19.08.2011 29 °C
Hello again! Well its been a little while since I got home and I've delayed writing a piece on Beijing as I haven't found a couple of hours of time when I'm in a writing mood to reflect on our time there properly.
After flying to Beijing and checking ourselves into a nice hotel in the centre (an end of travelling/ birthday treat), we had nearly 5 whole days to see the city and get out to a couple of sections of the wall, which are a few hours outside. 5 days seemed like a long time to be spending in one place, but Beijing is just so large and with so much to do that the time really did just fly by. Accompany that with some time lying on a bed with a comfortable mattress and a large TV in front of us (it’s been a while) and time really does get short!
The absolute must for us to see, along with anyone else that travels to China, was the Great Wall. In fact, the trip into China was almost exclusively because Letha decided she wanted to see it at some point and we were so close in Vietnam (actually we were 3000km away), that we had to go and see it! The wall has several parts within a daytrip of the city and we decided to go to one restored and very touristy place, Badaling, and to one unrestored and much more authentic section, Jingshaling.
Badaling was as ridiculously touristy as we'd hoped for and after elbowing a few queue-jumping locals out of the way to board a bus to the bottom, we set about climbing a reasonably steep section in order to try and actually see the wall through the hoards of people. After about a 45 minute climb a lot of people give up and therefore we got to a few watchtowers that were less hectic. As the wall has all been restored I assumed I wouldn't like it, but it has been done fantastically well, and was certainly worth seeing.
Jingshaling, on the other hand, was the opposite. It had next to no tourists there and we spent a couple of hours clambering over collapsed sections of the wall, up some makeshift staircases made of loose stones and enjoying some really amazing views of the wall winding off over the hills in the distance. Just as you'd imagine it to be, but even more breathtakingly scenic! We'd actually hoped to walk some 10km and gotten to another nice part, but the second part was closed off for some work and it wasn't possible. It was definitely one of the best things I've done on any of my travels.
The only downside to our Great Wall visits was that the view was slightly ruined by the polluted smog that gathers in the area from Beijing. At some points in the actual city you could barely make out a building just a couple of hundred metres away, and there is certainly no way of telling if it will rain as the sky is constantly hazy!
Inside Beijing we spent the rest of our time seeing some of the main attractions. The Forbidden City was reasonably interesting but rather empty apart from the crowds of people. Tiananmen Square was impressive and sort of an up scaled and Chinese version of Trafalgar Square with museums set around it. We also got to the Zoo in order to see some of China's pandas. Touristy maybe, but certainly easier to find there than in the wild!
The rest of the time was really spent eating noodles from the local food court, laughing at the Chinese guys who carry their girlfriend's handbags everywhere and occasional get forced into wearing matching outfits (!), and reflecting on the time we have been away. I'll add a final post soon that will be the close of this fine blog... it’s nearly 3 years old now!