Before I tell you all about Beijing the most important, exciting part of my year must be blogged first.....I FOUND CHEESE!!!! In a foreign food store in Beijing, there it was, LOADS of it! So I'm fully stocked up and VERY happy! Anyway, on with the news....
We found out (With a day's notice...) that we had a whole week off work so with great excitment headed to Beijing for bars, western food, people who didn't stare and the hopes of getting a visa for India! I'd heard mixed reviews about Beijing so I was looking forward to find out for myself what it was like and I have to say I LOVED it! We stayed in an AWESOME little hostel, 10 minutes from Tiannemen Square and surrounded by hutongs...tiny alleyways full of cheap food and crafty shops. Before the Olympics the government wanted to get rid of them all and "Tidy" the place up but in the area we were in (Qian Men) they were protected. I spent a great few days wandering around and getting lost, eating MUCH cheap street food, my favourite of which was a crazy pancake type affair with loads of chilli (Lao jo) and a crispy thing in the middle...30p...BARGAIN.
Didn't do much sightseeing as I'll be back to Beijing in July to catch the train home but I did take in the Summer Palace on the first weekend. A beautiful area surounding a lake where the emperors used to spend their summers. It took hours to walk around, finishing with a a pagoda really high up with stunning views all over Beijing, it was lush. I also visited Dongyue Temple, a Taoist temple which showed (In great detail...) what happens in the afterlife! The Taoist belief is that those who are good on Earth will be rewarded in the afterlife by being made "Earth Gods", the gods are in charge of a range of different "Departments" in the afterlife, and ensure thigs run smoothly on earth! Some of the departments were quite amusing, Dept of flying birds, Dept of 15 kinds of execution, Justice, Lewd behaviour etc. Each department was accompanied with some statues of people and/or demons, and there were some really graphic execution ones! Visited a couple more temples, Lama (Tibetan) which was quite interesting but was worth the entrance fee alone for the 26 foot high Buddha which had been carved out of a single peice of sandlewood; it must've been one MASSIVE tree!! I also went to the Confucious temple but was templed out by then and spent the rest of the time on the hunt for my India visa.
That was a huge pain in the arse, but eventually (After having to take 3 extra days off work because they took so bloody long, don't they realise I'm descended from the kings of their country!??) I got it, and as I write my passport is winging it's way back to London to recieve a Russian Visa for my homeward trip. Very expensive, very stressful but it seems to all be going to plan, keep your fingers crossed please!
The only other excitment was the trip to A & E one night with a girl (Who shall remain nameless, and no it wasn't me) who bashed her head on a door frame. There was blood EVERYWHERE, but my first aid (And the first aid of a another guy who was with us) came in handy! It was bleeding for ages so we made an executive decision to take her to the hospital, with a drunk American who could speak Chinese as an interpreter. She needed 10 stitches in her head which was pretty scary but thankfully she's OK now. An amusing sight at the hospital though was the poor guy on the bed oppisite who was having...something...removed from his "Special place" It was all on view....lots of blood....Oh dear. Maybe the less said about that the better hehe.
Anyway, I'm now back in Hicksville after yet ANOTHER horrific journey on Chinese public transport...I made it to Jinan on the train, balanced precariously with all my bags on the back of a motorbike to get to the bus station and then it all went wrong. The motorbike dude wanted to help me get my ticket, so after some flustered explanations about where I was going he got my ticket and shooed me onto the bus. Simple right?? WRONG. The tiny little place I live in (Weishan) has another town 120 km away which sounds VERY similar...and OF COURSE the little motorbike dude got me a ticket to the wrong place. We stopped at the bus stop and I looked around not recognising ANYTHING...OK, wee panic so I go in and ask a women where Weishan Xi Zhong (My school) is and she says it costs 5 yuan to get there...great, it must just be a different bus stop right? WRONG. This town name is basically the same to an English speaker but requires a slight tonal difference for a Chinese speaker...DOH. Got on the phone to Henry who talked to the taxi driver and 3 hours later (And 400 yuan lighter) I was back. NIGHTMARE!!! Ah the joys of travelling in China!!
Anyway, that's all from me, teaching for just under a month more then off to Tibet, Nepal and India....then HOME!
Hope you're all well,