24th - 30th July
On Friday the 24th at about 8pm we commenced our journey to Beijing. Our mode of the transport was the hard sleeper on the train. The hard sleeper is a thin/hardish mattress on one of three bunk beds in the train. Other than the soft sleeper this is a really great way to travel somewhere. The way we figure it is, if you're going to be asleep you may as well be travelling somewhere at the same time. By the time we reached Beijing we had been on the train 13-14 hours, of which 8 or so of that was sleeping. Wayne and I were travelling with Christina who is from Canada and who also works for Joy school in Daqing. She is such a champ! I couldn't have hoped for Jason to employ a more awesome foreign gal in the last intake of staff. We were also lucky enough to share the journey with one of my students, Bruce! He and his parents were also travelling to Beijing on the train so we had many visits from him.
After getting off the train at the Beijing Railway Station we attempted to get
a cab. The hostel said it should cost around 20yuan, our first offer from a cab driver was 150yuan! lol the next was something like 50yuan, after mentioning 20yuan he just said no and waved his hand. After this I lost count of how many cab drivers just said no to us! It was really frustrating! After maybe about 30min of walking around trying to get a cab for a decent price we stumbled across a Subway. Incredibly excited we cruised straight over, for a moment it looked closed then it looked open, then we weren't sure...... We got to the door.............. It was locked :(
With our heads hanging low and with the realisation that we had to go on looking for a cab the day seemed a little less appealing.
Tina was hopeful and looked back, just in case at that moment they opened the shop............
and they did!
We all shot over to the store. With gleaming faces we perused the menu boards although it didn't take long to make our selection, all ordering our ol' fav subs. It was a glorious moment and an immensely pleasurable way to start our trip in Beijing.
eventually find a cab for 30yuan and made our way to the hostel. First we met Sammy and then the owners, Tim and Lily. After showering we made our way to the Beijing Zoo. Beijing Zoo
Overall the zoo was ok, most of the enclosures weren't very hospitable for the animals. There was rubbish everywhere - especially in the enclosures. That zoo is a prime example of all the things we're doing wrong in the world. On the plus we were able to see some animals that were really different, there were some amazing looking birds, rhino's, hippo's, lions, tigers, leopards and of course the Giant Panda. We had to pay extra to see the Panda's. It was well worth it and it looked as though they may be using some of the extra income to enrich the Panda's lives which is nice to see. Beijing Opera
At 7.30pm we went to the Beijing Opera. After the first 30min the three of us had gotten the idea of the opera and had enjoyed it, post this we struggled to stay awake as we were completely knackered. The singing was so high pitched, it was crazy! The makeup and
You had to be there
costumes were remarkable and full of colour, there were also subtitles in Chinese. It would have been great if there were also English subtitles as the entire 2 hours we were wondering what the story was and seemed to all come out of it with slightly different theories. I would still highly recommend everyone to experience it as they put on a good show which usually includes some kind of acrobatics or sword play. Ours included acrobatics.
We emerged from our beds at about 6am in an attempt to beat the rush at Tienanmen Square. Unfortunately by the time we actually arrived there the rush had well and truely settled in.
First stop was the Monument to the People's Heroes'
; Was completed in 1958. The 37.9m-high obelisk, made of Qingdao granite, bears bas-relief carvings of key patriotic and revolutionary events (such as Lin Zexu destroying opium at Humen in the 19th century, and Taiping rebels), as well as appropriate calligraphy from communist bigwigs Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Mao's eight-character flourish proclaims 'Eternal Glory to the People's Heroes'.
Next on the hit list was the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall
. We jumped in line hoping
A design of one of the masks worn in the Beijing Opera
this was the right line and got to maybe half-way,which easily took 30-40min and discovered that we couldn't take in our backpack so Wayne scooted off to try to locate the bag storage place, with no luck we decided that one of of us would go in at a time while the other person held the backpack. So I stayed in line for about another 15minutes, at that point we were told no bottles were allowed inside. I was still no-where near the entrance, it was hot and I was really pissed that the bag storage was no-where to be seen so I hopped out of line and went to find Wayne. On the way I noted a sign saying locker storage although there didn't look to be any locker storage in sight.
After a while of wondering through the crowd on the northern side of the People's Heroes monument I located Wayne and we decided we'd go back another morning without our backpack. Unfortunately we ran short of time and missed out on seeing this landmark. With the amount of people lining up I doubt it would have been a very enjoyable or valuable experience so it'll be somewhere
Monument to the People's Heroes', In the background you can also see the 'Chairman Mao Memorial Hall'
we'll check out in our next trip to Beijing. The Forbidden City or as it's also known, The Palace Museum
The Forbidden City was a remarkable place to visit. It was so huge! There are no words to describe the enormity and greatness of the city. There were easily thousands of people there the day we went but it was still enjoyable. The only downer was it's sheer size. Our legs, feet and everything that could ache, ached at the end of the day. The City covers 720,000square-metres and the walls surrounding the city stand 7.9 metres high while also going six-metres deep.
After traveling through the first or second gate we were approached by some 'art students'. They spoke good English and invited us to their gallery to have a look - for free. We went along. They showed us all of their work and told us that all of the work was done by students and teachers. We learnt a bit about traditional chinese art. Soon enough they mentioned that whichever students work we buy the money will go back to the student to assist in their future studies and then it was game on.
They became pushy sales people. When we told them we didn't have enough cash (to pay for massively over-priced art) they were happy to tell us we could use our credit card. There is a note in our bible (Lonely planet, China guide) which says these students will try to get you to buy their art. One of them said they studied in Sydney, Australia for a while and the other said he grew up in the province which we're teaching in - they said this after they found out where we were from and what we were doing in China - how convenient! lol
Anyways we got out of there eventually and carried on with our day. If they hadn't of been so pushy Wayne and I may have considered going back and haggling to a suitable price, but o well. O! Another thing, they were only inviting foreigners to the gallery. A real gallery
Later on we discovered a gallery hidden away. It was an official Imperial Gallery. We were lucky enough to be able to sit down in air-conditioning, drink free tea while hearing about the work that one of the men was doing inside the
gallery. This man was no average joe he was the nephew of the last emperor and was practicing his calligraphy. You could get your name or anything else you wanted done by him for a price. I think that if we had the money we may have bought something small. But, we just have the memory which is fine and easier on the bank.
A standout spot for me within the city was the 'Clock Exhibition Hall'. For Wayne, he really liked the 'Imperial Garden' because it was something different to the many buildings and cement features. Although, for both of us the memory of walking through the first lot of massive gates and suddenly being surrounded by these magnificent buildings and 5 huge bridges was something never to be forgotten. Clock Exhibition Hall
The Clock Exhibition Hall contains a fascinating array of elaborate timepieces, ma gifts to the Qing emperors from overseas. Many of the 18th-century examples are imported through Guangdong from England; others are from Switzerland, America and Japan. Exquisitely wrought, fashioned with magnificently designed elephants and other creatures, they all display an astonishing artfulness and attention to detail.
The Water Clock was by far my
9 Dragon Screen
favourite and the most grand in the hall.
Copper Clepsydra (Water Clock): Made in the Workshops of the Qing Court; The 4th year of the Jiaqing reign (1799), Qing Dynasty
This water clock consists of five copper clepsyras. When it works, the water is dropping out of their dragon mouths into the lowest clepsydra, on th cover of which stands a copper figure holding an arrow inscribed with time graduation, and the arrow end connected with a small drum-shaped boat. As the boat floats on the surface of water, the arrow will indicate slowly the time. Imperial Garden
; The size of the garden is 7000 square-metres. It is a classical Chinese garden of fine landscaping, with rockeries, walkways and pavilions. BeiHai Park
Beihai Park was a really fitting way to finish our day of sightseeing as we were both really exhausted but we were still excited about what lay ahead and wanted to continue exploring.
We parked our butts on the side of a garden and watched as a lady did some skillful and secret fishing in the lake. She caught a fish although threw it back.
We ventured up the stairs to the Round City
Bob Marley Shrine
our legs didn't want to carry us any longer. The view was sublime, we were also lucky enough to go on a little adventure into a cave in the hill. On the way back down we passed an Imperial Restaurant which looked as though it was all traditional. Next we jumped on one of the dragon boats and floated to the northern shore where we took in the Nine Dragon Screen
. We saw a show on Chinese television when we first arrived in China which was about a man who had made a replica of the screens out of material - it was quite astonishing. I'd love to see his work in real life. As for the Nine Dragon Screen, it was very cool! Apparently they haven't touched up the colours, they're still the original glazed ceramic tiles the artist/s used. HoHai
Very late that night Christina, Wayne, Sammy, Tina and myself ventured to Hohai in search of a good vibe, cheap drinks and dancing. When we first arrived there were people everywhere although very quickly it turned into a typical Sunday night. We did find a fav location though! A reggae bar with lots of Bob Marley
Behind this building is the lake
memorabilia and really cheap drinks - happy hour all night. We all really enjoyed the bar and look forward to going back there sometime. At about 3.30am we went to a 24hr food street where Wayne and I finally got some dinner into us. It was a very enjoyable night. Poor Sammy, who works at the hostel had to get up at 6am after being out with us until 4.30am! She was such a trooper!
After a fun and late night out we all slept until lunch time. Summer Palace
This opulent dominion of palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors was once a playground for the imperial court. Royalty took refuge here from the insufferable summer heat that roasted the Forbidden City.
The Summer Palace was another sight that was incredibly larger than Wayne and I had anticipated. Previous Emperors really lived in style! The Summer Palace was like an eden, beautiful plants and trees, a massive, gorgeous lake, simple, elegant, ancient and beautiful architecture, temples, you name it they had it. On our way out - or so we thought it was the way out, we stumbled across some little lakes covered in
One of the smaller lakes we stumbled upon
lily's and other lake type plants, the lakes were surrounded by the lushest of lush green grass and remarkable scenery. We even bi-passed a floating city of shops although couldn't find a way in.
Our lonely planet guide said you needed at least 2 hours, we think you need at least a day to properly explore and appreciate this magical wonderland. We had about 4 hours there, it really wasn't enough but we're both grateful for the time we did have there and we're both glad we didn't miss it. Olympic Park
On our way back to the hostel we decided to drop into the Olympic Park. As expected the buildings are yet another remarkable show of workmanship done by the Chinese people. The Bird's Nest was gigantic and it's so intricately designed! The Water cube is a cube of bubbles! The bubbles are 3-Dimensional, they even look gooey, as if you could walk right through them! Very cool The entire area gave a feeling of pride and excitement, it was a real treat being able to see these incredible structures in person. We both highly recommend stopping in here when in Beijing.
2008 Olympic Venue, Beijing
6am - off to the Great Wall! Great Wall
Christina, Wayne and I headed to Qianmen station on the Subway in search of the tour bus depo. We soon realised that the one we were looking for was no longer there so we split up, Tina went one way, Wayne and I the other. We weren't too fussy about which bus we went on so long as we weren't spending half the day shopping (A lot of the tours spend little time at the sights and more time shopping as the guide's make money when you - the stupid foreigner tourist spend your money as the shop-keepers slip them some cash). After about 15min we received a call from Tina, she had found the bus depo we had originally wanted to go to although the name had changed. We made our way there, only problem was the tour apparantly ran for 8 hours and we were worried we'd get back to late and Tina would miss her train so we opted to find a tour which just took us to the Great Wall rather than the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. Cab drivers were pushing everyone around the
2008 Olympic Venue, Beijing
depo to hop in their cab using as much/or as little English as they knew ie. Bus! No no, Cab Yes! lol then they'd throw a price at us then another cabbie would throw another price at us. They just didn't understand we wanted to go on the bus. We asked the only English speaking person who worked at the Bus Tour depo how long until the 8 hour bus tour leaves, she said 'when the bus is full' then we tried asking how many people have already bought tickets and got answers such as 'the bus is full', 'it costs ....' etc, everything except the answer we were looking for. Eventually I found a phrase in our phrasebook which asked how many seats were on the bus, there was something like 55 so then we tried asking again how many tickets had already been sold but we had no luck.
So, stuck for ideas we called our hostel to see if they knew of any other depo's/tours we might be able to join but of course we had no luck. We consulted our bible again and thought we might try catching one of the local buses out to the
most popular tourist spot on the wall. Back on the subway we went, heading to Jishuitan station.
Our bible indicated that when we reached the surface we should venture East to reach the bus stop we needed to catch bus 919. So, East we went, then a little further, and then a little further with no bus stop to be seen. We then crossed the road at an overpass and headed West, we stumbled upon a bus depo, one man who could speak very minimal english told us to walk a little way West to catch the 919. Finally! A win! Well so we thought.....
After some walking and wondering if we'd been given shotty directions we finally discovered a 919 bus stop, we were so excited! We reached what we thought was the line and a man angrily kept indicating that we couldn't go on the bus, that we had to go away. We were so cranky! Thinking that this man was maybe a tour guide who was keeping seats, although Chinese people were allowed on the bus. It was really frustrating and I don't think any of us thought we were going to make it onto a
bus. Plan B was already in place-if we get stuffed around and can't go we'll just go to the pub and get drunk - at least there they will serve us. lol
So, knowing we weren't going to get on the bus we walked further West down the road and came across another 919 bus stop. A man there told us we needed to get on the 919 #2 bus and that all the other stops were 919 #1 stops, this made sense so we stuck around to wait for the 919 #2 bus. He said it would cost 40yuan to hop on the bus - this sucked as in our bible it said it would cost 10yuan. A chinese man also showed up looking for the mysterious 919 bus to Badaling (Great Wall). Then the man said that there's only 4 of us so the bus wouldn't leave until the bus was full and that it would work out better for us if we hopped in a cab, this would only cost us 100yuan each and we'd just have to pay this man upon our return. How convenient we thought. We did consider it for a while although the
Christina and I
Those little spots are Christina and I striking a pose!
chinese man who had shown up wasn't keen so afte realising we were about to get scammed we followed the lead of the Chinese man in not going in the cab. A couple of American tourists who were also looking for this mysterious 919 bus ran into us and we all decided to follow the Chinese man down the road although lost track of him.
After walking down the road we passed the Chinese man who had found some tour buses for 30yuan. But we kept walking looking for this mysterious 919 bus. Around the next corner we spotted a bus depo! Yippeee, it was lightly sprinkling but we didn't care as we were suddenly a little more motivated to find this 919 bus. The American guys were ahead of us and signaled to follow them, they had discovered the 919 bus stop to Badaling! The cost was 12yuan and the buses left every few minutes. It only took about 70 minutes to reach The Great Wall at Badaling where we could ponder around for as long as we liked so long as we got on the last bus by 5pm. The bus was crowded but we were lucky
to have seats and to be going to the wall cheaply and with no pushy tourist guides. The Chinese man we had met also made it to this stop so everyone won! At the Wall
Before we reached the ticket booth for the wall we passed many other ticket booths for various things such as a slide/roller coaster ride which took you around a part of the wall. We also passed a lot of different market stalls, people selling you everything from corn on the cob to picture mugs to weird hats to massively overpriced drinks. We also passed a couple of enclosures for bears. Wayne said they may have been Moon bears although wasn't sure.
We walked further up the hill and through the ticket gates, then further up the hill onto a cement/paved area and finally we reached a small flight of stairs. It was a tight fit as many people were trying to go up and down. At the top of the stairs we discovered we were now officially on the Great Wall! And it was as magnificent as your imagination could've ever made it!
We now had an option to venture left or right so we opted for venturing right as all the tours were heading in the other direction.
The wall is very hilly as is expected being built on the top of mountains, some of the climbs were quite steep and even though you felt as though your legs were moving it didn't seem like you were really getting anwhere, lol! Eventually we got to a point where the wall was blocked off which was also a pretty high point so we took lots of photos and chilled out for a while. It was nice to just sit and take in this incredible sight and it was even better to have not many people surrounding us, at one point we were the only ones on that little bit of the wall. It was a special moment. So that's one thing off the Wonders of the Medieval World list done! Lama Temple
Beijing's most magnificent Buddhist temple: Beautiful rooftops, stunning frescoes, magnificent decorative arches, tapestries, incredible carpentry and a great pair of Chinese lions. The most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet, the lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng. The temple's most prized possession is an 18m-high and 8m-below ground sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Our visit was a little rushed but we were still able to have a quick look at all of the shrines. I lost count of how many buildings we looked inside, each one had a shrine where you could pay homage to all different Buddha's and different other gods. Some people said their prayers and paid homage by lighting 3 incense sticks, while they were lit they held them in their palms while saying their prayers, some others would put three incense sticks on a big dish as if it were a gift. Some people took pictures of the people praying but I didn't see it to be very appropriate.
As we ventured farther into the temple grounds each shrine seemed to contain a larger, more intricately carved, more dramatically decorated buddha. The final temple had a gigantic buddha carved out of one piece of sandalwood (mentioned above). It was incredibly huge! The building/temple it was housed in was about 3 storeys high.
I felt so relaxed and calm while inside the temple. There was no hustle and bustle, tourists were quiet and every now and then you'd see a monk walking about or just watching the tourists. We were lucky to have experienced such a grand temple, I hope we discover more like this in the future. Food Time
After the Lama Temple Wayne and I jumped back on the subway as we were on our way back to Subway seeing as tomorrow we would venture back to Daqing - the land of no Western Food. On our way to Subway we stumbled across a vegetarian restaurant.
We ended up going into the vegetarian restaurant, check the prices and then decided to eat there. Wayne was soooooo pleased! We ordered 3 different dishes plus rice. All of the dishes were really enjoyable and very different to each other and what we're used to in Daqing.
After dinner we went on an adventure to locate a kite shop mentioned in our bible, although sadly, it had been closed up and a convenience store had taken its place. On our way back to the subway we ran into a couple of chinese gals who invited us for a drink. They eventually took us down a hutong to a tea house where the prices were really expensive! We told them that we'd rather go somewhere else so we headed back out onto the street and they said farewell as they were going to stop in at a dumpling restaurant and get some food. I think they were expecting us to pay for the bill and must have realised that we weren't prepared to pay a ridiculous price for some tea.
We weren't all that phased and were happy to head back to the hostel. We packed up our things and after some chatting and relaxing with the hostel staff and other patrons we went to bed.
The next day we caught our train back to Daqing at 10am.
We estimated that we should arrive back in Daqing about 10/10.30pm. At about 9pm we asked some people near us when we should arrive back in Daqing and they told us about 7am! We then realised we were on the slow train and we had only booked hard seat tickets! By the end of the trip we had hardly slept, we both had swollen ankles and were so over the train. If we had of known which train we had booked on we would have organised a hard sleeper so we could lay down and sleep while travelling.
So, at about 8am we arrived back in our apartment in Daqing. As I write this we only have 2 nights, 1 day left of our holiday.
It has been a really wonderful break which we've both thoroughly enjoyed! We both wish it would just go on and on! It will be great to do more traveling in our next break and at the end of our contracts.
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