Siem Reap, Cambodia
Way overdue, but i thought it was better late then never... I have not had any time at all, I have crammed that much into this holiday I will need another one to recover for sure.. 6 countries so far, however am going back to finish some of them... also in China the government still has a stong hold over what its people can view on the internet, facebook being one of them, being banned all together.
picture this - it's 1am in cambodia (still feels like it's midday weather wise) and i'm sweating as i try to put a few words together for you all to read. I'll get to Cambodia (which by the way is FANTASTIC) later, but I thought I better start from the start, around 20 days ago and see how far I get.
TUESDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER
Departure Day - was thankful I was not flying with a Budget airline this time round like I did last year to Thailand. My first flight to Kuala Lumpur felt like it took forever (8 hours), then we transfered to our flight to Beijing which left around midnight (slept the whole way, so it went relatively fast for me) arriving at Beijing Airport around 6:30am.
WEDNESDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER
No surprise to anyone really, but I continued to sleep for the remainder of the morning as soon as we checked in (I couldn't really blame jet lag as we're only 2 hours behind).
Our hotel was in ChongWen Men area, which I thought was really nice at first. When we woke up we decided to wander the streets and busy roads.
For lunch we took the easy option, or which we thought would be KFC. It was at that point I realised no one in the ChongWen Men area spoke any english. We literally had to point at the food, which took ages. Food was OK though. We hit the shopping centres and supermarket, which is way different to back home, nothing was in English still, people left us alone, although they did stare at every opportunity they had. Supermarket has serious OH&S and Food Safety issues, it was so busy though so we got what we wanted and left trying to figure out the Yuan currency for the first time.
That afternoon / evening we decided to head out and use the metro (subway) which was so easy, we just changed the ticket machine settings to English and randomly chose where we wanted to go.. Lama Temple station sounded OK. That night we ended up visiting the Lama Temple itself and the Temple of Earth, which we're very different to what I first imagined them to be. Started to get a feel for what the buildings and architecture in China was like back then and in today's time.
At this point I didn't get what the big deal was in Beijing, I thought maybe we are missing the CBD or other main areas. For anyone who has been to China they can support this, but nearly every minute you hear people spitting on the streets, traffic was outrageous we nearly got run over crossing the road, apparently red lights only mean stop if ur going straight, if your turning then u never have to stop... I learnt that the hard way, so we just ended up going with the crowds. They don't believe in indicators, breaks, traffic lights, pedestrians or lanes for that matter. They make their own rules. It was awesome to watch though. I still didn't understand what was so fantastic about this city, and how they even managed to hold the Olympics last year.
That night we decided to go KTV (karaoke) in our hotel, which to put a long story short, turned out to be hilarious. Remember the communication barrier is still evident. They thought that Bianca and I were interested in paying for sex so they organised some young girl to enter the room who only gave her attention to myself and didn't even acknowledge Bianca. They then left to get us drinks, and Bianca and I bolted for the door. Mind you this was level 3 on our hotel. We tried to stay clear of this level for the rest of our time here.
THURSDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER
Weather was beautiful today, we woke early and attempted to leave the hotel to try find our way to Beijing Zoo. We left the hotel and caught the metro to a nearby station and then we thought we could just take a taxi. I forgot that the taxi drivers didn't speak english at all. You can just imagine the faces and movemnets I'm trying to pull to explain "zoo"to the taxi driver. They still had no clue, so we're stranded in the hot weather for quite a while asking locals if they could speak english and looking like the biggest tourists with our phrase book out in the open. Finally Bianca thought of a brilliant idea, to go back to the metro and change the ticket machine into mandarin and take a photo of the Beijing Zoo station (which wasn't open yet) and show the taxi driver. This worked - genius.
Zoo is really nice, our first glimpse of other tourists, and finally some use of the English language. Not too much though. Best part of today was definitely the pandas which were amazing, they treat them so well, I guess because they have done so much for China and it's economy to some extent. The aquarium though (inside the zoo) was shocking, Melbourne Aquarium is much better. Rest of zoo was really nice though to ease us into the culture and language of china gradually. Coming back from the zoo, the roads were worse, and the stares more constant in the night around ChongWen Men.
FRIDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER
Today we decided not to leave the hotel without first asking the receptionist to write down the places we wanted to go in Chinese characters so as to use for the taxi drivers. Our first stop - The Silk Market. Now this was fun, we've got a video we discreetly recorded. Hundreds of shops selling everything you could think of, and everyone asking us (and every other foreigner) if we wanted to buy (they do special price for us apprently - haha). They could flunetly speak English, so we tried to trick them with Italian, Spanish but they knew those too. We had a laugh with many of them. All they want to do is rip you off, they will do whatever it takes.
For lunch we had a chinese buffet, which was a bit different. Quiet at first until a massive group of Russian tourists came charging in and took over the place, and man can they eat!!! After this we decided to grab a foot massage, which was quite good, although they scammed me into purchaisng this extra stuff to put in the water before they massaged. It looked like Coca Cola slurpee, felt alright though. LOL
After lunch we set off to the Summer Palace by taxi which is a fair distance away from the Beijing main area. This palace was unreal, one of the best things I've seen on the trip so far. It was so unexpected, I thought I'd walk in and see some temple looking thing, however what caught my eye straight away was this massive lake! it was HUGE! We walked around for a while across this amazing bridge to an island in the middle and got some photos (I'll put everything up within a few days). More and more people I were finding were confident in speaking English, which made us feel more comfortable and we got over our inital shock.
At night we walked the city and found a place called, The Place, again an unreal structure of a different kind, massive TV Screens in the air / celining pointing down, they stretch like 400m long and just this open area covered by those exact screens. Pictures will show, but we spent a bit of time there cause the atmosphere was amazing. I couldn't believe I was in Asia at all, it looked like Europe for sure.
Dinner that night we ate at Hooters Beijing (hilarious I know). Not that busy but mostly everyone inside were westerners. It's not strippers or anything just a restaurant, none the less we had a blast with the employees and the food was awesome.
I'm gonna leave it there for now..but that's not even the start of what's to come. FYI - I found Beijing and the rest of China amazing!! It gets more cultural, food is fantastic (can't believe I'm saying that), people I have met are awesome and the range of experiences I have had are from one extreme to another, it's unreal.
Hope everyone is well back home, let me know what's been happening. I'll try put the photos up this week which will no doubt be of much more interest to you all then this is. I'll also keep adding my day entries to this and try catch up to today's date.