Two plane journeys, a train, a tube and 34 hours later we made it to our hotel in Beijing! The flight was alright actually, half empty so everyone got a full row to lie down on and have a snooze, and there was plenty of food and free drinks, baileys coffee all day long for me.
Beijing is crazy, not sure what I expected but I love it. We stayed in an old town area and it was permanently bustling, every shop front seemed to be a restaurant and they were always busy. It’s also so cheap! The tube was only 30p, a big meal with beers only cost about £15 and street food starts at 10p, could get used to this!
Our first day started with a trip to Silk Street, a giant knockoff market! Rob fell for the salesmans patter and ended up with an iWatch (without the i), some headphones and a new pair of trainers, swear that boy has got no restraint! After Rob was all shopped out we stopped for lunch, I never ate Chinese food back at home so I’ve never really practiced with chopsticks. Apparently it’s quite funny to Chinese people that I can’t use them, the couple sat next to us tried to teach me but ended up just taking loads of pictures of my struggle. Number one aim for China is to master chopsticks by the end of the trip, I had to cave and ask for a spoon on that occasion, I didn’t want to starve!
Saw Tianamen Square and the Forbidden city in the afternoon, both are huge, they don’t spare expenses for their emperors! We got lulled into buying tickets to go up the Gate of Beijing, the man said we could have a discount because he liked Manchester United…We climbed up the gate, started looking round the museum and after about 3 minutes the staff said they were closing and we had to leave, thanks a lot Mr Manchester United, he was nowhere to be seen when we got out! Good job it was cheap!
You can’t go to Beijing without going to the Great Wall of China so on the Friday we went on a coach tour. Honestly the wall is amazing, we were dropped off in Jiangling and had to walk to Simatei where we would be picked up. The wall snakes up and over the mountains as far as the eye can see in both directions. We didn’t actually learn much about the wall from our tour guide, her English was limited, she told us to climb up the wall using our faces…but we learnt afterwards that the remaining wall was built in the Ming Dynasty about 600 years ago to keep the Mongolians out, and it’s about 3,000km long! Blimey. We walked 3 miles of it and that was tough! Afterwards we were treated to Chinese buffet with the tour group, eating seems to be a social thing in China, often in restaurants there’s large groups sat down sharing different plates, so it was nice to experience. There was about 8 per table with a huge lazy susan in the middle to spin round till your dish of choice. The food was amazing and there was so much of it, don’t think I’ve finished a meal since we got here!
There’s so much to see in Beijing, a mix of skyscrapers, old streets and ancient temples. We went to the Summer Palace, the ruins of Yuangyuamen and the Temple of Heaven. The latter was my favourite, we didn’t actually get to go in the temple because we’d forgotten our money, but the park was a hubbub of activity. It was like something out of a film, there were groups of people practicing tai chi, Kung fu, and some crazy ball throwing game. We joined in the Chinese version of yoga right in front of the temple with all ages of Beijing locals. Down the Long corridor there were old men playing cards which draws quite the spectator crowd! Then there were domino players, mahjong games, people knitting and a huge group singing songs, it was amazing! The Chinese version of hackysack is very popular too, groups of about 4 or 5 people kick a feathery thing between one another, harder than it looks though, we bought one and had a practice on the lawn, but it wasn’t long before we gained the help of some locals to teach us how to play it properly! Everyone is so friendly and so willing to help even if they can’t speak any English. I think a young western couple must be quite a rare sight because during our stay loads of people asked to have their pictures with us, and a lot of people just stood and stared, it was like being a celebrity! Rob is especially chuffed because someone kept telling him he was David Beckham, yeah right I wish!
We had one day were we saw modern Beijing, going for cocktails in the tallest building and rubbing shoulders with all the affluent Beijingers eating afternoon tea and drinking champagne. Then we had the world famous Peking Duck at Quanjude, a whole duck sliced at our table ready to be stuffed into pancakes, beats the Golden Dragon any day! So far I am loving China, going to be sad to say goodbye to to Beijing but we’ve got some terracotta warriors to see in Xi’an, so onwards we go!