Last known location: London, England

The Great Wall of Forbidden Duck

We arrived in Beijing on Monday afternoon very much in need of a shower and some clean clothes, so we headed straight for our hotel. The metro in Beijing was far easier than either of the Russian ones we’d been on, with English signs, announcements etc, so we made it without too much hassle and a bargain 19p each! Spent most of the afternoon scrubbing ourselves down and unpacking and then headed out for some food. Not for the first time we sought out somewhere from one of our guidebooks only to find a building site in it’s place! We ended up in a dingey little backstreet place behind the hotel, where the staff spoke no English and the menu was all in Chinese, but we managed to order through a mixture of pointing and sign language! Ended up with far too much food but it was delicious after the Russian stodge, although a rat did run under Gem’s chair and into a hole in the wall at one point, which put us off the food a bit!  Luckily we’d pretty much finished by then so we didn’t leave hungry!

We spent the next day exploring the Summer Palace which was great; quite a huge site and an amazing setting. It did feel a bit like a theme park though, slightly worn around the edges and overrun by Chinese tour groups wearing matching hats and following their guide’s little flag around! Got a cycle tuk-tuk back to the Metro station afterwards which was slightly scary, weaving in and out of the buses, going the wrong way down motorbike lanes and beeping his horn at anyone and everyone!

That evening we explored Xiaochi Jie market, which had loads of food stands selling all kinds of street food. We stuck to mutton kebabs and ice cream dumplings but they had all sorts, the best of which were scorpion kebabs – they were still alive and wriggling  (see brief video below) when they were dunked into the hot oil. Have to admit we didn’t try those, or the starfish, seahorses or centipedes! The scorpions proved a bit much for Gem and when we got back to hotel she was suffering a bit from culture shock!

Wednesday was Gem’s birthday so we had a Beijing breakfast in bed which consisted of Congee (rice porridge), dumplings and a savoury donut – nice but not sure we’d repeat it! During the day we went to the Forbidden City which was really impressive, some huge temples all with grand names like The Palace of Tranquil Longevity and The Hall of Supreme Harmony – none of which seemed appropriate with all the Chinese tourists shoving their way around! We’d been hoping to hear Roger Moore telling us all about it on the audioguide, but he seems to have been replaced unfortunately!

Headed to Tian’anmen Square afterwards where we had the ‘Art Student Scam’ tried on us – basically people approach you saying they are art students and they’d like to show you their work and practice their English. You then go with them to have a look and are charged a fortune for the privilege! We’d heard about it before so as he was talking it dawned on us what was going on. Strangely he spoke better English than most of the staff at our hotel so you’d think he could get a proper job! In the square we were also asked to be in a few photos with locals which was odd!

We then explored some of the Hutongs south of the square, which were crammed with tiny shops and stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, food and plenty of fake stuff. After some hard bargaining we got a designer watch each! Sampled some Peking Duck in the evening which was much like it is at home except sliced instead of shredded, and you also get presented with the cooked duck’s head cut in half afterwards, which was nice!

After a busy couple of days sightseeing we decided to enjoy the facilities of our fancy hotel for a bit on Thursday, amazing pool and jacuzzi! Explored the Temple of Heaven that afternoon which was a nice change from the Forbidden City and Summer Palace – much quieter and better looked after with fewer people! That night we went to a Tea House, where we watched a variety show with Kung Fu, Sichuan Face-Changing, folk singing and an acrobat – this was actually a man spinning plant pots on his head but was still pretty impressive!

We unfortunately had to move out of our hotel and downgrade to a hostel on Friday, and we’ve just got back from a tour of the Great Wall which they organised. Set off at 8am, (the earliest we’ve had to get up for a few weeks!) and had about 3 hours on the wall at Mutianyu. To get to the wall you can either hike up a steep slope or get a chair lift.  Obviously we chose the easy option and got the lift.  Dan’s vertigo kicked in, and he spent most of the short trip with his eyes closed but there loved it – was some stunning scenery, and you could get quite a good view (mist dependant) of a good length of the wall.  When we disembarked we headed along some very steep sections, so it was pretty tiring and we only covered a small distance but it was amazing to be on such a legendary site.  Afterwards we had lunch with the rest of the group at a local restaurant before driving back to the hostel.  They journey was about an hour and a half and involved more horn beeping and erratic driving so we were pleased to be back in one piece!

Moving away from the smog of Beijing tomorrow, down to Pingyao – hopefully we’ll see some clear sky for the first time in a week!

  1. beryl stoker 25 Oct, 2010

    Hi Dan and Gem. Brought back lots of happy memories seeing the photos. Some amazing places you can,t really take it all in. Thought you should have tried the scorpian kekabs!!
    I got a good feeling when we were on the Wall very atmospheric!
    Will update Strickly after tonights results.
    Keep having FUN.
    Miss you both.
    Love Nan.

  2. John 25 Oct, 2010

    Sounds very busy, I hope you got some sleep in a right sized bed for once.
    Keep taking the pictures!
    BTW I owe Dan£10 as I finally took the boots back today.

  3. Rose 30 Oct, 2010

    Hi Both,

    All the pics are so interesting. Don’t like the sound of the rat or some of the unusual food items. I’d definitely give scorpions a miss. Good to see pics of Dan in his shorts and t shirt – must have been a lot warmer!


    Mum x x x

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