Travelling from Adelaide to Beijing seemed to take forever, luckily I had company next to me on the flights, not to mention some pretty good Australian wine which made me slightly worse for wear when I arrived in Hong Kong. At least I was so out of it, I managed to sleep the whole flight from Hong Kong to Beijing.
Finally arriving near Midnight I then had to wait around for what seemed like ages for the airport transfer to come arrive, then try to sort out my hotel reservation, seeing as though the tour company changed it in the week before leaving and said I wont be needing a new voucher. It took lots of convincing to get the receptionist, who only spoke what could be best described as pigeon english, to realise I was actually at the correct hotel. Oh the joys when someone is jet lagged, somewhat hungover, and just wants a bed to sleep in.
First day in Beijing, I saw the Lama Temple which was only a short walk from the hotel and about all I could manage the day after arriving. That night I met the group and the tour leader. The group is an interesting mix with four of us young ones (well under 40), the rest older people. All of us are Aussies, well even the Kiwi girl is living in Australia, so she can be one of us as well.
The tour leader Scott comes across as a really good person. He loves his travel and I am sure he has many stories to share. That night we went to a local chinese restaurant, where the food was plentiful and so tasty. The peking duck was to die for and I don’t think it will ever taste as good in Australia. After dinner we did some shopping to prepare ourselves for the first of train journeys. Two minute noodles is looking like the food of choice for train travel. I also came across some unusual flavoured potato chips. In the end I went for the Mango flavoured. I know it sounds weird but hey, you got to try these things at least once.
Following day, we all went out to the Great Wall which you cant really appreciate the magnitude of, until you see it for yourself. I couldn’t even comprehend how they built it.
Though I was most disappointed to find out that it wasn’t built by Emporer Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out!! And I thought all tv advertising was 100% truthful. The toboggan ride down from the wall was a lot of fun, if only the slow drivers weren’t on when I was. However, it was a pretty cool way to get down and definitely beats walking.
That night we went out to the night market in Central Beijing, where i got to sample some local delicacies such as Scorpion (big & small) as well as grasshopper.
They were heavily deep fried and the small scorpion tasted like chicken, the larger one tasted more like a fried shrimp and grasshopper didn’t really taste like much at all. I guess when you think about it, there isn’t really much meat on a grasshopper!
Next morning we went out to Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. It was huge and so many people. I had no idea it was going to be that big, nor there would be that many temples within the Forbidden City. You could say I have been templed out already.
Really interesting history but by the end of it, the feeling was, surely there cant be another temple through this gate. Must admit it was a relief to finish. From there, we as a group, went down to a local Hutong (District) to sample local culture and food and it was amazing. We got treated almost like royalty and the food was so delicious. Then again, all the food I have eaten to date has been so good. Whether its healthy or not I have no idea.
Went to to the Olympic stadium that night and I can tell you, that the coverage we saw on TV did not do it justice. The Birds Nest stadium is as spectacular a construction I have ever seen and the Water Cube (Swimming Centre) is just as impressive.
Next morning we caught the train to Mongolia, just a lazy 30 hours, numerous card games, scattegories and drinking games were played. Got to kill the time somehow. Whilst at the border stop they had to change the train bogeys from the Chinese variety to the Mongolian/Russian variety.
This took about 5 hours and during that time we were not able to use the toilets. At this point, it seemed like a good idea to not drink any fluids. It was quite interesting to see how they lifted each of the carriages up, removed one set of bogeys and replaced them with a new set. I guess train freaks would have been in their element but for me, it was an experience to see then get some sleep.