Ni hao from Beijing! Where Facebook is but a myth and news sites abound with hilarious stories about how China 'warms the heart' of its citizens. Anne Doyle should take a leaf out of that book!
Beijing is MASSIVE and is absolutely fantastic. A proper Chinese with beers included will set oyu back around 7 or 8 euro - that's including about 12 dishes floating around your table and of course the local specialty - Peking Duck. Not like the Marks and Spencers wraps (which are curiously good at breakfast time) at all though. Your duck (and we're not talking the ones you feed at the park, we're talking goose-type thingies) is produced on a platter before being carved up and served for pancakes - yum! The local beer Tsing Dao was unanimously proclaimed as too 'ricey' by the menfolk who continue nevertheless to drink it throughout the holiday on discovering it was about 70 cent a bottle.
That godawful Katie Melua sang there are 9 million bicyles in Beijing - well, I beg to differ - there are at least 9 billion and all of them seem to want to crash into you. We took a tuk-tuk type thing (think cube of clingfilm attached to someone's Raleigh 500) and suddenly I found religious fervour as our driver swerved happily in and out of 5-lane motorways and across roundabouts at great speed. Luckily, we were yet to experience the 'cable car' up to the Great Wall. While staring up at the cables overhead and squinting tp make out the magnificent silhouette of the turrets against the sky we were suddenly manhandled by some crazy Chinese guys who shouted 'bags to the front! bags to the front!' and pushed us onto a dodgy 'X marks the spot' sort of plank. Next thing you know, we were hanging off a chair you wouldn't have seen in Funderland in the sixties, sqeaking and creaking its way up over a perilous jungle. Relief came when we finally edged up to the peak until we advanc ed further and realised we were only a tenth of the way up the mountain. It certainly is a Great Wall - although it is a myth that it is visible from space. Built a few hundred years BC by the Chinese to keep out the Mongols - slightly paranoid as judging by the landscape, there was no fear of anyone coming even close to do any invading. The best part was tobogganing down in another rickety box formation down an open metal chute built into the mountain. (tip - avoid taking off behind three terrified Korean grannies to avoid alarm).
Took a stroll around the Forbidden City - so called because in the time of the emperors entry was barred to all but royalty and, ahem, eunuchs. Luckily, now anyone can get in, genitals and all! Walked around Tianenmen square - reported to be the biggest public square in the world - would be more prone to believe that if they hadn't cut it in half with Mao's massive mausoleum. Also took a trip to a Chinese tea ceremony which really puts the old Barry's/Lyons 'two dunks and a drop of milk' to shame. No biccies going though, unfortunately. In fact, the Chinese sadly seem to be unaware of the concept of dessert in general :(
The streets at night are great craic altogether. Lots of stalls and markets and bargains to be had. The people are generally very friendly and warm. Nobody seems to be pissed off with the fact they are all dirt poor, which is quite nice really. We lived in a 'hutong' which is a network of narrow streets off a main road, filled with very basic housing and a few shops. There was a great community atmosphere in these streets and as in Mongolia I felt a disturbingly strong urge to steal a child, they were so cute and smiley, aaah. Beijing is my favourite place so far by a mile.
We are in Hong Kong now, had to fly as no trains were available, thumbs up to 'China Southern' and their FREE DRINKS and LUNCH on a 2 hour flight - you wouldn't get that on Ryanair! Hong Kong is awfully hot and sticky and while the architecture and skyline etc are extremely impressive, especially at night, it's no Beijing :( We are off to Macau today, casino heaven, and also another stamp on our rapidly-filling passport pages - hurrah!
Saw on CNN it's 13 degrees in Dublin - trust me, I'm SO JEALOUS!!!