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Published: September 3rd 2011
We had another great train journey between Xi’an and Beijing. We spent the evening chatting to a Chinese girl who spoke good English and who was translating for us so we could chat with the guys in our compartment. The guys gave us each a dried fruit thing in a little packet, Ang chewed on his and started sweating, apparently they heat up your body and make you feel drunk. Deb has yet to try hers! This time round we even got some sleep as we had secured sleeper tickets.
We arrived around 10am and joined the longest taxi queue known to man. We eventually got into a taxi after about an hour wait and were dropped off down the road from the hostel we had booked.
Other than Singapore and Hong Kong China is the most expensive country we have visited so we decided to get a dorm for the second time of our trip which takes a bit of getting used to after having your own private space for so long.
We spent the whole day in the hostel bar/restaurant and trying to book a flight to Japan (thanks Dad!) and figuring out a plan for
In the morning after a rather disappointing English breakfast (they just don’t get it) we headed to the forbidden city which was pretty impressive and so huge we didn’t end up seeing all of it. Its basically a walled city of palaces where the Emperor lived back in the day and which only certain privileged people could enter.
Back at the hostel there was a free BBQ party so we made our way back for that and met the other people staying in our dorm along with a few more. We ended up going out for drinks then searching (unsuccessfully) for a karaoke place before grabbing a McDonalds!
We failed to get up before 12pm and when we did made our way on the massively overcrowded subway to the Zoo with Jonathan and Kirsty from our dorm. It was pretty cool to see the pandas but we were appalled by all the adults chucking things at and tormenting all the other animals. By the time we had finished there it was getting late so we had some rather tasty noodle soup and spent the evening at the hostel.
The next day the plan was to
get up early and head to Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. 5 of us arrived to a rather empty Tiananmen Square and realised that, of course, it was closed on Mondays – as are most things in China apparently. Feeling a bit lost for something to do we took a walk around a nice shopping area and stopped for food, then the two of us got a taxi to go get our Japan rail passes. Finding the office was a little hassle but getting the exchange orders for the pass was a piece of cake – presumably because it was a Japanese Tourism Office and not Chinese! We made it back to the hostel within an hour and relaxed there for a few hours. In the evening we (rather briefly) went out for a drink to say goodbye to Kirsty and Jonathan but had an early night.
Tuesday was the big day. We got up at 6am and by 8.30am were standing at the base of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. We got a ticket combining entrance, cable car up and toboggan down for around £11 each which we thought was quite a bargain!
So we took the cable car
(actually more like ski-lift) to the top and walked and walked along the wall until we couldn’t walk any further… then we had to walk all the way back for the toboggan.
The views of the wall are pretty amazing even in the mist and it was definitely worth getting up early for as the longer we stayed up there the more tour groups arrived. We took the toboggan down which was very much fun indeed and made a quick shop to buy an ‘I climbed the great wall’ t-shirt which no trip would be complete without.
Everyone had told us it would be difficult to get to the wall on our own but following the lonely planet guide it was easy, not to mention way cheaper than a tour! We took a bus (916 I think) to a small town where we got off and then took a minibus (50RMB for the two of us one way) to the wall. Just as we were negotiating on the price of the t-shirt our driver unexpectedly but conveniently appeared to take us back to the bus stop for the same price.
So we were back at the hostel by
2pm, had dinner and slept.
On our last day in China’s capital we took the subway to the Temple of Heaven which we really liked, partly because of the beautiful buildings and partly because of all the dance classes going on around you in the temple park.
We then stopped off at the silk market for our last proper Asian market experience and made some final purchases and dropped all the shopping bags off at the hostel.
We wanted to get to Summer Palace but had to be back at 6pm for a Kung Fu Show. We decided we had enough time as we had been told it was 15 mins on the subway. We decided to take a taxi to give our feet a little rest. It turned out to be ages away and rather more expensive than the 20p per person the subway would have cost. We ran in and managed to see a few buildings and the lake before deciding we really shouldn’t have come! We made our way to the subway station and it took us over and hour to get back – at 6:05pm we arrived and were greeted by our waiting
taxi driver. The show was pretty amazing and it made Angelo’s day getting a photo with one of the performers at the end!
All that was left to do was to pack, eat and get ourselves to bed ready for another early start. The taxi picked us up at 5am, we said goodbye to the hostels cute little dog ‘Snow’ (or ‘Sno’ if you have a Chinese accent) that we had become quite attached to and climbed into the taxi.
We queued up to check in for our Delta flight. The flight was the first leg of a connecting flight to America and the first thing was to convince staff that we were just going to Tokyo and not all the way to Portland which they seemed confused about (we think because we are obviously not Japanese). Then the customer service rep told us that the flight was delayed and that they would like to move us to another flight – with another airline – that was not delayed. Ummm, what? So we agreed to change flights but were convinced they were lying and had overbooked, which one of the guys at the desk quietly confirmed when we told
him we didn’t appreciate being lied to! So we were already on the edge when we finally (half hour before take-off) got to check in for our new flight, which guess what …. was delayed by an hour!!
A stressful goodbye to China!
Deb & Ang
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