Beijing is a real mix of old and new. This was Fran's third time (the first being 22 years ago!), while Andy was on virgin territory. We stayed in a hostel in one of the old 'hutongs' (network of alleyways). It had loads of character, a great place for people-watching and had thankfully avoided the pre-Olympics bulldozers. Also we overlapped with Emma & Jay again for a couple of days which was great. The number of vehicles on the roads was amazing, and the humble pushbike seemed to have given way in part to electric bikes. The disadvantage of the latter was that they didn't emit any noise to warn you that they were about to run you over.
The Great Wall was the highlight. We walked 10kms of it from Jinshanling to Simatai. The sun was shining and the views were amazing albeit hazy in the far distance. Parts of it were really steep (70% incline) and some areas were badly eroded, hence the problems Fran had (see photos) in getting into and out of the 16th watchtower of the 33 we went through. That part was far more difficult than the 'flying fox' (death slide) descent.
We also ate Beijing duck (it had to be done) and had a good night at a chinese acrobat show. The feats of strength and balance were breath-taking; the finale involved 1 bike with 12 acrobats on board.
Chinese National (Communism) Day was coming up on 1st Oc) and marked the start of a week-long national holiday. As this is the 60th anniversary year there was a huge amount of effort being spent sprucing the place up. Security was tight getting into Tian'anmen Square and we've never seen so many flowers being planted on roundabouts and roadsides. In fact one day the whole of the Tian'anmen area was closed down which meant that we only got to pick up our Mongolian visa the evening before we were due to catch the train to Ulaanbator. Thankfully there weren't any hitches.
So now we've started our long overland journey starting with the trans-Mongolian adventure ... but we'll write more about that in the next blog.