Last Few Days in Beijing

September 1, 2008 - Beijing, China

So, here we are on our last day in Beijing having finally managed to get to an internet cafe. Having an awesome time here on our tour with Gecko's. Our tour leader is called 'Dragon' and is really good fun, speaks good English and is organising everything for us.

There are 7 of us in the group in all - an Australian couple, one girl from London and two girls from Oz and New Zealand. They all seem around our age or less and are all very nice, so we're getting on well so far.

So, what have we been up to here? We moved from our previous hotel to the tour one on Saturday. The new place isn't quite as nice, but is in a far better location just a few minutes walk south of Tian'anmen Square. We spent Saturday night with the rest of the group - Dragon took us to a nearby local restaurant for dinner which was fantastic - finally we've had some authentic local cuisine!!

We had an early start yesterday morning (6:30am) so we jumped on a wee minibus which took us 2.5 hours north of Beijing to a much quieter part of the Great Wall. The weather was fantastic so we were very lucky - the section of the wall we visited went right along some hilltops and was spectacular both from the bottom and the top. We got a rickety old cable car most of the way up the hillside and then walked about 15 minutes to the was very steep and very tiring in the heat! Once we got up though it was worth it...the views from the top were spectacular as well as the views along the wall in either direction.

Local farmers followed us most of the way (one for each of us!) who acted as unofficial guides as well as helping Cara up and down the steeper parts of the wall! We spent about an hour or so up there and it really was amazing to see. To the north we looked over the Mongolian province of China (aka Inner Mongolia) and to the south the Beijing province. Looking west, we could see the wall snaking away into distant mountains - how it was ever built is beyond us both! We returned to the minibus where Dragon had prepared us lunch which was some very nice egg fried rice.

We had time to relax for a bit when we got back to Beijing then went out for a meal with the rest of the group - again very nice. We then headed to the 'Red Theatre' to see the 'Legend of Kung Fu' show which was very impressive if a little strange. It told the story of a little boy who practised Kung Fu and Zen and who eventually becomes a master and finally reaches the sacred goal of enlightenment!!

Another fairly early start this morning as we headed a few minutes north by taxi to visit the Forbidden City. This is where Chinese Emperors used to live for much of the year and which was only opened to the public last century. It was built in 15 years about 500 years ago (around the same time as the section of the Great Wall we visited) and is situated immediately to the north of Tian'anmen Square and covers a huge area (I think 1km north-south by 800m east-west).

It contains many traditional temples and buildings. We were shown round by another tour guide who gave us lots of chat about the history of the place. Inside we were able to see where the Emperors lived and worked with some of the original furniture and features still intact. The buildings in the Forbidden City are spectacular - very brightly coloured and ornate throughout. The weather is fantastic again today, very clear skies so we've definitely got lucky.

After that we headed into Tian'anmen Square for half an hour or so - there are lots of great flower displays being prepared in there in time for the Paralympics starting this weekend. From what we've heard from Dragon, we're quite lucky with our timing as prices in restaurants, etc. have dropped a lot since the Olympics finished, plus the place is a lot quieter.

We've just had another slap up feast for lunch, amongst which was a traditional Beijing dish - Peking Duck. Again, it was all very nice. All the meals we've had since we joined the tour have been banquets so we've had plenty to choose from. Other dishes we've had with our meals include sweetly coated pieces of pumpkin (and another similar sweetcorn one), delicious sweet and sour chicken, shrimps, fish, lamb, pork, beef, etc. all cooked in very nice sauces and a far cry from Chinese food back home.

We've got a couple of hours break now before we head to the train station to catch an overnight sleeper to Xian. There we'll be seeing the Terracotta Warriors among other sites. I think Xian used to be the capital of China so there's apparently a lot of traditional sites to be seen. We're planning to join a local family who live in a very impoverished area for lunch just to see the contrast between that and wealthier areas of the city.

Hopefully we'll get some rest on the train!

Apparently it's Monday today - are those of you at work experiencing the Monday blues? We're not!!

Cara & Richard

ps. sorry, no new pictures uploaded yet as we can't access them at this internet cafe. Fear not, there are 100s to be added as soon as we get a chance!

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Mum & Dad McElhinney:
September 1, 2008
Wow what experiences you are having - an adventure of a lifetime. Can't wait to see the new photos.
Hope the weather stays kind to you - it quite nice here today - although washing and housework a bit boring!!!!
Ric's Mum & Dad:
September 1, 2008
Sounds like you're really enjoying the Tour, its always so much better when there's someone to show you around, as they know the best bits and having others to share it with is really good as well!
The impoverished lunch should be interesting too....hope you leave a big tip!!

Raining here again, very chilly this morning, like Autumn!
Olivia (aged nearly 5):
September 1, 2008
When are you coming back ?
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