After a night train that was a lot better than we are used to with actually enough leg room, tooth brushes and slippers provided we arrived in beijing feeling quite refreshed. A lady was waiting at the exit to get us to go to her hotel, it was cheaper than we were expecting to pay so we got in a mini bus and headed there, easy.
Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world at 440,000 sq metres. We sussed out the subway again and got there with no problems. It was big, huge infact and surrounded by all different types of buildings. We sat and had a drink and people watched while taking in the atmosphere of this huge square. We then decided to cross the road and go to the forbidden city that used to be home to royalty as well as other mandarins and concubines. Apparently they are the best preserved ancient buildings in China with 800 buildings and 9000 rooms, we obviously didn't look at all of it, infact just a small part was enough for us, the buildings were well maintained, but it was all a bit the same for me, although a lot smaller i preferred the Grand Palace in Bangkok as that had a variety of buildings to look at. Once we had seen this we were both really tired so had a chinese curry and headed back to the hotel.
Our next day was to the Great Wall. We decided to go it alone to the wall rather than on a tour as we wanted to climb it in our own steam. This wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. As we had done so much walking over the past few days we thought we would get a taxi to the subway station where we were going to catch the bus from. We knew we had to catch a 919 but to take us to Badaling, the part of the wall we wanted to go to. While in the taxi i saw a bus stop with the number 919 on it so we asked him to pull over and got out. When the next bus came we got on it and pointed to the map, all they said was no, so we waited for the next bus, this driver wouldn't even let us on the bus, we were getting really frustrated and their seemed to be loads of 919's all going to different places, obviously all written in chinese. we decided that our best bet was to walk to the subway station that the taxi driver was originally taking us to, so we walked and walked and then realised when we saw a sign in English that we were walking the wrong way, which meant that the taxi driver was taking us to the wrong station anyway! So we turned around and headed back, eventually we found the subway station we wanted and saw about 3 stands all with 919 on. One man at one of the stands said that their was no bus to Badaling, so we stood at the next stand. Luckily for us a young lad told us that if we wanted to go to the wall we were at the wrong stop and that we had to walk about 200 metres further on, so we did saw another bus with 919 on and asked them is they were going to Badaling (by pointing at the map) the driver said no and told us to get a taxi which we refused to do. Matthew then spotted another westerner walking past us (the first we had seen since our stay in China) so we followed her and guess what, there was a bus that only cost us 50p! We had wasted 2 hours looking for the right bloody bus, we were both a bit pissed off, but i suppose it can't be helped if no one speaks that much English.
Once at the wall we paid for a guide and then went up to the midway point by cable car as the main entrance as far too busy to even move. In all the wall stretches for 6000 kilometres, it was amazing to see how long it actually was, everywhere we looked we could see the wall sweeping over the hills in the distance. It was hard going to climb parts of it, the steps were quite steep and in some places it was just like walking up ramps, they used this to make it easier for the horses. The views were fantastic and so was the wall to say how old it was. The only down side was how busy it was, but that can't be helped. We went to the highest point at Badaling which was 888 metres above sea level. We then walked about half way to try and get some decent photos that were not full of stupid chinese tour groups in their stupid red hats or matching clothes. We were really tired by this point a we had done so much waling that we got the cable car back down to the bottom and headed back to the city as we wanted to see the olympic stadiums if we could.
We did manage to find the olympic stadium after a lot more walking, it seems to me that they need to extend their subway in each direction by about 3 miles and it would save a lot of walking! The stadium is a really unusual design and at night it lights up red, it looked really cool, we then walkied to try and find the cube which is the swimming pool as its getting more attention than the actual stadium. We could see it through the trees, a bright blue cube; but it was heavily guarded so we couldn't get closer to have a proper look which is a shame as Matthew really wanted to see it. We then headed for Pizza Hut ( sick of rice and noodles) and got a taxi back to the hotel.
Out last full day in Beijing and we went to the summer palace for the afternoon. This is as the name suggest, the summer retreat for the old imperial court. It had a variety of temples, the Buddha insece temple being the best as it was on top of longevity hill and it gave great views over the other temples, pavilions and the lake. The other main attraction was the long corridor that was over 800 metres long of finely painted wood. We both really liked the summer palace, and this does beat the Grand Palace in Bangkok for the artwork on the corridor and the Buddha temple and the colours they were painted in. Again teh down side was how busy it was with chinese tour groups, but we managed to escape them for while when we walked to the Buddha temple. It was so peaceful up there. Overall we had a great day and in a way wished we had arrived a little bit earlier. On the way back home we went into a restaurant that didn't have an English menu so we just pointed at what other people were eating around us, we had roast duck pankakes. A full duck, the pancakes and 2 beers for under a fiver!
On the way home we had a few amusing incidents. In fact we have had a few in Beijing, overall Matthew has been great at hand actions and generally acting to show people what we have wanted, for example when we wanted to know if the hotel did laundry he acted out that he smelled by lifting up his arms and holding his nose, the people at the hotel didn't have a clue what he was on about so he took a pen and paper and started to draw a t shirt and a washing machine, meanwhile i had found the phrase in our guide book! The next action was when we needed to know where the toilets were in the restaurant we had eaten the duck in, the girl didn't understand the word for toilet so Matthew put his hands in between his legs and crossed them and then started jumping up and down. She understood anyway and directed us to some outside! The best one of all though was on our way home on the last night. Matthew had run out of deoderant and we had looked in a few supermarkets with no luck, i'm not sure what the chinese use because it isn't deoderant but none of them smell. Anyway we passed a shop with a stand outside selling toothpaste and toilet roll so i suggested that he try in there. The lady didn't understand deoderand so Matthew lifted up his arm and did the action for a roll on deoderant. The lady looked as though she undertood and ran inside the shop, we followed her and she turned around holding a hair removal cream pack, we obviously both found this highly amusing and as i was laughing i looked around and noticed one wall full of different coloured/flavoured condoms and the other wall full of different vibrators, yes we had walked into a sex shop asking for deoderant! He does try, but i doubt he will ever be a world class actor!!
Still highly amused by this and without any deoderant we headed back to the hotel to pack to prepare for the 40 hour long train journey we had infront of us to get down to Southwest china!