Published: June 4th 2007June 4th 2007
After sleeping late we wrote our blog for St P. which takes ages, had some food and a bit of laze as we are recovering from the flight. In the evening we headed out for wander and to get our bearings. We walked through the main street which was crowded and nosy, but had a great atmosphere with lots of unusual food smells. We walked through the market which consisted of lots of narrow paths flanked by stalls selling odd food, little cafes and bars, silks, clothes and nik naks.
We grabbed a beer and had some noodles but they weren't very nice. As we had only paid the equivalent of about 1 pound we decided to try and find somewhere else for food.
We came across a road filled with stalls to one side selling all sorts of bizzare food, scorpions, starfish, beetles, snakes.... We opted for the safer option of dumplings and fruit on a stick!
The next morning we had a walk around in the blazing sunshine and bought some Chinese caligraphy, the symbol represents happiness, and had a general wander to get our bearings. In the evening just before sunset we headed to
Tiananmen Square to watch the Chinese flag being lowered. At precisely sunset about 20 soldiers appeared from the Forbidden City and marched over to the flag pole, at that precise moment fountains along the wall to the forbidden city came on illuminated by lots of coloured lights. At this point a senior soldier began to lower the flag which was folded with incredible speed and carried back inside.
The following day we went to the Forbidden City. After battling past the hawkers, touts and guides we finally got in! The city is enormous, a maze of cobbled streets and grand old traditional buildings (numbering over 8000 rooms between them). Some of the highlights were The Emperors Gardens, with ancient trees which shaded us from the heat, an exhibition on the Emperors wedding, armour displays and ancient Chinese pottery.
After emerging from the city we were tired and hungry and went in search of food.
Once we where recharged we headed to the Temple of Heaven, which isn't actually a temple but a park with a collection of religious buildings. We arrived quite late so couldn't explore the interiors so just had a walk round, listening the exotic
birds as we went.
We had planned a trip to the Great Wall for our final day in Beijing and had decided rather than using an expensive tour we would do it ourselves. We are gradually easing ourselves into the role of a traveler! We got a taxi to what we thought was the bus departure point however Jason had got the wrong place and we ended up at the Drum Tower where they also do departures for Hutong tours! Since we where here we decided to go up the Tower anyway and we are glad we did as it gave us great views over the Hutongs. We also had the pleasure of seeing the worlds biggest drum, apparently!
After getting directions we found the true bus departure point and after paying the 70p fare for a 50 mile trip we were off. The bus took a hour and 45 mins due to the fact that it seemed to do a tour of the Beijing suburbs before eventually getting us on our way.
On arrival at the wall it was a lot cooler than Beijing because we were now 3000 feet above sea level. This led to
me having to buy the obligatory tourist jumper as you will see in the photos below! The first thing that struck us about the place was the incredible number of people selling nik naks and general tourist junk. After we had negotiated our way past all of these stalls we thought we were in the clear once we were on the wall however this was not the case and we found that every 500 meters or so there was another batch of people trying to sell you there wares.
None of this detracted from the impressiveness of the wall which really has to be seen to be believed. Despite the low cloud we could still see it snaking off into the distance, rising and falling over the hills. Certain parts where incredibly steep and as we got higher and the clouds rolled in it felt as though we were walking in the sky, very weird. We decided to get the rickety little cable car down rather than fight our way back through the tourists. After a drink and a cake we got the last bus home. All in all the whole day cost us less than 20 pounds for
the two of us, another sign that we are becoming more frugal travelers.
The next morning we bought supplies for our 25 hour train ride to Hong Kong.....
There are more photos below