So I arrived at Beijing airport safe and sound on Friday 13th of February.
I took a taxi to the hotel, which was a mission in itself, as despite reading my Manderin Chinese phrase book cover to cover I knew w*** all Chinese and the cab driver knew even less English! Still 10 minutes in to the journey and artic lorry try to kill us both and we found our common ground in nervous laughter! He dropped me outside a restraunt, on the fringe of the city centre. He was quite insistant that this was the hotel so I paid my new friend the cab driver and he sped off. After walking up and down the street looking very lost and bloody scared I stood outside the restraunt and looked up to see a huge neon sign for the hotel, The entrance was on the side of the building!!!
So my intial panic was over and I checked in, another mission as neither party understood a word the other was saying. I think I have been a little ignorant thinking the Chinese would be able to speak English! I was the first of our group to arrive so was still a little nervous.
Anyway my new international pay as you go sim card that I had bought in London couple of days before wasn't working （thanks Car Phone Warehouse), so I headed out in to mean streets of Beijing to buy a phone card for one of the hundreds of pay phones dotted up and down each street. I get back to my hotel an hour later, no phone card, no lunch (at that point I was steering clear of the street food, I didn't want to add food poisoning to my list of problems). Friday the 13th was really living up to it's reputation!
I'm grumpy at the best of times, but when I'm tierd and hungry I'm nightmare so head to the restraunt downstairs from the hotel and grab some food. The waitresses friend seems to know a few words in English, so after sucessfully oredring food I ask about the phone cards. She takes me next door and about 5 minutes later I have a Chinese sim card! I quckly phone home and then called Elizabeth. Well I was home sick before I called, after I was ready to jump back on the plane! Not an option the next flight from Beijing to the UK was Sunday, plus the stick I would get isn't worth thinking about!
En route back to my hotel room the manager tells in in very broken English that I need to be in the lobby at 6:30 for the induction. Things were looking up, there was plan. I grab a few hours sleep and head down to the lobby.
A few of the group were sitting around chatting, so I introduce myself. At this point the group consisted of Terry our guide, Jaap a Danish Lad, Wade an Aussie and Dave & Anna a couple from Leeds. The rest of the group arrive in dribs and drabs. James & Kirsten from Balham, Aaron (Canadian) his girlfriend Gracia (American), Heather and Isla from Cambridge, Polly from Worthing, Ditte and Jonas from Denmark, and finally two sweedish girls called Kasser and Yohana.
Terry takes for the induction tour to show us the vitals, internet cafe, supermarket, tube station etc. We then go for dinner, the food was lovely and the beer much needed! The group bonded really well and after dinner we sat around in the hotel drinking beer. So much for nine months not drinking!
So Friday the 13th ended much better than it started.
The next day a few of us meet up and head to Tianaman Square. Wow! it was huge, I mean it was bloody huge! The security was very supprising too, as you exit the tube station you have to put your bag through an xray machine. There were lots of police, and vans parked up with CCTV cameras pointing at the Square. Supprisngly we were the only westerners there. The Forbidden City was directly off of Tianaman Square, with the famous picture of Chairman Mao overlooking the square. After another security check and bag xray， We found a guide (Sherman the Shermanator) who took us through the Forbidden City, which was amazing, the sheer scale of the site and the craftmanship of the buildings. every little detail symbolises somthing different. I expected to walk around the site and leave from the same place we went in so I could take another look at Tianaman Square, but the Forbidden City leads to the Imperial Gardens and before you know it you are be ushered out the back door! We all concluded that Qing Emporer was over thrown as sombody had left the back door open!
That afternoon we took the metro to the Olypic Village。 Again the sheer scale of the place was phenominal. Stratford has a lot too live up to! The birds nest was amazing, we paid to go in but I really wish I hadn't, it was just another stadium, nothing special at all. By this time the cold had got to us and it started to rain, so we headed back to the hotel. As we were leaving Dave pointed out a Harrier Jump Jet in the sky, which we all thought was quite strange as the Harrier is a British military plane after a little discussion and a minor concern that we were going to war with China, we worked out the the afore mention Jet was in fact a blood kite!!! The Chinese are mad about kites and their kites are a little more elaborate than my $5.99 purchase in Camber Sands!
That evening we all met up and went for Peking duck, which was nice but no better than you can get a home, so a little dispointing!
It's quite funny I used to see TV programmes like Ship Wrecked and people would moan about being home sick， I'd laugh and think they were being stupid. Now I oviously knew I would miss family and friends but I didn't think I would feel like this it is a sick feeling deep in your stomach. - Man up Barlow, stop being a tart!!!!
Anyway, I thought I'd be able to rattle though my first 10 days pretty quickly, but I have been sitting in this internet cafe for an hour and a half and I'm only on day 3 so I am going to have to start thinning this out a bit until I catch up!