Well, after taking a 24hr soft sleeper train from HK we arrived in Beijing, which I feel is certainly not ready for the huge descendance of people from all nations around the globe next year for the Olympics.
Stepping outside of the train station, greeted with little more than looks of contempt from the hoards of dirty faced locals that sat outside,, with a few beggars already making a beeline for us, I took out my trusty Chinese phrase book, took it to the post office and valiantly pointed at the phrase asking for tourist information. They promptly got hold of them on the phone, I asked the guy where I could buy a map, and I was sold one at the P.O on the spot... only to find it was no use as all in Chinese.
Went into another hotel and pointed at the name of the hostel we'd booked into, and decifered we needed the No.9 bus, so went to Q for it. 15minutes later and a few number 9s on, I found myself elbowing some small Chinese men out of the way in my anger to actually get onto the next bus... I already could feel my blood pressure rise!
So already here it would appear that there is no place for queueing, unlike in HK where the British colonial roots are still intact. The people of Beijing also have a disgusting tendancy to spit and hack up whatever it is they make a lot of noise doing to spit up - paerhaps their lungs, what with all the smog around.
Managed to find our hostel and dumped our bags in a mixed dorm with some strange characters. Taking a walk out into the backstreets, this place is much darker when it gets dark than in HK... hardly any neon signs, and a less than average number of street lamps, plus all the smog too.
Next day moved onto the Chongwenmen hotel and met up with our tour group from Intrepid. Walked around Tienamen Square and just inside the Forbidden City, and managed to be swindled by a couple of Chinese people supposedly on holiday here, desperate to practice their English on us... who walked us to this tea house where we experienced a full blown tea ceremone\y... much to our budgets' disgust!
The touting locals trying to sell everything Beijing under the sun are already getting tiresome, and the incessant beeping of horns is getting louder!
Made use of the hotels' ancient gym. Ate some really cheap food from stalls just inside the nearest supermarket - pancakes, dumplings, etc.
The Temple of Heaven is really worth a visit. 40Y for a through ticket, which enables you to go into 5 different areas, which are all quite heavenly in comparison to the noisy surrounds. Not much hassle from touts in here and beautful architecture and views of the surrounds too.
Took a 3hour bus ride out to the Great Wall on the 3rd day, and walked with a guide over a pretty dissused and untouched section, where we saw nobody else for hours. Even dipped down into the valleys of Mongolia for a section of 20towers of the wall that are only for military use. The weather was cold, crisp and sunny, and the sky up here was blue - truly beautiful!
Stayed in a hostel at the foot of a more touristic section of the wall, then the next day I pegged it up the tallest tower on the wall for more amazing views, before we hopped back on the bus to get a sleeper train tl Xi'an.