Adventures of Jacqui and Paul
We arrived in Beijing on May 19th at about 1am, very sleepy. The following day we decided to explore the Forbidden City, when we arrived at Tianaman Square there were thousands of people everywhere, we were a little unsure at first what was going on and then realised that it was actually the first day of the "three days of national mourning for the earthquake victims" so after the 3 minutes silence we thought we better stay out of the way, the Chinese were very emotional. So we then entered the Forbidden City which although was under construction in preparation for the Olympics was really interesting but quite a long day. The next day we went to the Summer Palace, we got lost trying to find it after 2 tubes and wandering around suburban Beijing for quite a while so we jumped into a taxi and then he got lost too so I was getting a bit inpatient at that point and was going to refuse to pay him the whole amount as he kept his meter running the whole time but Paul made me pay him. Anyway when we got there it was worth the stress as it was really beautiful, there was a lovely big lake and pagodas everywhere. Unfortunately it was quite a smoggy day so we didn't have as good a view as we would have liked but the place was still stunning. We spent quite a few hours here, it was huge, we walked very high up to a temple (which was knackering) and had amazing views of the entire area. Towards the end of the day we found a small mock village which was for the emperor to experience the everyday lives of his subjects, It had tiny shops surrounding a river there werent many people around by the time we got there as it was closing soon so it was quite surreal. We found a little place to buy food and bought two bowels of noodles, which were yummy and very cheap. Later we decided to keep sampling the local cuisine and dined at MacDonald's for dinner. At the hostel that night we went to the bar, in the corner there was a local man selling Plasticine models. He kept looking over at us and after a while he presented me with a funny looking head with blond hair tied up like mine was...he said he was going to make the body for me so out of sympathy really I agreed to buy it off him when he had finished as it had taken him a while and it wasn't' much money. It looks absolutely nothing like me. Day six of our travels we visited the Temple of Heaven we hired an audio guide which was rubbish, it wasn't as impressive as the previous places we had visited so we didn't stay too long. It was nice but very similar to the other temples we had seen and not as good. That night we met our intrepid group, everyone was really nice and the tour leader Yolanda was lovely. We then had a group meal at a local restaurant, the food was gorgeous and we got to try different things that we wouldn't normally order. We also got to try some Peking duck which is of course what Beijing is famous for. Paul was a big fan of that, I even quite liked it too. May 22nd we went to yet another Temple! But this one was worth the visit even though I am just about fed up of seeing them now. It was called the Lama temple and it was different to the others as it is still a working temple and because of the tragedy of the earthquake there were a lot of Chinese people there praying and offering incense to Buddha. There was an absolutely massive Buddha there towards the end of the temple which was very impressive, I have never seen anything like it. It was quite enjoyable sitting in the shade just observing the Chinese offering the incense and praying and learning a bit more about their culture. When we left Paul decided to search for the Olympic stadium...I wasn't that keen as I knew it would be far but Paul seemed pretty determined. We walked for what seemed like 5 hours in the scorching heat through various gardens and then along a river and over a busy road and eventually Paul admitted defeat and we started the long journey back. Still it wasn't a wasted trip as the scenery along the way was rather nice and we came across some random huge statues and took a few photos. In the late afternoon we wandered around Tianamen square again as the mourning had ended so we could visit it and we saw Mao's Mauselum. For dinner we ate at a hotel near the hostel, was really good food, I enjoyed it and we had some decent chicken for once. The chicken here is disgusting most of the time and consists mostly of bones whenever you order it. Whish isn't good for me as this is my staple diet. On our final day in Beijing we got up early for the first time since we arrived in China (we have had awful jet lag) and went on a Hutong tour. Firstly we got on a rickshaw and a man cycled us around the traditional back streets of Beijing. We visited a local mans house and he gave us Jasmine tea and showed us his pet grasshopper and his singing birds that could speak Chinese. In the afternoon we went to Bei Hei park and rented a battery operated boat which was fun. the surroundings were very similar to the Summer Palace, it was very pretty. In the evening we rushed back to the hotel and went out to a kung fu show, that was really impressive, lots of martial arts and dancing, we enjoyed it a lot.