Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beijing Bound

Our rather expensive train tickets made a lot of sense when we boarded the train that night. It was achingly new, and compared to everything I had been on quintessentially modern. We had tv screens at the bottom of our beds, not much use admittedly, and it was lovely and fresh and metallic and altogether quite exciting. We had a couple beers in the space age dining car before going to bed- this kind of train travel definitely makes the journey pleasant compared to a chore!

Beijing Beijiing, although I had been before I was excited.... Beijing! It is a city I like, and in comparison to Shanghai it manages to maintain a more personal feel to it somehow. Probably because of the large amount of hutongs which remain, small alley ways filled with tiny houses and some restaurants etc. We were staying at the P Loft hostel in one of the hutongs (yet again amazing hostel, sorry to sound like a broken record, This one was possibly the best of all!). Ditching our stuff and grabbing some breakfast we did what all self respecting tourists do and headed straight for Tiananmen Square. The sight of Mao's face looking down at you in this gargantuan square is always a bit spine chilling, especially as his mummified body is lying in state at a building in the middle of it, but not one to be missed. We stepped into Beihai Park for a bit and as it was Sunday many Chinese people were out and about, we saw orchestras, groups of people singing, karaoke, tai chi, aerobics, and dancing- which Faye joined in on! Very amusing. We wandered the streets (which were extremely hot!) and ate that evening at the night market, purveyor of all things weird and wonderful in China. Squid stick for me, tofu stick for Faye. As much as I am constantly telling her her vegetarian ways ensure she is missing out on various feasts she refuses to budge..! Just kidding.

The next day we explored the Forbidden City, where the Emperor and his hundreds of wives used to live, sealed off from the rest of the world. It is an interesting collection of buildings which I didn't mind revisiting, they have a certain magical quality I find. Probably the thought of all the intrigues which used to go on behind all the closed doors... We went to find our train tickets for the next day, and were disappointed to find out that they were sold out yet again. Bugger, the school holidays in China seemed to be making a big difference! So we had an extra day in Beijing after all. That night I managed to indulge in one of my favourite foods of all time, Beijing Duck pancakes. I am not ashamed to admit that since they haven't seem to have cottoned on to the whole quarter duck theory, I did put away half a duck on my own!! No wonder I am not losing any weight...

Faye went to the Great Wall the next day and I decided to explore a new part of Beijing I hadn't been to before, a section of hutongs with lots of little boutique shops and other cool things. Sometimes it is just nice to potter about on your own eh, and Beijing is a good place for pottering. Feeling like we had an extra day we decided it would be best to do what most English people do when given a bit more free time, and that's get pissed. The hostel we were staying in had a bar so we spent the night getting to know some of the guys and girls who worked there and owned it. It was pretty funny, one guy we were chatting to was introduced as “Er Ge”... I asked if this was “brother number 2” and she said no it is a different meaning, it's actually “Stupid Brother” because he's older than us and he is really stupid. Only in China could this be delivered with such ease I feel, but it was rather hilarious! He was a very nice guy though, and we had a good laugh. Not so good the next day though as we woke with a hangover of mass proportions and had to check out of our room... So I am ashamed to say the only thing we managed to do on our last day in Beijing was visit the Olympic Park as everything else involved too much effort, time indoors, concentration, or movement.!

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