One by Jethro
So our first day of being in Beijing was mostly sleeping to try and recover from not really sleeping at all the night before thanks to the delayed flight. We woke up in the evening and went to hunt down some food. While walking around we found a place called punk rock noodle. They had lots of rock posters and stuff like that all over. Was very good noodles! (Edit: while we were waiting for our food, perusing through our lonely planet book, the lady who was serving is came over to ask how we found the place and was delighted to see her establishment in the guide book. Photos were taken, presumably to show off to her friends.)
The day after, we decided to go and see the drum tower and Bell tower which were apparently the time keepers for Biejing for a while in the past. Apparently China invented all the types of clocks, from sun dials to water clocks, and these towers are a part of that or something. I didn’t really read the signs. They were pretty cool and had good views of the city. And of course there was someone doing sword swallowing at the top of one of them.
Next we headed to the ‘Lama Temple’, which interestingly didn’t have any sheep with long necks. But instead has some old imperial Chinese buildings, which looked very impressive. We were given a bunch of incence to burn in some big metal box thing. It also had some souvenir shops which were especially good walk around in and absorb the air con to have a short break from the 40 C heat.
Then we headed to the 2008 biejing Olympics Park. This was not as abandoned as the last time I went. They have gotten rig of the all the Olympics signed as they appear to have used it for some other games in 2015. They even reinflated the bubbles on the swimming pool building. After winding round the bird nest building we once again headed for a bit of air con in the cafe and one of the guards came to talk to us as he wanted to try out his English skills, which were pritty good. And he said that he wanted to come to the UK as the UK “is very gentlmen”.
The plan for the day after was to see the obligatory and awesome ‘forbidden city’, which we realised when we actually got there, is seriously misnamed. So many people!
But instead we woke up to late and went to to the summer palace. This was basically some more old imperial buildings that looked like they were from crouching tiger hidden dragon or something.
But this time they were on a hill and descended down to a lake. The lake had a mild breeze that slightly reduced the feeling of impending spontaneous combustion. Although that probably wouldn’t have happened anyway due to our very sweaty clothes. The lake also had a bit with some big lilly pads flowering.
As we wondered back up the hill and back down the other side to the bus stop we became very jealous of all the people with sun umbrellas and decided thar we should get some before we head to the forbidden city that we had rescheduled to the day after.
We then decided to pop in to tian’anmen square to say hi to Mao but just like last time I was there he was to busy being closed. All the big imposing communist buildings were cool though. It’s probably good that Moa wasn’t in though as he probably wouldn’t have liked the Starbucks we has a coffee in very nearby.
Armed with our new sun umbrellas and fans we headed to the forbidden city the day after, with an early start as had been recommended to avoid the crowds. It started well as I dropped the tickets to get in but after finding them and entering the complex we had a great time looking at all the buildings and alleyways and little statue things dotted around. It seamed however that the whole of Beijing got the same advice as us to go early as they were also there ‘avoiding the crowds’.
Once you leave the exit at the north side it brings you to a road and opposite the exit is a park (that has an entry fee, like everything in China). This leads you up to a little hill with an amazing 360 degree view of the whole forbidden city and the surrounding area.
Then the wall. Obviously.
The day after the forbidden city, we decided to take a break from all the major tourist attractions and go to see the great wall of China. We decided to do a ‘trek’ from one bit of the wall to another, very adventurous. These bits were called Gubeikou and Jinshanling West. We booked through the hostel as it made it alot easier than the alternative of getting three different busses to get there. This meant we also got a guide and 18 friends from the hostel to join us. The guide had a very Chinese name that could only be his actual name; Jackie. He was kinda finny and told us some history stuff about the wall that was quite interesting and I definitely still remember it all.
The walk started with a tower that apparently used to house the general and it had a cannon, yay. The it lead uphill along some paths and to the actual wall! This bit of the wall is all broken and old, as opposed to the other areas closer to biejing that have been rebuilt complete with original Ming dynasty toboggan ride and CCTV cameras. These two features seam to bring ridiculous numbers of people so that you can’t spot that wall anymore.
Our bit, however, was awesome, and we (and our other 18 friend plus the guide) were the only people on it. It was great to see how the wall had eroded with time. The guide pointed out that the north facing bits were a different colour to the south facing bits because it gets less sun. There are also some watch towers along the length of the wall that were quite impressive and caused some cooling air to flow throug through them, which was nice.
After about 7 Km you get to the end of where your allowed to see. We were told that if you continue and somehow accidently climb over the barbed wire then you would end up in a military base. The personnel at the base seemingly had not been told that the Mongols had already invaded, got bored, gone home, and that the wall is now just a tourist attraction.
The day after we headed to Biejing West station to catch the train to a little aciant town called Pingyao where the story will continue.