China – Country No.2 – Beijing

When we arrive in Beijing, it’s aboard an overnight train. One of our group has the audacity to complain about other passengers using the toilet in the night despite keeping everyone in the carriage awake for the first two hours of the journey, putting me in a worse mood than I already was from my few hours of broken sleep. My one joy is a full moon, glowing large and yellow in the dawn sky. A beautiful sight, anywhere in the world.

We got off to a bad start by going to a hostel in Beijing to drop our bags off and fill up an overnight bag to head to the wall. This would have made sense if we were camping on the wall, however it’s out of season for that, so we are staying at a hostel instead. Also our driver had the most awful bus and had no idea where be was going. We literally went in a circle before arriving at the hostel.
We were given 3 rooms to have showers in and store our bags that we didn’t need to store. So much for our private room upgrade. It turned out that we had to stop there to pick up 3 new members of the tour and the use of the showers was a bonus after the train journey.

Our first stop was the Olympic village built for the Beijing Olympics. Like the Olympic park in London, it is still in use today. Now the ginormous countdown clock counts down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds to the start of the 2022 Beijing winter games.

We went onwards to the Great Wall and our new hostel. I was still in a bad mood from the train and decided to take it out on the guide, correcting her when she claimed the Great Wall was visible from space. It is not. It was ‘fake news’ made up by an Englishman who actually claimed it was visible from the Moon.

The second hostel of the day was lovely. We had a private room with a decent shower and a four post bed. It was a stons throw from the Great Wall too.

We went for a walk up the wall and were treated to an amazing view. There would be no chance for an advancing army to sneak up as the visibility is almost total. It was strange however, having just been to Mongolia to be standing on a wall designed specifically to keep them out.

The wall was supposed to be a relatively unrestored section that is known for being less touristy. It was refreshingly quiet but had a definite challenge to it. There were wooden stairs to help but they were rotting and falling apart. Some of it was just steep slopes with no steps at all. It felt like it had been restored somewhat hastily, sometime ago, and then just not maintained. Either way, it is almost deserted making it so much better for photos.

Back to the hostel and the karaoke broke out. Lord help us.

I returned to the wall in the morning to see the sun rise. It was a beautiful event with the clouds turning red against the silhouette of distant sections of the wall.

It was also very cold. Luckily, I had kept my big coat I brought for Mongolia especially for this moment. The sunrise was peaceful and you realise just how calm and incredibly beautiful China can be outside of the plastic wrapped, smog filled cities.

We went back to Beijing. It’s a huge city. So much so, that we technically hadn’t even left, despite driving over an hour to get out there.
Beijing has a much older feel to it than Shanghai. It has a very different identity as a city.

We went to Tiananmen Square to see where the Military Parade took place for China’s 70th Anniversary celebrations. The square looks much bigger in real life and whilst the road the parade utilised is huge, it somehow felt much larger on the telly. The 70th anniversary celebrations are most prominent here. Huge, red sculptures are in place in the square complete with giant screens.We went to the Forbidden City and I couldn’t enjoy it as some of the group were just bored and whining like children about it. We ended up just whistling through. I thought the tour guidewas going to snap at once point as she was clearly growing impatient at just how selfish and self- serving some members of the group are.

It was mostly Temples and state rooms but there was a hall of clocks and watches that intrigued me, but we didn’t get that far. We also went to a garden when we exited and that took me up to a pagoda with a panoramic view of the city. You could even see the Olympic square that currently has a countdown timer to the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics.

The next day we went to the Temple of Heaven. Nice place but our semi useless tour guide told us not to go to the rose garden as it’s not the season for it. We defiantly went anyway and it was lovely. You could tell that the weather was turning and lots of them were clearly displaying their final blooms of the year, but there was certainly a great deal to see. The collection contained many varieties and colours of roses. I imagine it is a fragrant marvel at the height of their growing season.

The rest of it consisted mainly of more pagodas like the forbidden city. There was a hall of echoes too. A place with acoustics that can carry sound from one side to the other. We didn’t have time for that as once again everyone else only felt a short time was necessary for the visit. We then went to the fake goods market. It was a lot of stalls under one roof selling the kind of things you get on and about the same quality. Lots of people calling out to you, trying to sell you stuff that you have to haggle over excessively if you want to buy. We have no room in our backpacks for anything of size or weight so we lost interest quickly, finding a place to eat before making our way back to the hostel. Also, I’m clearly not well and need to lie down and chill out.
The next day we got up early to see the Summer Palace but it was throwing it down with rain, not wanting a repeat of the Disneyland soaking (we have checked out of our room and have an overnight train later) we decided to try the aquarium instead. We just couldn’t work out where it was. When we asked, people pointed to the zoo so we figured we had a translation error.

We got back to the hostel and discovered that the aquarium was in fact, at the zoo. That made it expensive as you had to buy entry to the whole thing. Other members of the group returned from their free time reporting that the zoo, as we feared, was awful. The animals were not caged well and did not seem even remotely happy. Also people had gone later than we did to the Summer Palace and it had stopped raining by then. The early worm does not always catch the worm. Beijing has just not gone well for us. We got very little out of it in the end which is sad as I’m sure it holds many great wonders.

We caught our final night train to Hangzhou. It was a nicer, more modern sleeper. I still didn’t sleep well, a paper thin matress is still a paper thin matress. I wake up once every hour, rolling over, allowing one limb to return to life, starving another of its lifeblood instead.

Hangzhou is this way ->

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