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Peeking around Beijing

CHINA | Sunday, 7 April 2013 | Views [311]

We got to Beijing in a flash on the train, and found our way to Day's Inn.

Then we went for a familiarisation walk around the area, down to Tianenmen Square. Lots of people around (including large numbers of police/army) , but it was starting to rain and get cold, so we toddled off home.

The next day we decided to "do" the Forbidden City. Unfortunately half of Beijing decided to "do" it too, as they all had a long weekend - it was the national "Clean your grandmothers grave" weekend. (I think I may have lost something there in the translation from my informant)

Anyway, the Forbidden City was amazing - in fact it was a bit like a maze. Fortunately I had Sue to tell me where to go! I was impressed, but I was ready to leave after 5 hours. I felt sorry for the emperor having to look after such a huge place - but then he had 9000 concubines to help othe place clean!

Back at the hotel, they gave Sue a cake for her birthday. Very creamy. Sue had decided on Peking Duck for dinner, so we found an authentic chinese restaurant. Boy, was it authentic. Crowds of chinese outside, and an old guy kept a ledger of who was in the queue. We had to wait 45 mins in the alleyway, and then head inside. There was an open fireplace where the ducks were being "browned off". Very simple layout and our table looked directly into the kitchen. It was a hive of activity. The food was good, and it was a memorable birthday for Sue. We decided to walk back to Days Inn to walk off some of the effects of the dinner and wine. We have felt very safe here wandering around, even at night.

This morning dawned cold blue, with the lowest smog rating for at least a month. Fabulous. So we decided to go to the Great Wall. We caught a local bus there which worked OK. Coming home the local bus was a disaster as there was a mad rush for seats and we didn't get one so had a long stand up trip.

However, the Great Wall itself lived up to it's name. It was fabulous. We went to Mutianyu - not the most popular part of the wall but a close second. It is narrower than Badaling, but much longer. We only walked about 800m each way but got great views. it is hard to imagine how it could have been better (apart from the bus trip).

After getting back to Beijing, we visited the section of Beijing that I visited 15 years ago, and as those memories came back, I realised just how much had changed. In those days, most people travelled by bus or pushbike. Now there were cars everywhere. Some of the hutongs (inner city villages) had been "cleaned up", and shops had been replaced with upmarket restaurants with loudspeakers on the footpath to encourage guests.  Had the opposite effect on us.

Fortunately some of this part of town retained some of its character. We found a small restaurant there to eat. They spoke absolutely no english which made it interesting. Lots of pointing and laughing, but we got some tasty food and another memorable day.

 (Just remembered didn't tell you about the Shanghai Circus (or did I - will have to check) It was a fabulous show, ending with 8 motorbikes in the "Globe of death". In retrospect though, I guess they do get some good training for that on the roads here.


Time for me to hit the sack.



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