Quick gov he's getting away!!
It seemed that the one hour time difference from Vietnam to China thankfully didn't really put us in that jet lagged zone, it was the 43 hours of virtually no sleep and laying horizontal on the same train that did. There were no touts at Beijing station to push us around, screaming 'cheap price' grabbing all our bags insisting they take us to their cheap hotels, I actually felt slightly at a loose end as this is normally how we find great places to stay. With Lonely Planet still unopened feeling totally alien, we headed for the taxi rank, someone had told us that the government assures all visiting tourists to its Olympic country that their cab drivers speak basic English, this is not true. We found a hotel, the staff giggled when we spoke to them, our mouths must still be in Vietnam, they were rude and too busy texting friends on their fancy mobiles to give us any information or directions, they did advise us via the universal language of pointing that the nearest internet Wifi connection was 20 minutes in a cab the other side of town, was this some kind of hint to go elsewhere? This room
cost a whooping $60 a night. The lift didn't work then our sodden 5th floor room card didn't work, with no landing phone to call reception, not that they could understand us anyway. The Air Con was permanently switched on and it was freezing, no fridge, no tea, coffee, this just left a saucer full of free condoms and the glorious centre piece plasma TV which took up the space on one wall flickering half pixelated images on the screen; the only programmes on repeat were the heart breaking images of the recent earth quake reports from Sichuan province. I was near tears with emotion watching each rescue while I sat sobbing in my 3 day old stinking clothes just waiting for the hot water to heat up, then the $60 a night plasma TV packed up and didn't work at all.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
We both needed MUCH cardiovascular to wake our lifeless limbs. Sitting in a tour op shop, we didn't fancy the simple much trodden and over photographed Badaling section of The Great Wall of China, so we decided to do the other Great Wall of China - Jinshanling to Simatai which is
Kristain forbidden to go inside!
10 km of steep calf cramping highs and deathly thigh straining knee crunching stoops of pure stone wall. I asked the tour op from the crap hotel ‘is it a big trek, long way up?' cocking my arms up to a semi right angle to represent steepness. 'No, beautiful way!' she said. I was too tired to think straight and did not wear sensible hiking shoes; instead I wore Birkenstocks, how dumb am I?
Our guide for the day was young 'Rock' he knew his stuff, including a vital short cut between towers 23 - 25 which I took great advantage of and no one else seemed to notice. We all walked it in our own time, breathing in the amazing view that went on for miles in fact all 4160 miles, this stretches further than Hanoi to Beijing, this official seventh wonder has now been proven not to be seen from the moon by the first Chinese man in space Mr.Yang Liwei who didn't actually make it to the moon himself, just into space. The earliest records of it being built was back in the 5th century BC to protect Northern China from the Mongolians and various other
intruders, nearly 3 million people died while making this wall. To walk along it today is a trek and a half and a half again as this part of the wall is not easy and serious foot blisters gave me many bubbles of pain that did not cushion my feet. On my decent down steep and bumpy cobbled stone, my blisters held good tread like a Pirelli tyre clambering around a bend.
This trek lasted 4 hours, we passed only a hand full of people reaching watch tower 35 of 900 where a handy invention called a zip line awaited to fly us down to the bottom of the mountain faster than a speeding black tortoise chasing a green dragon. I was cursing the thought of returning back to our expensive, rude, internet-less hotel for a second night, I had an idea. Kristian a nice man we met on the bus told us about his hostel that had a quiet courtyard and was very paper lantern Chinese cheap, friendly, clean, free Wifi internet, and they had a fluffy white mummy cat who had just given birth to 5 kittens! We swiftly moved in to Temple Side.
day every dam muscle in my buxom body hurt, but we soldiered on to the Ancient Forbidden City & Tienanmen Square it rained and rained which was a really nice change for us. I appreciate the rain much more these days after 14 months of constant heat. We scooted through this vast Forbidden City starting from the North gate going against the sea of Asian nationalities as they took photos of themselves 'Gggrrrrring' at sacred lions heads that are meant to keep evil spirits out of the city wall.
The Forbidden City is said to be haunted, some gruesome tails are whispered about the ghosts of various Emperors returning, including Emperor Chongzhen who was the last emperor of the Ming dynasty, he was so bad at ruling his people he brought the Ming dynasty to its knees in 1644. He was judgemental, suspicious paranoid, fearful, so much so he ordered his wife Queen Zhou to hang herself, she did. He had a flurry of concubines but his favourite was Yuan Fei and she had discussed with a trusted eunuch that this suicide pact was the biggest load of crap she'd ever heard the emperor was clearly insane, the Emperor
smashed into her quarters and cut off both her arms and she bleed to death saying 'I told you he was insane', he then went to Ningshou palace where his eldest daughter resided and cut off her left arm, then killed his youngest daughter, all before he dragged himself up Jingshan Hill and hung himself.
One thing that is great in Beijing are the cheap taxis, upon completion of journey you get a receipt with their numbers on it, just in case you leave something behind you can find it again. They also don't expect nor accept tips; in fact nowhere including restaurants accepts tips! We went from Tienanmen Square which had various workers painstakingly brushing one stone paving at a time with tiny nail brushes, in the subways construction workers used tiny shovels to just bang the steps, I could not see any actual building work being done there. We went North West to The Summer Palace to South East Panijiayuan flea market which cost only $8 between both of us. One important purchase is the tourist map which is an essential buy as all major sites are listed in Chinese and English, it has listed many branches
of McDonald's as proper land marks and good meeting points. Also the maps themselves are not to scale; the city is much bigger in real life. The Panijiayuan flea market is a must do, especially on a weekend as the traders from the villages come out to play and the stuff they sell is exquisite, authentic, old and so cheap. THE DRUM TOWER
is a tourist attraction where my blisters had popped so I couldn't manage another step to the bell tower next door Temple of Heaven & Earth which is an impressive circular three tired building that you cannot go inside, the Emperor would make his sacrifices here and pray for good harvests, but today you can buy Olympic presentation Fuwa's stuffed dolls, Olympic peak caps, Olympic flags, Olympic thimbles, fake Olympic medals, did I mention the Olympics are coming to town? DONGYUE TEMPLE & FOLK CUSTOM MUSEUM
is found no less than 100m from the nearest branch of the sacred golden arches (McDonald's), this is a traditionally Taoist temple that was built in the 6th year of the Yanyou reign period of the Yuan dynasty some 700 years ago. I now understand where all those strange
The Forbidden City
& two delightful tourists.
hacked up hair do's those poor monk kids in Hue Vietnam originate from. This place is up there in the highest cloud cuckoo department as it is again a bunch of court yards aliened with small rooms with various ministries of weirdo Taoist departments of spirit wrong doings.
For example you will find The Department of Life & death, demons & monsters, unjust deaths, determining individual destiny, official morality, bestowing happiness, insect birth!!! The department of egg hatching, plague-performing, the department of hell, implementing 15 kinds of violent death (Includes-starvation, clubbing, revengeful murder, killing in battle, fierce animals, snakes, burning fire or flood, poisoning, outbreak of madness, falling into an abyss, the regional department of tricks of an evil person or ghost, incurable disease or suicide.) followed by The unjust death department, abortion department and so on. I watched as people scribbled names on red tasselled plaques then hung them up upon specific departments’ railings to ask for healing, advice, help, guidance with; there was one lonesome plaque that swung from the Department of Incurable & Strange Diseases. I bought one of these red plaques, the choice was between a woman riding naked upon a chariot which was the
Panijiayuan flea market
19/05/08 This was during the 3 minute silence for the Sichuan earthquake victims, it was very moving.
department of nudist travellers, A laughing panda insect dragon thing (Department of plague fire breathing cuddly things) a old couple dancing (department of osteoporosis) a strange Chinese squiggle (department of foreign dyslexia) I finally found a simple and easy to understand drawing it had two people kissing, I hung it up on the department of soul mates railing, along with many other red plaques all hanging proud from the least grim and most positive railing there, which was 'The Department for Increased Good Fortune & Longevity' that stood between The Jaundice Department and the Department of Controlling Unruly Evil Spirits.
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