Im in China!!!!!!!!!! And having the most incredible time :) Im on an Intrepid tour for 20 days. The people are lovely and the sights are amazing. I wake up everyday on a high! The tour is very flexible - we basically pick and choose what we want to do and see in every city. So I spent the first few days in Beijing - went to the Summer Palace and in the evening to a Kung Fu show. It was great to absorb some local culture this way. The evening continued with our first sampling of Chinese nightlife...we went to Bar Street where there were absolutely no locals! But it was a crazy way to kick off the tour, and I ended up in bed at 6am! So it was a pretty hard start 3 hours later when I got up for a day at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square! I was also very dehydrated - still not having got used to the squat toilets I wasnt really up for drinking too much water! Lol. But I enjoyed a nice nap in the pretty gardens in the afternoon! Seriously though, having seen images of this place as a child and being able to actually walk here, now, was amazing. And the size and grandeur of it all is so incredible. After lunch I went to the Temple of Heaven and then picked up some good deals at the local pearl market. Haggled my way down from 280 Yuan to 160 for a lovely jacket!
The next morning we took a coach journey to the Great Wall of China!!!!!!!!! And trekked up and down steep, crumbly and rough steps in the sun, across 30 towers for about 5 hours along 10km. No need to say it was HARD WORK. But we all supported each other, and the views and feeling to be there justified everything. Wow. It was still a bit crazy deciding to get up at 5am for another trek to see the sunrise the next morning, however! I nearly killed myself! We covered about half the distance in another direction, starting off in the dark and coming back in the early hours of the morning taking in the most beautiful sights. Stefan and I just had to take in the moment, sitting down, and drinking in the stillness and tranquility and the expanse of quiet mountainside before us. Time just stood still. It was so peaceful.
The rest of that day was spent travelling - we took an overnight train for 11 hours to Xi'an - the ancient capital of China. Here we visited the Bell Tower and then the Drum Tower - where we thought we'd play out some rhythms on the drums dotted around the tower. It was only after we came round the corner again that we spotted the 'no striking' sign. Oops! We also went to the Muslim Quarter to see the Great Mosque and to a market street selling lots of calligraphy materials and souvenir trinkets. Xi'an is pretty small so we covered everything really quickly. The main highlight was yesterday, when we drove East to see the actual Terracotta warriors!!! Now that was something. Standing at an average of 1.78m tall, each with their own unique faces, and surrounded by their horses, no one could fail to be impressed. We learnt a lot about the First Emperor and the dynasties too, putting everything in context, and it really brought the whole experience to life.
I didn't think such a day could get better, but it did! We hired some bikes in the afternoon and cycled in the afternoon sun around the city walls, and then in the evening watched a cultural Tang Dynasty show in town, followed by drinks later in the evening. Such a great time. I feel so lucky to be here. Tonight we're taking another train to travel to Shanghai. Hope everyone at home is well!