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Part 2 - Weclome to Beijing

CHINA | Monday, 19 May 2014 | Views [358]

We are in the sprawling capital of the Peoples Republic, Beijing, as part two of four in a horse shoe adventure from Nepal now to China and around through to Mongolia and into Russia.

 

We clear customs and walk out into the terminal. We blew our budget months earlier and are low on ‘cash dollars’ so we forgo the airport hotel transfers and catch a bus; just a regular old city bus. We board and are assured it’s the correct one to get us to the centre of town and our hotel, we are in the city but not the centre, it looks like a regular suburb when the bus stops, the driver calls back and everyone turns and looks at us. We aren’t sure what anyone has said but it looks like this is our stop. but where are we.?

 

We never really find out.

 

There is a hotel a few blocks away and we ask the concierge where we are and he thinks we are trying to check in. On the street again, a tuk tuk driver stops and nods his head that he can take us to our hotel, scribbles a price on a scrap of paper, drives us around the block twice and then tries to get an exorbitant amount out of us. We heard a story that a traveller took a complaint over a taxi driver price gouging to a passing police officer. The officer promptly shot the driver.

It was a story that stuns and we felt the pressure to treat our situation with the appropriate level of gravitas. We argue and argue in the back alley the driver has driven us down before we remember the price he scribbled down – we show him this and he quiets down, for a second, we pay him a fraction of the original amount and walk away. Two hours in Beijing and we are lost. After another half hour of walking we find a subway station, match up the hanzi – the Chinese characters on the map with our printed page and through the now desperately well appreciated assistance of a polite local who calls our hotel for directions, we check in.

“Welcome to Beijing”

 

We have blisters on our feet from Nepal, so a hotel is a welcome change from hostels and guesthouses. We watch movies and rest our feet and eat McDonalds. We knew that China was opening up its borders to western franchisees and brands so we had expected a Mcdonalds, what we hadn’t expected was three…in one block.

 

            After a couple more recovery days we start to explore Beijing and in front of the catholic St josephs church there is a crowd of people dancing. We are told they come here to exercise and in front of restaurants along the street peoples are doing the same moves and it is a wonderfully communal event. At the hotel I Skype home for the first time in months from the corridor because the wi-fi doesn’t reach into the room. Later I walk back in and my travel buddy tells me I missed it.

“Missed what?”

“There was a courtyard of kids practicing Karate. Like in the movies”.

 

When we meet up with our team who will join us on the Trans-Siberian express we find what we call meat street, an avenue not far from the church with vendors selling everything. Cat, Dog, snake, spider, ostrich, silkworm, starfish and most of the rest of the animal kingdom. We explore The Great Wall of China and great is an understatement. It rolls over peaks and into valleys and finds the line of best fit over them but seems to be rising over this hill and that hill and that hill and that hill impossibly and trying to trace it with a finger I seem to get lost. It is immense and rightly so included as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

 

There are two Norwegians in our company, they rode bicycles from Vietnam to Beijing over three months but arrived early and have had time to explore Beijing. They take us to Beijing’s only micro brew – established by a couple of American ex-pats and is a hub for foreigners - journalists on assignment and more than anything men and women in Beijing on business. The new great economy in motion.

 

The night goes on a while longer through an unexpectedly buzzing night life and in the morning we board next adventure – the Trans Siberian express.

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