Published: May 31st 2008May 22nd 2008
We caught a bus from Tai'shan to Beijing. We were meant to leave at 8.30am but when we arrived we were told that it was late and we'd have to wait until 11am. No worries, we'll just read our books to kill the time. When 11am came around we were guided to the bus where we sat for 30 minutes while they filled the entire undercarriage and back half of the bus with boxes of produce that they would be delivering in Beijing! Must be cheaper than lorries!
When we finally arrived in Beijing we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere again, but found the hostel without any problems this time. On our first night we went for Peking duck - which was pretty good, although not something that we'd rush to do again. The following day we went to see Tiannamen Square which was larger than we were expecting! We then went for a walk around the area and the shopping street of Wangfujing. We found a foreign language bookshop and decided to buy a Japan Lonely Planet (we'd thought as we are only going to be there a week, we might go it alone but then
In the afternoon we went to Silk Street Market. This is an indoor market where bartering is the order of the day, where all kinds of things are sold, but the reason we went was to get souvenirs. We warmed ourselves up gently by casing out a number of stalls and giving them the "we've just arrived and are just looking at the moment - we might come back". This then gave us a good indication of the sort of prices all the various stalls were selling the same things at. We then went back to the places that we thought we could get the best prices at and started to barter our way to a good price. In one shop we got 6 items for the price they originally wanted for 1!!! We went away from one stall feeling very pleased with ourselves, but i'm sure the stall owner was also rubbing their hands together, although she did keep telling us that we were too hard and not helping her (I'm sure she says that to everyone to make them feel bad!)!!
We went to see the Great Wall of China the following day at a
place called Mutianyu, travelling there with other people from our hostel. We caught a ski lift up to the wall and when we stepped onto it it was just as amazing as I thought it was going to be - we could see it snaking off in both directions and hugging the surrounding hills. The views of the wall and the surrounding area were spectacular and we walked along parts of the wall in both directions. It was pretty steep in places and still feeling the effects of Mount Tai'shan it made the climb quite tiring. We took hundreds of photos, but struggled to get people to take a decent one of the both of us - artistic differences coming into play again!!
We spent around 2 hours walking along the wall and then took a slide back down to the bottom of the hill. We got caught behind a slow runner so couldn't get up to maximum speed - think Laura was quite happy! That evening we went to Wangfujing food street which is lined with food stalls serving food of questionable delightfulness! We played safe and had a kebab, corn and caramelised grapes!!!
The following day
we went to the Forbidden City, so called because it was off limits for 500 years. Home to emporers from the Ming and Qing dynasty, it is a massive complex of ornate buildings. Unfortunately, some have lost their authenticity by being painted over in bright colours - apparently due to the upcoming olympics and the need to impress! Nevertheless, the buildings are impressive and there is a lovely garden area at the north end.
On our last full day we hired bikes and did a cycle tour of Beijing and it's Hutongs. These are narrow alleyways of communitites which are slowly diminishing as they are making way for flashy buildings and roads for the 'new Beijing'!! The day was really fun as Beijing is quite easy to cycle around, apart from when we found ourselves in the fast lane of a dual carriage-way!! We visited temples, the drum and bell towers, many hutongs and some parks. That evening we went to Tianqiao Acrobatic show. It was really good, the acrobats were quite young but amazing! It was a great way to finish our time in China.
There are more photos below