Left Shanghai today, 31st May, on one of the high-speed trains to Beijing. Amazing to watch the speed on the train - 306kmh, which is almost 200mph! All sleek and finished, with immaculate stewards going up and down keeping the place spotless and serving drinks/food. Arriving in Beijing was a bit mad, we had to transfer to the metro from the station in rush hour, with two kids, and all of us with rucksacks. The looks we've got from so many people, and the laughing and fingers pointing at the boys with their own rucksacks. I know people think we're mad but it makes far more sense, as we can hold their hands going through busy streets and train stations!! If we had pull along cases we'd never manage. Plus they'd be full of clothes that we don't really need..the smaller the bag, the more you make sure it's only essentials you bring!
First stop in Beijing on Friday was the zoo to see the famous Giant Pandas. Would love to see them properly in the wild, but that's a step too far to take the kids, as we'd have to trek miles to do so. We were laughing to ourselves, here we were in the zoo, right next to the panda enclosure and everybody was coming up and asking to take our kids photos..not the pandas! As Donal said, for a lot of people who've never seen a Western child, getting their photo taken with our kids - it's a bit like us getting our photo taken with a panda - rare and unexpected!!
Headed from the Zoo to the train station and got a train out to see the Great Wall. It's fabulous - everything you expect it to be. You could see it going over the mountains for miles and miles. Again, we were the star attraction and are in millions of other people's photos again! We met some great people though, including two older men, one whom seemed to be visiting the other and they were doing the sightseeing together. They had bought Great Wall hats and a medallion and were wearing them and they asked us to take a photo of them and they looked at themselves on the screen, thrilled with seeing themselves (this is all in Chinese, of which we have NONE and they had NO English!!!). In the end they wrote their addresses (at least we hope it's their addresses!) down - some passer-by who understood told them what to write - and we are sending on their photos. We had one address down but the other man was insistent we take his too, so we've to send two lots of photos!!
We've also gone to the Lama Temple - a Buddist temple, in use, which the boys loved exploring. The smell of incense was just beautiful and watching the people come and worship - it was a shivers down the spine moment.
Tian'anmen Square was as huge as I expected. Oisin had just done a project on China before coming away, so he was able to fill us in on everything, including how many people it can hold! We saw the famous Chairman Mao portrait over the entrance into the Forbidden City - the Gate of Heavenly Peace as it's called. Then onto the Forbidden City, which is HUGE. The boys are getting good at map-reading and following the books, telling us what each building was!! It's wonderful to see them take to travel like this and to be open to sightseeing and to learning about all this history! They're also great for trying all the new food, we just order stuff and they eat it, half the time we don't know what we're ordering, but when in Rome and all that!!!