09.09.2012 25 °C
Well we have arrived safe and (now left) Beijing. I did fear for Revy a little as I thought Leroy (my beautiful dog) was going to kidnap him before we even left. Leroy is quite taken with Revy.
This is the first opportunity we have had to log on, as there was no Wifi in our Beijing hotel, and our first 2 days have been jammed packed with activity. Since this first blog will be long, I will break it up a little.
GETTING TO BEIJING
Flights to Beijing were pretty painless, but no sleep for us as we fell into couch potato mode and watched episode after episode of Homeland - which we are now both completely addicted to.
We finally arrived at our hotel around 10pm local time (12am Sydney) which meant we had been awake now for about 20.5 hours. Our national tour guide, David was kind enough to meet us in our foyer when we arrived which we were not expecting to meet up with him tomorrow when all the other travellers arrived in morning. Thank god we arrived a day early as I would not want to be the poor souls who arrive today.
Whatever you have heard about Beijing traffic, we can attest that it is all true. Paris and Rome are pretty crazy, but it is nothing compared to Beijing. Traffic signals and pedestrian crossings are only "suggestions", meaning drivers are under no obligation to stop at a red light or give way to those on a pedestrian crossing - you will receive a few unpleasant honks of the horn if they have to stop for you. It is however, a site to see with pedestrians, bike riders, cars and buses all wanting to go in the same direction at the same time with only enough room for one of them.
As chinese custom goes, their beds are very firm which our local guide Coco (who picked us up at the airport) warned us about. I like a firm matress, but this really has not give at all, pretty much like sleeping on a plank of MDF. However, surprisingly I felt quite good after a lovely 8 hour sleep.
All I can say is Mum's heaven and Dad's hell....no not that bad, but mum you would love having an excuse for eating noodles and rice for breakfast.
The food so far has been amazing. Pretty much banquest style for both lunch and dinner varying in dishes - we still think we are getting the "western" dishes though.
We sampled the famours Beijing (Peking) duck which was delicious and we have eaten enough rice to last us the rest of our lifetime!!
DAY 1 - TIANANMEN SQUARE, THE FORBIDDEN CITY and TEMPLE OF HEAVENLY PEACE
We started the touring Friday morning heading off with a visit to Tiananmen Square. The vastness of this place is quite incredible - it can fit just over 1 million people. We only stopped briefly here for our group photo and a quick look around. We then headed over to the Forbidden City (just across the road from the square). The Forbidden City is where the Emperor lived built in 1421 in the Ming Dynasty. Again, a massive area covering about 72 ha. From here we then went onto the Temple of Heaven which is now a great park open to the public. Here was the Temple where the Emperor prayed to the God of Heaven . this temple reminded me of the one in Kung Fu Panda , where the baddy peacock lived. This night we had an optional excursion a Kung Fu show produced by Jackie Chan himself. The show was quite a spectacle also including ballet and acrobatics. Then onto dinner again for more food. There is no way that you can say they don't feed you well on this tour - we have not had to buy any meals yet.
DAY 2 - THE GREAT WALL and SUMMER PALACE
Today was a highlight day with us visiting the Great Wall. We headed off early at 7am as it should have taken us about 1.5-2 hours....depending on the traffic (a disclaimer our guide uses in nearly every sentence). Surprisingly we arrived just after 8am and had 2.5 hours to explore the wall. Revy also made his first appearance today at the Great Wall.
There were 2 sides you could climb - the steep side and not so steep side. Naturally we set off for the not so steep side. Unfortunately we wasted about 20 minutes heading in the wrong direction (can understand now how people on the Amazing Race can get lost pretty easily). We then couldn't find how to get to the other side, so braved the steep slope. After what seemed an eternity, I made the first tower. Having felt that I had conquered the wall, I turned back so we could try our luck again to locate the other side again. We almost made the first tower on this side, but decided to turn back as it was starting to get quite crowded and not trusting the people in front not to topple backwards and cause a domino effect to the bottom of the steps. By now my legs were so rubbery I almost felt like a Thunderbird - squats done for a month!!
After conquering the wall, we headed back toward the city and visited a Jade Market (Government owned of course) where we we saw sculptors being carved and shown how to tell the difference between real and fake jade. The only test I remember is scraping the jade along glass - the one that doesn't damage is real jade. For some reason, I don't think many vendors would like you testing the jade in this way so I really am still none the wiser on how to tell the difference!
From here we had a vey brief pitstop and photo opportunity to the birds nest olympic stadium before we headed over to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace and its gardens were very beautiful, but by this stage it was almost 3 o'clock amd we were all feeling quite grotty and sweaty. Imagine how you would feel after doing stairmaster for 2 hours in a sauna - that is how we felt. All any of us wanted to do was go home and have a shower. Unfortunately, after the Summer Palace we were whisked off to an Acrobat show and then dinner - still no shower. Luckily the theatre was full so the performers received appreciation from the majority of the audience as our group was slightly over it by this stage.
Finally we got back to our hotel after being out for just over 13 hours.
DAY 3 - BEIJING TO XI'AN
We flew to Xi'an today and visited the Shaanxi History Museum. Interesting, but not a lot of time to really peruse the artifacts.
Anyway as I type this, our group is starting to mingle in the foyer to set of for our Dumpling dinner and Tang Dynasty dance show.
Sorry again for this being so long and I don't know when I will get another chance to write ...hopefully soon...
PS Photos will have to come a bit later....sorry