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Anna’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 20 Jul 2006

Location: Beijing, China

MapHi all
Now we are Beijing and it is so completely different to Shanghai, there are hardly any sky scrapers, but every building seems to be enormous and wide, like giant shoeboxes everywhere.
We had a very uncomfortable journey here. There were no 'hard-sleeper' tickets from Shanghai to Beijing so we had to buy 'hard-seat' tickets instead, and they were HARD seats. The journey was 14 hours and by the end all parts of our bodies were sore. But we had it easy, they also sell 'standing' tickets, you wouldnt think anyone would want to stand on a train for 14 hours, but we had a load of people in our carraige. A few old ladies crawled under the seats to go to sleep (it was an overnight train) and stayed under there for most of the trip - very weird! There were eight no-shows for the sleepers, so instead of offering them up for the highest bidder, the 'train hostesses' held a raffle and occassionally through the journey they would call out a seat number and people would be frantic checking if they could move! We didn't get called, but the guy a few seats down from us did, lucky bugger! It was so uncomfortable, I have decided it is hard-sleeper for me the rest of the way!

Anyway back to Beijing, I prefer it to Shanghai (I think its the other way around for Neill, but thats him!), even though its a massive city, everything seems more accessable and less well city-like, if that makes sense! There is so much to do here but we have managed to see most of the bigger sights, I still want to see 'Underground Beijing' but we only have tomorrow left, so maybe we wont fit it in.

Tiananmen Square is, as you would imagine, massive. But its even bigger than you'd imagine and is full of people flying kites, taking photos, flogging things etc etc. But in the mornings most people are queuing all around Tiananmen Square to get into Mao's Memorial Building, where you see his preserved body. It was really strange you all queue up and then get filed past the body on either side and are constantly moving, so you see him for about 20 seconds max. He had an orange light shining on his face so he looked really eery. It was also strange to see how important seeing Mao was to all the chinese people, they all laid flowers as we walked in, and the old guy infront of me was desperatly trying to prolong his viewing and had to be ushered on by staff.

After visiting Mao we went into the Forbiddden City, which was very impressive but all the main halls were surrounded by scaffolding (I guess they are getting all the restoration work done in time for 2008) so we didn't go into them, but the shear size of it was unbelievable and we wandered around exploring the city for ages.

Yesterday we went to the Great Wall, after we finally found the cheapest bus. We didnt want to pay loads to go with a tour and knew there was a really cheap public bus going there, but we struggled for ages, everyone pointing us towards the tour buses (obviously - more money for them), but we succeeded and an hour later arrived at the wall. It is so big, once again much bigger than you would imagine (as most things seem to be in Beijing). We walked along it for a few hours, it was soooo steep, I got a bit scared about coming back down but it wasnt as bad as I expected. There were so many people there, like a sea of baseball caps and flags (all the people in the tour groups wear matching caps).

This evening we went to a brilliant acrobatic show, but we are gonna give Beijing Opera a miss (there is enough of it on chinese tv, and it looks pretty bad - well not our thing anyway!).

There is so much construction work going on here, but its looking pretty good and apparently well on track for the Olympics.
Its so much cleaner, and the people are cleaner, there are still plenty of snot rockets flying around, but we were impressed yesterday to see a father lay out a tissue for his baby to poop on (they still don't use nappies here) instead of just doing it on the floor, which is what we are used to seeing.

We were hoping to take our 'Long' train journey from here to Urumqi today, but there were no tickets, so we are heading to Pingyao tomorrow and will hopefully get a ticket from there onwards.