Friday, 9 June 2017

Chiiina Part 5

Our first sleep in Beijing on the firmest mattress yet is wonderful - I WANT one!! This morning we head to Tiananmen Square, where we are warned of undercover police, so we should watch what we say. It's quite stunning that our guide pretty much says "We were told of the death of one female student, and if you have any alternate knowledge, please don't tell us. (Wikipedia mentions, to my horror, hundreds, if not thousands, of fatalities!!) We are initially underwhelmed with the square itself, until we realise that we are simply standing on one wing of it. Mao's Mausoleum building occupies the centre, so it is infinitely bigger than we first imagine.  We travel underground to the Forbidden City, which goes on, and on, and on, and on.......
Tiananmen Square

A photoshoot with the locals

Andy and the flag!
Forbidden City

The Dan and Dianne Dynasty
We have another very Westernised lunch at a local hotel restaurant, although a school group also descends upon some tables like a flock of starlings,  chanting a prayer before they are released upon their meal!! We spend an enjoyable afternoon with a small selection of the tour group, drinking random finds from the shop across the road!
We have a wine in the bar, with the accompanying plate of delicious peanuts,  before Summer meets us and takes us around the corner to dinner, which is very nice with just 5 of us, and full of chilli!! (The majority of the tour is heading out to see a Kung Fu performance - we just wanted some down time!)
Carts on the street
We leave early the next morning for our 2 hour drive to The Great Wall of China, which turn out to be the unexpected highlight for many of us!  I fortify myself with a pork dumpling and red bean Danish - my word, they know how to make proper pastry here!! We are one of the first tour buses there, which gives us unimpeded access to the Wall. It was a very steep climb, and by Tower 4/6, I was feeling quite lightheaded and had run out of water, so headed back down, meeting Matt at Tower 1 - good work!!
Here I go!
Mr Studebaker contemplates the task
Lunch at the Jade Factory restaurant
 Feeling quite done in, I snooze on Matt's shoulder on the way to the Jade Factory. I'm not really interested in the quite plain and very expensive jewellery, but treat it more like a gallery, perusing all the intricate carving displayed around the perimeter. Unfortunately, one particular sales lady keeps following me and offering me jewellery.... We lunch at the restaurant there, with the highlight for me being the red bean paste spring rolls. After more sleeps on the bus, we arrive at the Summer Palace, which is teeming with people. I need a little convincing to keep moving, but make it down the path to see the marble boat, after a few sit-downs along the way....
Summer Palace Lake

Marble boat
Back on the bus to travel 40 minutes to see the acrobatic show - Matt is keen to keep sleeping, but I have a suspicion this is going to be quite good, and am not disappointed! In particular, the ball of death, where apparently 3 motorbikes circling is the norm, and this troupe manages to fit in 6!!! Astonishing! After a quick refresh, we walk around to our final dinner, and climb 3 sets of stairs (noooooooo!) to a dining room in the restaurant we were in the night before. Many dishes are served, but I await the Peking Duck - oh, Om nom NOM!!! I have about 6 pancakes worth - hey, when am I ever going to eat Peking Duck in Beijing again?!!

After a farewell to all our companions in the lobby we head to bed, to prepare for our 4:30am departure. Summer meets us and puts us into our car to the airport with a bag of provisions for each of us. At midnight we are back in our house, wondering if it was all just an elaborate dream....

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