The Eagerly Awaited 1st Instalment...
So I have been saying for a while now that I would keep a travel blog, a reminder of the amazing and stupid things that happen along the way and as a way of keeping in touch with those interested.
Facebook access in China is pretty much non-existant so I'm going to have to go back in time a little for my first few entries. Here goes…
A couple of weeks back now on the 15th Oct myself and Aimee set off for the bright lights of Beijing. We got off to a brilliant start with me packing until 4am the night before (pretty standard) and Aimee forgetting her passport on the way to the airport.
Once on board we could relax for the 18 hour flight on the biggest plane I've ever seen, how exactly can something with 2 floors fly?
Once arriving we just had to pray that our cases had also made it (a prayer repeated several times during the trip so far), not helped by me leaving my luggage collection form in the toilets and having to run up downwards escalators with my bags to retrieve it, yes the ever so graceful and elegant Vanessa has arrived in China. After that it was to the hostel.
It's been a couple of years since I've 'hosteled' and whilst I've never had any bad experiences, I always find it a bit of a gamble and you experience these nerves as the taxi draws up as to whether you're in a dodgy area, will the bathroom be ok, are you sharing with weirdos with BO issues - thankfully none of those were the case.
Our first day in Beijing was spent exploring the city, mostly trying not to get run over or lost. We watched a performance at the drum tower, had some traditional Chinese tea and visited the Lama temple home of the world record breaking wooden Buddha. After playing with some kittens in a café for an hour or so (rabies shot so worth while btw) we set on navigating our way back. However with coffee comes the inevitable needing the loo, hence we had our first, of many, public toilet experiences in Asia. I'm sorry but I just don't think I will ever warm to the idea of swatting over a hole with the stench of a thousand corpses. It may be considered 'more hygienic' as you don't have to touch anything but I'm sorry no thanks give me a shared toilet seat any day.
Anyway moving on, in the evening we and our dorm-mate Nic decided to try out some local delicacies at the night-market. If you've ever found yourself walking along thinking I could really go for some shark/dog/cat/scorpion/snake/chickens feet/cow's penis right now; then this is the place to come! We played it safe and stuck to some dumplings and noodles - may be more adventurous in future but c'mon it was day 1! Word of warning on the street also is that many of these street vendors use oil from the sewers for their cooking...
So after winging it on the first day we were lucky enough to have tour guides in the form of my friend James and his wife Ying who were kind enough to show us around the next day. Having not heard much about Ying or seen a single photo of her I was pretty intrigued but pleasantly surprised to meet her - the boy did well!
We visited Jingshan and Beihai parks, which are both very beautiful and serene, children laughing, the elderly doing yoga classes; the Chinese do love their parks.
We also visited Tiananmen Square, (where if you wish you can queue for an hour or so to see the body of Chairman Mau, we decided against it) and the Forbidden City. Now considering it was a random Tuesday afternoon, the place was rammed, DO NOT go there on a holiday and even try to avoid afternoons if you aren't a fan of crowds like me. The Forbidden City is a huge maze of temples, museums and monuments that you could wander around for hours on end, however once you have seen a few of the rooms it all does get a bit samey. The museums around the edge, (whereas most people walk straight down the middle) are less crowded and definitely worth a look though.
The Jinshanling Great Wall
The following day was one of my most eagerly anticipated trips - the Great Wall. We took a day coach trip to the Jinshanling part of the wall, a very scenic, original and non-touristy section. The day started off with a typical breakfast of the region - McDonalds, before the 4 hour journey. Which included a motorway stop off in which they nearly left us by the side of the road when we emerged from the toilet to see our coach driving off, head count anyone?!
On arrival we were told (encouraged) to take the cable car up to the wall itself as it would be much quicker than the walking option and not under any circumstances take the 'highly dangerous' shortcut. Me and Aimee wanting to be a bit different thought we would walk up and cable car back down whilst the rest of the tour cable car'd without hesitation. We did somehow however end up being on some steep dirt path and managed to skip a large section of the wall - whoops was that the shortcut we shouldn't have taken? In fairness the walk up was nowhere near as perilous as our guide made out and the wall itself was far steeper and scarier to climb. Parts of it were actually almost vertical with little to hold onto and most of the sides had fallen down. Health and safety aren't such a big concern in China.
If you can overcome your fear of heights though it is definitely worth it, we saw some amazing views and got some awesome photos, will definitely go down as one of the trip highlights.
There are a number of Mongolian women working on the wall, selling trinkets to travellers, one particular woman had helped us and taken a couple of good photos for us, so we took pity and bought some shoddy chopsticks. Feeling good about ourselves but very tired from the 4 hours of trekking we went to get the cable car down before realising that we had spent almost all of our money on chopsticks, so more walking it was. My knees the next couple of days killed but at least we did a good deed! Really quite missing Dave's massages at this point!
That pretty much summarizes our time in Beijing, our final night was spent watching the acrobatic show; some of those people's strength and flexibility is astounding. Then we headed onto Xi'an for the terracotta army which shall feature in my next blog instalment!
If you have got to this point without being bored or skim reading then hopefully I'm doing something right!
More soon, Ness x