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Homeless in Beijing, Forbidden City & Great Wall
Rating: (4.8 stars)

Beijing, China
Jun 27, 2003 10:04

Pros: nice place, huge beer bottles, fantastic Forbidden City, Great Wall-exciting and adventurous
Cons: heavy rainfal, communication problem

The journey on the train from Mongolia (30 hours) felt like a lifetime. Travelling through Mongolia there was just nothing for hundreds and hundreds of miles. I was beginning to miss the trees! We arrived at the Chinese border to classical music playing. We were then wheeled into the Bogey Changing Shed to have our bogeys changed. The Russian railway lines are 10cm wider than any other railway lines, so they have to change the wheels, (the Russians were paranoid about being invaded). It was a train spotters paradise. After about 3 hours of being shunted in and out of the station we were finally off and we could finally get to bed. I woke up to paddy fields and mountains which were a refreshing change from Mongolia.

We arrived in Beijing at about 3.00pm this afternoon. After eventually getting some money changed we went to McDonalds. Nigel and I then went looking for my Youth Hostel and his hotel as we'd figured out they were practically next door to one another. After eventually finding the Youth Hostel we couldn't find the entrance. We gave up in the end and decided just to look for his hotel. We couldn't find it either. We eventually got into the Youth Hostel and up to the 10th floor. The doors opened onto a wooden wall. We then jumped in a taxi to find the hotel, which turned out to be miles from the hostel. We checked in and realised the woman had given us just one room. She wanted to charge me double for my own room, so I decided to get a taxi and try and find the other youth hostel. The taxi driver had no idea where it was, even though I was pointing to it on the map. He just kept saying 'hotel'. By this time it was starting to pour with rain and thundering and I was getting tired so I just said yes. The taxi took me right across Beijing and dropped me off in the pouring rain. I was glad I was wearing sandals as I was ankle deep in water. I went into the 'hotel' and asked if they had any rooms and they brought me a bench to sit on. When the rain went off I tried to figure out where I was on the map and tried to find the youth hostel. I wandered for about an hour with my rucksack getting heavier by the minute. I gave up in the end and headed back to Tianamen Square but got completely lost. I ended up walking around for 2 hours before I gave up at about 9.00pm and booked into the Novotel - it was like being in heaven!!

Yesterday I walked without my rucksack to try and find the youth hostel again, but after another hour I gave up. I was just walking back to the hotel to check out when who should I bump into but Nigel. We jumped in a taxi and once again the taxi driver had no idea where the hostel was. I had to go on the internet and get the number for the hostel and the doorman phoned to find out where it was. At about 1.00pm I finally had somewhere to stay and we also bumped into Rob, Matt, Liam & Ash staying at the same hostel. We all jumped into taxi's and headed back to Tianamen Square where we got soaked in another downpour. We went to the Forbidden City but didn't go in as we didn't think we'd have time. We had a beer on Tianamen Square. We then walked for miles and stopped for another beer (chinese beers are huge - about the size of a wine bottle. The alcohol level is greater than or equal to, as the filtering process is not accurate, so you never know how strong the beer actually is). About 5 beers later we decided to get something to eat. Liam wanted to try sushi, so we went to a Japanese restaurant which unfortunately didn't serve sushi, so we ended up in KFC. It was then time to say goodbye to Nigel who was heading off home.

I was awoken this morning by the other girls in my dormitory at about 9.00am, so I got up and went to the supermarket to get some stuff for breakfast. I then walked to The Forbidden City. It was about an hours walk, but the temperature was 30+ so I was exhausted by the time I got there. Once inside I was befriended by a Chinese Art Student who wanted me to buy one of her paintings to fund her trip to Europe. I'd read about this scam so I told her I had no money and no credit card and managed to escape without having to make a purchase.

The Forbidden City was fantastic and huge. I spent about 2 hours wandering around, but could probably have spent quite a bit longer. Twenty four different emperors have lived in the city during it's time and it was once forbidden for the common people to enter (hence the name). There were courtyards and little alleyways stretching for miles and the most beautiful garden full of temples and ancient trees.

I've booked a trip on the Great Wall tomorrow, so I'm off to bed now as it's a very early start.

I got up at 7.30am this morning for a 3 hour bus ride to the Great Wall. I had the choice of doing the touristy part of the wall at Badaling, which is a very short walk along the wall with an amusement park alongside. Option 2 that I went for was a 10km, 4 hour hike along an older part of the wall, from Jinshanling to Simatai. It started off okay, but a half hour into the walk I'd already finished the litre bottle of water I'd brought, the temperature was +30oC and I didn't think I'd make it. Imagine my relief to see a little old man selling ice cold water in one of the old watch towers. We were followed nearly half way along the wall by people trying to sell us t-shirts and water. The scenery was amazing, mountains as far as you could see. It was hard work though. Some parts of the wall we had to climb using our hands & feet. It was quite a relief when the cloud came over and it was much cooler - I don't think I'd have made it otherwise. We finally made it to the end. There was a bit of a walk down the hillside into the village to pick up our bus. Some of us decided to go down via the Flying Fox which was great fun. It was really high up over a lake. Once at the other side we got a speedboat across into the village. It was a very nice end to the hike.

When we arrived in the village we were told that we were the first tourists to come over the wall since the SARS restrictions had been lifted. We got a half price meal in the restaurant to celebrate and then another 3 hours back in the bus to the hostel. I'm ready for bed now.

Off to Hong Kong tomorrow.