Beijing Travel Journal
> How it all began...
If you'd like to know how we got the idea of going for this Trans Mongolian adventure, please read the Russia Travelogue.
> Our Plan and the journey to China
For everything about our plans and about the preparations for the journey by legendary Trans Mongolia Express we also direct you to the Russia Travelogue. Here you can also read about our trip to Moscow and what it was like in the Russian capital and in Suzdal.
In Moscow we got on the Trans Mongolia Express and this train took us to Mongolia in almost 6 days. You can read everything about this journey in the travelogue Trans Mongolia Express. In the travelogue Mongolia you get to know what we've been doing during our week in Mongolia. By the end of that week we get in the train again. Travelling like this we will finally, after more than one day, get to our final destination: Beijing.
> the train: to China
At the station of Ulaanbaatar we find out that we'll be in China sooner than expected: we're boarding a Chinese train with, of course, Chinese provodniks. One of them, working in our wagon, seems to be a funny joker who can be a real clown using his face and a few words of English. We don't see much of his jokes, as our stomachs are very upset and our main activity today is running to the toilets. After some hours in the train the Mongolian steppelandscape looks less green and much dryer than before and finally it changes into the Gobi desert. A place on earth where it's raining only one day a year: today! We see some camels, in small groups, when we sit up for a while and look out of the window. The few stops we make are in small western-like towns in the middle of huge amounts of sand. We skip the free meal that's handed out. Late in the afternoon the landscape changes all of a sudden and we're already at the Mongolian border as well. We don't feel too comfortable with the thought of the toilets being locked for several hours. For hours we're waiting, standing still. Why? We really don't know, there seems to happen nothing at all. Again we fill out the well-known papers and we finally move on to the Chinese border. Luckily the toilets open up for the short ride to the next border, while our cliniclown yells: "no pooh, only pi" to everyone that's allowed to go inside. While we're slowly moving through the light rain to the dark platform we hear the Chinese national anthem loud and clear coming out of the many speakers. Dozens of Chinese men wearing uniforms are waiting for us, all standing at attention. The stop is much shorter here, even though we have to fill out more forms than ever before. Nice people those Chinese, not very quickly in understanding, but friendly they are. One of the men of customs asks us at least 5 times if we are with 4 people in our compartment. Yes yes, four people for real, all friendly smiling, smiling back and a "happy birthday" for Peter. Now we can ride to a hangar where the train, including us, is lifted up and they change the wheels of the train. This happens because the rails in China have a different size from the Russian and Mongolian ones. We hardly feel that we're lifted up and have a lot of fun because of the funny hats that the employees are wearing. Within an hour it's all fixed and we're riding into a dark China. As it's past one already we go to bed and try to sleep.
When we wake up we see a great variaty of landscapes with lots of green and many buildings as well. Only a few hours later it's very hot and humid in the train and outside. We sure have to get used to that. We see lots of corn, sunflowers and rice. Mountains, valleys and towns. Our locomotive is hooting at every bridge or crossroad, and there are many bridges and many roads to cross. We try something of the free breakfast and this time the food stays where it belongs after we ate it. We see donkeys, barrows and Chinese, lots of Chinese.
Right on time we arrive in Beijing. It's great to hop on the airconditioned bus that takes us to Hademen hotel. We make a huge mess of our room and go to bed early.
> Beijing day 1
When we wake up we still feel very sick. We stay a while in the middle of the chaos we created in our room, but in the afternoon we definately want to see something of Beijing. The weather is not feeling too well too, it's raining all the time. We take a cab to the pearl market, where I buy a real (!) CK watch. Soon we find out how the selling in China works: the salesmen try to make contact with every potential buyer that passes his stand. "Hello... hello... looklook... heey pretty ladie...". Another taxi takes us to the silkmarket. To get inside we first have to cross the road that changed into a wide river because of all the rain that fell down today. New purchases inside: a very nice skirt and many souvenirs for only one third of the original price. I'm a fast learner in lowering the price! We go to the Tian'An Men square for a short moment, but there is not much to see with these amounts of rain. We buy two ponchos for one Euro, but we hope that this will be the last day to use them.
In the evening we really feel like eating Mc Donalds food and even though we know that it's so bad for us as we're still sick we order two menus. That night we don't get much sleep as I have such bad cramps in my belly. That a person can have such a lot of pain. Maybe eating at the Mc wasn't such a good idea after all. When the morning comes I start to feel slightly better.
> Beijing day 2
The weather is getting better too, but it's still cloudy. This time it's not raining when we reach Tian'An Men square. It takes a while before we get used to the thousands of staring Chinese that walk around here. We decide to enter the forbidden city even though we're not feeling completely recovered, but here we find more chaos: Chinese are everywhere. We only see a few white faces that day. Somehow we manage to find some quiet alleys and far away inner courts, but in the royal gardens the chaos is there again. Our impressions of the forbidden city: impressive, but not so beautiful as expected. We climb up the hill in the Yingshan park and from the temple on top of the hill we have an extraordinary view over the entire area of the forbidden city and the surroundings on the other side. We continue through the Beihaipark and visit some temples here.
Right outside the park we find the Drum Tower, where we see a demonstration of playing the huge drums. Very nice to see. Right when we want to go down again a Chinese guy starts talking to us. He wants to practise his English by having a conversation with us and he tries to give us some tips of what we definately have to see in Beijing. He is surprised to find out that we know so much already and that we even have a complete book of the city. But his other goal is achieved: his girlfriend is impressed that he speaks English so well. Just before closing time we get to the Bell Tower for a visit, we admire the huge bell. And again we do some shopping: today I buy some t-shirts.
We go back to the hotel by rickshaw, where the entire "hello, hello, taxi"-thing is starting to get really annoying. Right opposite the hotel we have diner at RBT, where you can have only healthy and good meals.
> Beijing day 3
The hypermodern yellow metro line brings us in the direction of the summer palace. We do the last part of the trip with the taxi, as there is no metro that can take us any closer. We first have a look at the shops where the royal staff used to go to for their pleasure, before we climb the stairs to the royal palace on top of the hill. From here we have our first view at the great Chinese wall. When we descended to the Kunming Lake level we stroll at the shore of the lake, where we also see the marble boat. We're not very impressed by the sight of this huge artistic brick. From here we cross the lake in a boat with a dragons head. We use the 17 arches bridge to get to the island in Kunming Lake, where we visit the temple. At this side of the lake we leave the royal gardens to take a cab to the old summer palace, also called Yuan Ming Yuan. We check out this site with its many impressive ruÔns, before we return to our hotel. Diner at RBT tastes even beter than yesterday. It looks like we're getting better now.
> Beijing day 4
This morning we try to take part in the Beijing traffic with our rented bicycles. That seems to be okay: the cycletracks are broad to make sure that the thousands of cyclists have enough space and at every crossing there were both traffic lights and trafficregulators. First we go to the Tiantan park. Here we see the Chinese doing things that we wouldn't choose to do ourselves: dancing to hard, loud music from a stereo, dancing with fans, playing stringed instruments with 20 people at once, but all different melodies, walking around while singing and many other things that they probably find relaxing to do. Unfortunately the Temple of Heaven is covered with scaffolds, but for the rest we've see everything in the park, like the Echo Wall and the Hall for Prayer for good Harvests.
The taxidrivers that all try to be the first to offer us a taxiride look pretty disappointed when we get our bikes and hit the road again. On our way to the Lama Temple we see so many nice, little shops that we have to turn around when we're half way, to bring the bags with new clothes and souvenirs to our room. It's late in the afternoon when we finally get to the Lama Temple: very touristic, but also very beautifull! After this visit we go to the Confusius Temple as well, as this one's so close. We find out that this temple really needs to be restored. Because of good experiences we go to RBT for diner again. Our stomachs don't seem to bother it and is happy with the good quality food.
> Beijing day 5
Today we rent a bike again at the reception of our hotel, as we had such a good experience yesterday. First we go to a touringcar parking area, where the busses to the great wall should leave every morning. It isn't that easy for us to find the right area, even though there are huge signs in front of it. The signs were hiding the busses for us, haha. We find out that bus number 6 goes to the great wall at Simatai, the place where we want to visit the wall. This bus will ride the next day and for 60 yuan (6 Euros) you should be able to buy a round ticket. That sounds like a bargain. We move on in the direction of the White Cloud Temple. Half way I see a nice little shop with great t-shirts behind the window. Actually the shop-at-home is closed, but some people on the street are calling the owner for us and all of a sudden the closed shop is open. When we finally get to the Temple I am carrying bags with a nice skirt and 3 t-hirts. The temple is still in use by monks in white costumes, who wear their hair in a very special way. Great to see.
During the short ride on our rented bicycles to the White Stupa Temple we are forced to do some more shopping. We see many great clothes in different shops, some of them are the good size while others are way too small. With more bags we arrive at the next temple. During this short visit we're surprised when a man suddenly starts shaking our hands before he says his prayers. When we see him again a little later he tries to explain to us that we are his friends: "not marry, but I love you, but not marry". When we say the word "friend" he is glad that we understood what he means and we go back to our hotel (even more confused than we first were). Here we establish that the suitcase with clothes is getting pretty full now.
This morning we asked one of the ladies at the reception desk to make a reservation for us for an acrobat show. We've still got plenty of time when we leave our hotel that night. Every time we walked out in the past few days we got attacked by many taxidrivers who were all yelling "taxitaxi", but today there is no single taxidriver at the door. So we cross the street and walk to the cabrank over there. The first driver doesn't understand what we are saying or he pretends to don't understand. The second one simply refuses to bring us and we're just asking a third one when a rickshaw taxi comes to us. This man wants to bring us, but as it has become a little late now we are wondering if we can still make it in time now. The ride through the city seems to be neverending, but 30 minutes later we reach the theatre right on time. Our seats are still free, so we can sit down and relax. De show is great, but not that much fun as the Mongolian show we saw one week earlier.
When we get outside after the show it is dark and the entire square in front of the theatre is covered with people, thousands. The fountains are lit with colorful lights and are "dancing" to music. The entire city came to see this and there is even a showband, but they know only one dance. It goes on and on, forwards and backwards. And these dancing people have so much fun, unbelievable. After 30 minutes it is enough for us and we return to the hotel. We do have to get up early tomorrow, so it's better to go to sleep now. The bus to Simatai leaves between 6 and 8, that's what the sign said this morning. We do not fully understand why a bus cannot leave right at 6, 7 or 8, but we'll see tomorrow. Anyway, we don't want to be too late, so we put the alarm clock on at 5.
> Beijing day 6
At 5.30 we take the first metro to the parking place where our touringcar will leave to Simatai. When we get here there is no one else to see. Even at 6 there are no other people, except for the other 2 tourists who nervously walk around and look in our direction. We sit down and at 6.15 we see a busdriver crossing the parking place. Using our hands and feet we ask him about bus number 6 to Simatai. From his reply we understand as much as to wait and it will all be okay. At 6.30 the first bus arrives and a large banner is hung up: bus 12. More busses are arriving now, all are given a number. Only at 7 a banner with number 6 comes out of a bag and we can board a small touringcar. At 7.30 the whole bus is full with Chinese people who want to make a daytrip and 3 other tourists: Italian ladies with huge sunglasses wearing high heels. The driver is selling tickets to everyone and we find out that they really are only 60 yuan. At 10 to 8 we can finally leave, but it still takes a while before we are outside this busy city. In the Beijing suburbs there are many construction works on the road and we even get in a queue that is not moving forward or backwards for a long time. We arrive in Simatai at 11.15.
A bit later we're in the cablerailway that will save us a lot of climbing and will take us half way to the highest top of the wall. A funicular will bring us even further uphill. We have splendid views over the misty, Chinese landscapes all the time. Finally we have to walk upstairs the last part and then we're really on top of the the great wall of China. The wall consists of old, original parts here and the masstourism has not yet started. We expect this to begin soon now, as they are rapidly building some restaurants and other buildings in the valley where the bus stopped. But on this day there is almost no one and we can walk a whole part over the wall and check out some of the watchtowers without being disturbed. Slowly the mist disappears completely and it gets wonderfully clear: what a view!
At 3 we have to face the entire "looklook"-circus at the parkingplace again to take the bus back to Beijing. This trip is even worse then the one this morning. It takes us more than 4 hours to reach the city centre, and it's only 120 kilometers.
> Beijing day 7
Today is our real shopping day. It's great to be able to buy everything that you see and like, because it all costs almost nothing. We're great stimulators of the Chinese economy again and hope that it all fits in our suitcase. In the evening we have our last cup of tea at RBT and again we have the best meal we had there before. We'll really miss this restaurant. When we're back in our room we find a message that kindly asks us to be in the lobby of the hotel at 6.50 tomorrow for the transfer to the airport.
> The trip back home
Exactly at 7 our hostess walks into the lobby and we're taken to our taxi. Within an hour we're at the airport and after another 30 minutes we check in. As a matter of fact we just had a 7-day-course of Chinese pushing and nudging to be the first and we now show them what we've learnt so far. So we have to wait another hour and a half before we can board the huge airplane. The pre-announced airporttax seems to be abolished, so we have some more money to spend and we don't have to get bored while waiting. The flight is okay and pretty soon we are back in Europe. So that's how this holiday ends, a holiday we'll remember for a long time.
> More Info
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