LOST IN TRANSLATION The journey from Kathmandu to Beijing was a bit of an adventure. The flight was via Lhasa and then involved a change of flight at Chengdu. We had amazing views of Everest from the plane before we stopped off at Lhasa. In Lhasa they took everyone off the plane and we spent an hour in the world's coldest airport filling out various forms to satisfy the Chinese love of bureaucracy. All our hand luggage had to be re-checked and the Chinese officials seemed to pick on a Buddhist monk, making him unpack his case and even checking through his books. Once they got us all back on board we flew on to Chengdu - where it really went pear-shaped. When we picked up our bags Sarah's lock had been broken off hers and her zip forced open - luckily the only think they stole was my old camera but we spent a really frustrating hour trying to sort it out with the airport security and police, who were worse than useless. As a result we only just made check-in for our connecting flight. Our hotel is close to Tiananmen Square but the immediate area is more than a bit seedy - packed with sex shops and grotty looking cafes. Beijing is far more modern than I'd expected but we haven't taken to China all that well. The language is a massive barrier - a classic example, we went to the train station to book tickets for Xián. After locating the "Foreign Ticket Office" we went to the counter marked "English Speaking" which was conveniently manned by a woman who couldn't understand anything except Mandarin! Arriving in China is a bit like arriving on another planet. It is so different from anywhere else I have ever been. The culture is so different from ours and they have very different concepts of manners. The Chinese people are also remarkably superstitious. August is considered a very bad month - no one gets married in August and if someone dies in August the funeral is postponed until September. You even have to be careful what you do with your chopsticks - placing them vertically in a bowl of rice is an omen of death and no one ever buys anyone a clock as a gift as "to give a clock" sounds like "attending a funeral" in Mandarin (cheery lot!). We've also found that China is not very well equipped for foreign tourists as the vast majority of tourists in China are actually Chinese. Very few signs are in English and where they do exist they are in the comedy form of "Chinglish". In fairness to the Chinese the differences between English and Mandarin mean that things do not translate easily but the results are always confusing and usually amusing. The Lonely Planet guide to China has the best example from a hotel in Tai'an which reads - "Safety needing attention, be care of depending fire, sweep away six injurious insects. Pay attention to civilization" - exactly, nonsense! The sights here are great. We've been to see the Great Wall and nearly ruptured something climbing it. The Forbidden City and The Summer Palace were amazing. Tiananmen Square is a little bland but vast. It's mostly packed with kite sellers and other hawkers of tat. One guy was just getting into his stride with his sales pitch for a watch bearing a waving Chairman Moa before he suddenly turned and legged it across the square hotly pursued by a policeman. There is still a quite unsettling presence of police and soldiers in the square making sure that the masses tow the line. Next stop Xian…..