Published: February 1st 2011February 1st 2011
Well, my worries about the traing journey were mainly unfounded. Our train was very quiet, and we had a 4 berth sleeper cabin to ourselves. Originally, we'd been booked seats, but decided to upgrade and were very happy to have done so. It was so quiet and comfortable. We tried to book sleepers from Beijing to Nanjing on Saturday but they don't offer it at a suitable time, which is a shame.
Anyway, I slept really well and we arrived at 7.44am. Although we hit Beijing underground in rush hour it was actually relatively calm, perhaps because all the Beijingers have gone back to the countryside to see their families. Everywhere has been quite quiet actually, but of course we're not objecting.
We picked Shum up at the airport on Monday afternoon, having had a wee wander around the vicinity of our hostel ( Happy Dragon Hostel) and chancing upon a McDonalds for lunch. In the evening, we were all tired so opted for a pampering manicure and an early night. The hostel has a bar with lots of entertainment but unfortunately, lots of stinky smokers. And this time I couldn't complain about the Chinese, because it was all foreign people there! Rachael and Shum tried a shot of the lethal Chinese vodka, Bajiou, but fortunately my medication means I was excused.
The hostel staff have been great actually, very pleasant and helpful but they messed up our rooms and instead of having a triple we are in a double and a single. Obviously, it's not the end of the world but it's a pain as in terms of packing, we bought one hairdrier, one toothpaste etc. We have a market very near to our hostel which is handy for buying breakfast and it's very centrally located.
Anyway, today we went to the Forbidden City, Tiannammen Square
and had dinner at Cafe Sambel
. The audio tour at the Forbidden City was terrible. It was supposed to rely on GPS to know where you were, but my device had a worse sense of direction that I do. The timing and directions were completely off and I would not recommend it to anyone else. Just read the wall plaques and buy a programme for 5 yuan.
We split up for about an hour this afternoon and I went to Beihei Park, which is my favourite place so far. Shum and Rach went on a rickshaw ride round some old neighbourhoods, but I have a guilt about using rickshaws so declined the offer. Beihei Park is gorgeous, lots of hidden areas and beautiful pagodas. It was quiet and very peaceful when I went, and I could have stayed the all day. Cafe Sembel was recommended to us by a couple we met in Shanghai last time, and it was nice, but quite expensive. It had Malaysian food and I, most unlike me, tried lots of new things including Dragon Beans (also known as 4 sided beans) and a sweet coconut spring roll for pudding.
The weather has been lovely since we arrived. Crisp and clear and very sunny. I ended up taking my jacket off for most of the afternoon and almost regretting my multi layers of thermals. I was slightly worried to see a (what appeared to be ) makeshift skating rink on one of the larger ponds, with people zooming about in trainers, on chairs, adapted bikes as well as actual ice skates.
Well, New Years Eve tomorrow so we'll be watching fireworks in the evening.