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Published: April 2nd 2011
One week China Tour with Voyages Jules Verne
Day 1 - Heathrow to Beijing
About a 3 hour drive to London Heathrow. Left our car in a carpark next to the hotel where we will spend the night when we get back. Because I'm always concerned about possible delays on the journey, and also once we've left our dogs in the kennel we didn't have anything better to do, we end up checking in about 4 hours before takeoff. Not necessarily a good thing, as our suitcases may be first on last off. Spent most of the time in a nice quiet Servisair lounge. All very easy, wait for security was less than a minute.
Uneventful plane flight, no turbuence. Main meal had a Chinese option which was some sort of pork. Breakfast on the plane was fried noodles or bacon/sausage, noodles were very good. Helen managed to survive the 9 1/2 hours on the plane despite having cracked a rib a week before. I literally can't sleep on planes for some reason and found the flight difficult.
On arrival our suitcaes were of course last. In fact mine only came off the conveyor belt at least five minutes
after the last of the others, and I was already at Air China's lost luggage office. So we were the last to join the group, not a good start.
Our guide is a 31 year old Chinese woman whose English name is Joy. A lot of Chinese used an English name, even amont their friends. Joy said at work it avoided problems with people's titles. We were taken to our hotel, the Bejing International. Although we'd been told there was nothing planned for the first day, we were offered an optional tour of an old part of Beijing, a 'hutong' area, traditional houses in a maze of small alleys using rickshaws. Beijing is a huge (over 20 million people) modern city so the tour was a good opportunity and we didn't have to walk! Fun, we saw some small dogs, and stopped at a traditional courtyard house to sample Chinese tea. The house had been originally owned by a relative of the Imperial family, and the present family had owned it since 1936.
We also went to the Donghuamen Night Market (also spelled Dong Hua Men). This is a row of stalls on the pavement/sidewalk of a large street where you can get (on a stick) scorpion, seahorse, sheep's penis, deep fried crickets, centipedes, sea urchin, starfish, and more are available to eat on a stick. - or fruit (including something that looked like small toffee apples), fried dough, or fried icecream. I had fried ice cream - lavender icecream fried in some sort of coating on a piece of fried toast - delicious. We'd been warned against eating something from there on our first night as our stomachs might be delicate, but that didn't stop several of us.
We didn't get back until around 6 so I ditched earlier plans to go elsewhere for dinner and we went to a restaurant 3 minutes from the hotel, where we were able to choose from a picture menu with English names. We had slippery chicken, which was very good, and something else I can't recall.
An early night - nice big room, great bathroom.
Day Two - the Summer Palace, Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, and Peking Opera
8:30 start, about an hour's drive or more through very heavy traffic took us to one of the highlights of the trip, the Imperial Summer Palace. Based around the relatively large Kunming Lake (a rarity in what is a very dry area with no rivers) The original was heavily damaged by attacking European armies and rebuilt in 1902 for the 'Dragon Lady', the Empress Dowager Cixi. Although it's a tourist attraction it is also heavily used as a park by local Chinese (and most tourists are also Chinese). We saw local people during various activities from exercise to choral singing, dominoes and Mah Jong.
Then back to the city centre for Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world. I was amused to see the police were patrolling it on Clive Sinclair's Segways. It's a huge square flanked by government buildings such as the National People's Congress and the gate to the Imperial City.
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