We arrived in China after I night on the train from Ulaanbaatar, which was a pleasant journey through the Gobi desert. The sceenry was pretty sparse but a great experience, lots of small towns along the railway line and then nothng else for miles and miles except desert.We had to stop on the Chinese border for visa, customs control and to have the bogies (wheels) changed for our onward jouney into China. We were here 5 hours!
We arrived in Beijng (8/7/07) - and checked into our hotel which was lovely. We were then all starving so went for a traditional Chinese including Peking duck. Our honch Peter picked for us and it was by far the best meal we have had! We were a little way from the City centre in more of a local area so Davina, Yvonne and I had a wander around the small shops while the boys had a game of pool and a beer. The next day we moved to a hostel in the City near to the Train station and main tourist attractions. Then we were off on a hectic schedule, first stop Tian'anmen Square. Which was bigger than we thought it would be but a sight worth seeing with all the flags flying. Mao's Mausoleum was closed for refurbishment which was a shame as I think we would have both liked to see his pickled body. To the left of the square is the museum of the Chinese Revolution which from the outside was focusing on the countdown to the olympic games. We then headed across the square and the main road to The Forbidden City. This was unbeleiveable huge and there was no way that we would see even 1/2 of it in the couple of hours we had. We brought a through ticket which allowed us to walk through the middle basically and look at the gates and palaces which are all very ornate. We also walked through one of the gardens which was full of cypress trees. It was a beautiful serene place but deservered more of our time. The next stop was the Temple of Heaven, but lunch first a Chinese Hotpot. Raw meat and veg dipped in a pot of boiling water and served with sauces, chillis and spring onion. Wayne thought it was lovely I am still undecided - but very healthy. The Temple of Heaven was bigger than The Forbidden City so again we did not see 1/2 of it - but the main areas, Round alter (marble), Imperial Vault of Heaven, Echo wall and the hall of prayer for good harvests were lovely. The areas we missed were the parks. On to the flea-market, where our bargaining skills came into their own! We left with an ornate set of wooden chopsticks for 2 pound, a tablecloth and more chopsticks for 3 pound. And the best of all a silk bedding set for 8 pound Wayne managed to get a 90% discount. Our evening entertainment was a Kung Fu show which was amazing - it was quite theatrical rather than fighting but was the story of Kung Fu, there were excellent moves.
The next day saw a 5.30am departure in a prvate mini-bus to the Great Wall of China or the Great China Wall as Wayne calls it! We arranged to hike 6 miles from Jinshanling to Simatai it was a 4 hour walk but this area is less touristy and therefore parts were unrestored. The sceenery was just breathtaking miles and miles of green mountains and the snaking wall. Everyone thought it was one of the most amazing moments of their lives - it was ours, just truly unbelievable. After we finished we were all sweaty and tired so we decided to descend from the wall to the carpark over the river on a flyng fox (zip wire) something I was not keen on but managed OK.
That evening we decided to try and find the night market, but failed miserably at first, the City is just so huge it is difficult to gauge how far you need to walk. After we had eaten we found a shopping area and had a look around some more souvenir shops and then we stumbled on the market. A road of stalls selling everything from fruit to bugs and even snakes. We had a bit of hassle over a fruit stick - the seller told Yvonne it was 1 Yuan and then after she had paid and started eating it he started chasing for more money - he got quite aggressive and Wayne had to step in and get rid of him - this cut our trip there slightly short however we're both not sure we would have tried any of the offerings.
The following day saw us trying to sort out our onward travel to Xi'an which was harder than we thought no trains left only the real expensive berths so we decided to fly the next day for the same price as the train. We then headed to the Silk Market for more bargains a fake Chloe bag for 3.50 pound a pair of flipflops for 1.50 pound a hat for Wayne for 70p and 3 silk hangings for 3 pound. To send then home though cost 20 quid oh well still alo cheaper than at home. In the evening we had our final group meal which was a bit surreal. Jo now back at home and work arranged a restaurant inside a park and the food was delicious a great way to round our last night off.
Our last day in Beijing - Wayne and I headed to the Summer Palace it took us over an hour to get there on the Metro and then a public bus - but well worth it. We only managed to spend a couple of hours there as we had to get back to the city for our flight. The Palace has lakes insde the grounds and we managed to get a boat across the biggest one, although the whole place was packed boats all over the lake and people everywhere. We had a quick look at the palaces and spent the most time just wondering over the bridges and around the lake. The further away from the palaces we got the quieter it was which was great - much calmer and well worth the walk. We also saw some people swimming and fishing in the river area - right next to the sign which read no swimming or fishing - keep our drinking water safe. This says to main things about Beijing they ignore all signs (the funniest was a bloke sat under a no smoking sign with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth) and the translations are crap.
One thing I forgot to mention was that there really are 9 million bicycles in Beijing - most of then on a death wish!