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Beijing and the Birds Nest

CHINA | Thursday, 2 October 2008 | Views [1283]

We took a bus ride to the Olympic Arena from Tianmen sq.  It took about an hour to get there.  It was not really possible to see the stadium from too far due to the never ending smog that seemed to always be in the city.

But as the sun set, it was fun to see the arena area come alive with lights and colour.  Everything was lighted up, the floors, the birds nest, the walls of other buildings - everything.  It was all sounds of the Beijing olympic songs and lights.  The songs after a while were a bit cheesy, but the sentiment was nice.

Due to the Independence Day holiday, the tickets to go inside were all sold out.  You can buy tickets on the street, but you risk buying fake tickets.  So we only saw the outside - but it was cool also.

Riding back we headed home to try to get some famous Peking Duck - which is roast duck served up in pancakes (or the spring roll wrap) and sweet sauce.  It is the sauce that makes this great.  Have to be early though as many resturants will run out of the duck by 8pm.

One this interesting about Beijing is that it is common for there to be tourist menu and a local menu.  I don't just mean that the menu is in English (or whatever language) but the prices are also different.  It is pretty common in Beijing for even established high end resturants to charge alot more if you are a tourist.  This can even happen if you are a Chinese tourist from a different city.

This would ofcourse also happen on the street vendors, you would watch as locals paid a certain price, you order the same thing and they try to charge you double.  They think that this is okay and right.  You must be rich if you are a tourist.  Many locals think this is an okay practice and is normal.

We got into many an arguement with a local wanting to charge us more.  So a tip is to come with exact money and be ready to just say no and walk away.  This is not a rare thing, it was more rare to find a local vendor who would honestly charge us the normal amount.

I met a few people originally from Beijing who have moved away who are sad by the way the city treats its tourists and its own locals also.  They love the city but also have a hard time with it.  So I guess it is not just us tourists that have a hard time.  Interesting and sad at the same time really.

Anyway we easily got tickets from Beijing back to Hong Kong on the fast train.  Cost of a hard sleeper (which is very comfy by the way) is around 500 RMB each.  Travel time is 25 hours, but immigrantion is stamped at Beijing, so you officially depart the country when you go thru the check in at Beijing.  This is important for your visa purposes! 

Also, there is a special area for check in - you don't just go to the station and wait for your train (although you can thinking that it is okay), but lucky for us I read a tiny sign that for those catching the fast train straight thru to Hong Kong we must go wait at the special spot for immigration.  So go looking for this.  T97 was the train and it has only been operating the alst 6 months, so many people will think that it doesn't exist and that you need to catch a train to Guangzhou then change to another train to Hong Kong.  NOT TRUE.  There is fast trains that go straight to HKG from Beijing and from Shanghai - leaving on alternate days at around midday.  The train leaves from Beijing Xi (Beijing West station).

Anway ciao for now!

Tags: beijing, birds nest

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