claire and david’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 19 Sep 2010

Location: Datong, China

MapWe have finally left Beijing after 5.5 days of some of the most interesting interactions (local) that I can remember. I arrived thinking 13 million people, no language skills and some of the worst air pollution I can remember ever seeing. Thanks to first Angela, a native Hong Kong woman on our tour, and then Macy, our official guide for Beijing, the language problem disappeared. This allowed us to see the Hutongs by rickshaw and then to stroll through Bei Hai Park on one day and then to take the bullet train (max speed 333 km/hr) to Tianjin the next. Angela negotiated a taxi to take us on a tour of the city for the day for less than $60. We visited all of the major sites and were out and about for around 4.5 hours.
The tour proper started the next day and we were introduced to Macy. We started at Tiananmen Square and moved to the Forbidden City, beginning at 0800 and finishing at 1800 hrs. Claire and I had discovered a street restaurant that grilled at your table so finished off the day there with mutton, mushrooms and noodles washed down with a beer. Great. The following day was spent on the Great Wall, a surprising mixture of reconstruction and rack and ruin all at a climbing angle of about 70 degrees. The day finished off with Peking duck for dinner. The final day was spent at a variety of temples – Temple of Heaven and the Imperial Gardens before seeing the Beijing Acrobatic Troop perform. They were sensational and all of us would recommend for you to see them when they come back out to Australia. A final meal then the overnight sleeper to Datong.
Arrived in Datong around 0700 and decided to go sightseeing rather than shower, sleep etc. Saw the grottoes - a 45 cave complex containing carvings of the Buddha and his life. A final temple before free time. Claire and I decided to go out for dinner and walked into a local hot pot restaurant. Hot pots are the local specialty here so after a few awkward minutes of ordering by pointing at other tables and some locals helping out we had 2 beers and a hot pot on the table. Then discovered one of the waitresses had rung her sister, an English teacher, and told her to come down to practice her English. What a brilliant night, we found out a huge amount about the local area we never would have learnt otherwise.
We are falling in love with China and especially the people. They have shown themselves to be friendly, interested although I couldn’t say polite after the scrum to photograph the Emperors’ Throne at the Forbidden City. We seem to have come a long way in a short time.