioned off and nobody was getting through. Guards were shouting a groups of locals to turn back, it was no good, but I have to say it was quite pleasent, not having to fight your way through crowds of people to get anywhere.
Back to hostel because even the closest tubes were closed, so we would not be able to go anywhere, the Festival has really had a impact on Beijing's everyday life. Used our spare time to go on web and reply to emails, update blog and book our next hostel in Xian, where we will be going next. Then sat on roof top terrace, Ad caught up with his diary, while sneakily I wrote him a poem for his birthday and he knew nothing about it arrrhhhh, I am quite the romantic you know.
Got talking to a Dutch guy and a guy from Argentina while eating grapes that the guy from Argentina kindly offered, talking mostly about the festival and swapping stories of where we have all been so far. Completely engrossed in conversation, it took me a while to realise that a rather large, very hariy catapillar was making its way up my leg. Once I felt the itch, assuming it was just a fly I reached down to scare it away, to my horror it was slightly bigger than a fly and screaming I almost went backwards over the bench whilst knocking it off. The guys found this quite amusing of course. Luckily I found the funny side and had to get my evidence, so as this monster wizzed off - the quickest catapillar I have ever seen, I took some pics and even caught in on camera, to show it's speed.
Heard that the fireworks would be going off in about an hour or so and that we might be able to see them from the roof, so popped off for a bit of dinner first and found a great little restaurant around the corner. Had some delicious sweet and sour pork dish, but for some reason the fried rice took ages to come to the table and we were worried we would miss the fireworks, so we asked to take the rice away. Made it back to the roof just in time, but unfortunately only got a slight glimpse of them as a huge hotel was blocking our view, not so great. The bits we saw looked amazing though. The staff let us watch some of the end of the festival on their TV and it looked amazing, the Chinese really know how to put on a good show, is strange to think that this is all happening 30mins walk away from us, very odd and those at home are even getting snippets of it all on the news, how cool.
What a strange day, but it gave us good time to catch up with bits and relax a little. Now time for bed, watched a little bit of friends - so pleased to have our i-pods. Sweet dreams.
Friday 2nd October
Earlish start, packed up and checked out, but left our bags in reception as our train does not leave til this evening. Quickly checked our discs on the comp to make sure all the pics were showing then went on our way to find the post office. It didn't open for about 40mins, but hey ho we just watched some friends while waiting, locals hoovering around us to see what we were doing, then bombarded the doors of the post office as soon as the guy appeared to open them. Still makes me laugh how everyone appears to be at a leisurely pace until they want something, then it's everyman for himself, so funny.
We got seen to straight away, packed up our bits and got them sent out. Bit mcuh compared to Japan, 10 pounds for a 2 week trip, but guess it's best to send them home, then at least we have our pics save and sound.
Tubbed to Summer Palace, seemed to take ages, but got there in the end. A short walk to the entrance and one glance at the map and it occured to us just how big the grounds to this place was. We had hoped we could get around this and then wizz over to the Olympic area to go inside the Birdsnest as well as stopping in the actual square, but now realised that might not be possible before getting our train.
Once inside the grounds and walking around we were happy just to spend the whole day here, there was plenty to see from temples, pagoda's, lake, marble boat, corridoors, beautiful gardens and of course the palace, it was a gorgeous place, shame it was so busy, I guess because of the Chinese holiday, but we made the most of it and took time to stop and take pictures and wonder at our own pace, it was lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit here. Had my first telling off tut tut, took a pic of a buddha inside a temple - naughty me, but Ad was doing as well, he was just good at not getting caught, something I am yet to learn te he.
Left the palace grounds about 5, was gonna try and pop to square on way back but the tube stations were closed, was lucky really cos we just about had enough time to grab our things and get to the station for our train. Video'd the square as we passed in the cab, it was rammed with people and still had some stands up from the festival yesterday. The Beijing West station was actually really pretty all lit up at night, I appreciated it anyway, Ad is scuffing at my comments right now. Was packed with people, but we only had a 30mins wait before boarding, had a really cute room, which we shared with a chinese couple and their son who was about 7 years old, really sweet boy. The room compartment was really cosy, but getting onto the top bunks which Ad and I had was a mission, Ad found it hillarious watching me attempt to jump up, so much so that he felt the need to video my 2nd try, but I was saved, the Chinese dad below pointed out that there was a step, which was hidden in the side of the wall, he pulled it down and I was so greatful, Ad however was disappointed that he could not see my legs all over the place again trying to pull myself up.
Was very comfortable and settled for the night, Xian here we come.