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Hetty & Jim’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 05 Sep 2006

Location: Beijing, China

MapDear Friends and family,
We have arrived safely in Beijing and are enjoying the lovely warm weather. It isa good feeling to be back in shorts and T shirt.

The flight from Melbourne via Singapore was quite a long 14 hour stint but we were compensated by having the Exit seat and plenty of leg room with no one in front of us all the way. They fed us well and since the Baileys was on the house I took advantage and had several while watching the movies - Wah Wah and ON A CLEAR DAY - both quite good.
We arrived at Beijing airport at about 10.30pm only to find that the peak hour traffic was so bad it took an hour to get to the hotel.

The Hotel is very western and quite comfortable. Breakfast is included and the Buffet caters well for Westerners as well as Asians so anything from fried rice to cornflakes is the go.

Beijing is a difficult city to get around. Like LosAngeles it is very big. It is 175 klms long and 150 kls wide! There is not a real centre. There are hundreds of high rise apartments everywhere yet this is not reflected in the number of people on the streets. Only 10% of people own cars but the roads are blocked with cars and buses all the time. Many people ride bikes and each road has a special separate bike lane, though at intersections when bikes and carsand buses meet it is survival of the biggest.

We began the day yesterday at Tiananmen square, a grim reminder of that terrible day in 1989 when so many students were killed when protesting against the government. It is a big expanse of concrete ending in the entry to the very large forbidden city. This is a walled city where the emperor and his court lived - originally off limits to the general population . Lunch was abeautiful Chinese banquet in avery upmarket restaurant.From there we did a pedicycle tour taking us to the Hutongs . These are little alley ways and courtyards where several families live in tiny spaces around acourtyard all sharing the same toilet facilities. They arelikeliving in a maze. We continued on to the silk markets - a multi storey building with hundreds of stalls on each floor selling a particular merchandise e.g. first floor - shoes; 2nd floor women'sclothing etc. The isles are only about a metre wide and people accost you to buy constantly so you cannot wait to get out. It is like running a gauntlet - you buy from me, you buy from me. Isay back You buyfrom me????? You dare not buy anything as they then definitely don't leave you alone.

Today we got up early and after contending with peak hour traffic finally got to the Great wall 90klms from Beijing. It was a sight to behold. It felt just like the qantas add but certainly tested the knees as it is constantly walking up steep stairs. I enjoyed the spectacular views across the mountains and marvelled at how it could have been built so many hundreds of years ago. It is surely one of the great wonders of the world.Unbelievably as we were climbing down one of the many stairs someone came over and said "Hello I know you" Icouldn't believe my eyes as it was the guide we had on our tripinLoas last year. It is indeed a small world.
Must go for now