Beijing (first two nights)
We finally arrived in a city at a reasonable hour, met our new Honcho, on to a bus (Peter managed it on his own this time) and on to the hotel where the need for a honcho was illustrated by the hotel staffs complete lack of English.
We came across our first major problem of the trip, organising our way to hong kong which we eventually sorted two days later by flying to shenzhen. It ruined our plans of travelling the whole distance by train but gave us an extra night in hong kong.
We had a group meeting and organised our last day as a group in Beijing (sob) and went to change some money and get some beijing duck. i mention the money changing only because its not a simple procedure in china, it involves passsports and forms and a man signing papers, looking up at you to ensure you are not going to undermine teh state, stamping some forms, looking at you again, speaking to a supervisor, then handing you a load of chairman mao covered notes. All told it took about an hour fro three people to get money. I just used the ATM....
We then went to get some beijing duck in a reat non-tourist place that Tracy found us. We had some seriously nice food but erred by not sitting at the partly vegetarian table and away from Gary where there was more meat for everyone. The Beijing duck was delicious, as was everything else, including the bill which was less than ten euro each. We then hit a great district of bars along one of the rivers in Beijing. We found a rooftop place with great views and expensive (relatively) beers. We only stayed for one then walked home through the crowds of late night revellers.
Early next morning we headed for the Wall and had our first experience of travelling on Beijings roads, a terrifying ordeal full of beeping horns, lane jumping and covered eyes. We reached the wall had some noodles for breakfast and then got teh cable car to the top, a terrifying ordeal initially. Our first mistake was turning left when we got to the top and walking the steep sections of the wall. The Wall is incredible although it has a poor record in preventing invasions. The section we visited was perched on the crest of several hills and must have been backbreaking to build, and its still in great nick. We got sunburnt, took a load of photo's, sweat a lot and then we tobogganed down the wall on one of the best tourist additions to an ancient sight i've ever come across.
Our bus driver dropped us back to a chinese tea house that showed us some traditional chinese teas and then asked us to buy some. Great demonstration and nice tea, i liked the chai best. visiting the shop afterwards was good fun, trying to detach the sales assistants from you by walking up next to another customer then moving away, hoping to distract the sales assistant and gain temporary freedom. I relented a bought a cup which i still haven't used, but then again i rarely drink tea.
We then hit the Forbidden city which was a drag becasue of the crowds and the heat but is probably one of those places you have to go. Also saw Tianneman Square which is huge although has several buildings within it which detracts from the Squareness a obviously distracts .
That night after over a protracted period due to alack of pens we gave our trip feedback (trip especially mongolia good; ted and godzillas bad) we had a traditional hotpot which was really nice but quite messy. It involves cooking all your own food at the table in a giant lantern type thing. It has a mild and a spicy side and is brilliant unless you are not seated beside it. There was even dessert although we didn't need to cook it ourselves. The group said goodbye to Tracy and hit the workers stadium area of bars and clubs.
A long night ensued which included watching an Arsenal game in an ex-pats place, drinking a bottle of Guinness (it really doesn't travel), being pestered by a child selling glowing devil horns, passing a rose around so everyone could have their own embarrasing photo, losing several games of pool to Matt, having a late night kebab on the lower floor of a nightclub, seeing some possible trip scandal, spending all my Yuan and eventually getting home by taxi. A Good send off for the vodkatrainers, although we all met up again the next night for a meal.