From Ulaanbaator we spent another lazy day and night on a super duper clean Mongolian train, with little to do but sit back, drink beer in the company of fellow travelers, as the Gobi desert flew past the spotless windows. This did also include, on top of another set of long border procedures, the added excitement of four hours of clattering, shunting and lifting of the carriages at the Mongolian Russian border, as the train wheels beneath us were changed out for different ones (Russia and Mongolia run on different gauges from China). Highly exciting for the train enthusiast I am sure, but I slept through most of it.
And then ... three weeks, five time zones, 7,621 km (4,735 miles) later we arrived in Beijing!
Our three days since, in China's mighty capital, have flown by. In under one hundred hours we have fit in so much! On our first day we explored the hutongs, hit up our 5 star hotel's pool and slightly dodgy one person whirlpool, saw a cool kung-fu show, and ate at one of Beijing's top restaurants (albeit a little sub-par).
On Saturday we watched sunset on the Great Wall before spending a very cold night on a watchtower under the stars. It was pretty cold (around the freezing mark) but we were rewarded by a sunrise wake-up call. On our hike, we became models for an impromptu photo shoot on the wall with a group of professional photographers who just went crazy with us. Their photos of us posing and doing obligatory jumping shots were nothing short of amazing, and Casey is now convinced that he is the next poster child for Visit China.
On arriving back in Beijing exhausted from the excitement of camping out and the exertion of hiking a particularly hard patch of wall all morning, we hit up the Chinese massage and medicine centre next to our hotel. The massage was good, but I am still not sure about Casey's visit with the Chinese doctor, which left him looking bruised, battered and a little dazed. Getting over my dismay for his curing bruises (supposedly they draw out all the badness/coldness from the body and clearly from the state of him there is a lot to be sucked out), we spent our last night at Beijing's oldest opera house, watching a strange but interesting show, drinking beer and rice wine, followed by a visit to a cool happening night spot, filled with lounges and bars with live music, tea shops and restaurants, all surrounding a lake. Today, we ambled around the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square, and still found time for a return to the massage centre for a long deserved foot massage.
But sadly now the time has come, nearly three and a half weeks later, and many adventures had, to head home. Photos and final thoughts to come when jetlag has been overcome and inbox cleared.