These past few days we have checked out the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, The Great Wall, Olympic Park and floated out into the lake in Beihai park with a case of beers.
The Summer Palace was a massive highlight of Beijing, the place is vast and absolutely beautiful. With crazy bridges, temples, canals all based around a central lake. I personally rated it more than the forbidden city, mainly because the shear scale of the place disperses all the visitors.
The next site to tick off was the big one, The Great Wall. Michael had already been and claimed it ‘just a wall’, so it was just Julia and I heading. With a bit of persuasion I got Julia to come and try doing the wall public transport style rather than paying for a tour. I did a bit of research then we went to try and find where the bus left from at 7am the next morning. It was a frustrating evening walking round in circles, using the apple stores phones to try work out where to head and basically not getting anywhere.
I did more searching when we got in and was fairly confident where to go the next morning, so alarms were set for 5:30; at least Julia’s was, I forgot to turn mine on for the right day so was shaken awake and dressed very hurriedly.
Yaay! We made it to the bus terminal. Boooo, locals try to decieve you to get your money..
There are only two local buses that go directly to the great wall at 7 and 8:30, we arrived at 6:50 to see a small contingent of tourists all going for the local method. The bus we thought was ours pulled up and we went to get on, one of the other bus drivers was there and told us the route had changed and that bus no longer went to the great wall, there was much confusion and even when I showed the bus driver the Chinese I’d gotten written asking if the bus went to the great wall he feigned ignorance. We couldn’t decide and ended up not getting on. This meant we ended up on the bus of the other driver, whose route finished near the wall, but we then had to get a taxi to the final location with his mate. I was kicking myself as I should have known, but when someone working for the bus company tells you the bus doesn’t go to the wall it’s too easy to be swayed. The taxi was only £2 so not really a big deal, but it’s more the principal.
I’d planned a rough route from our arrival at the restored Mutiany section of the wall out towards Jiankou, which would take us out passed the tourist boundary and onto the ‘wild wall’, unrestored crumbling and overgrown.
The restored section was lovely, with great views, but as Michael correctly put it, it is just a wall. The real highlight was the wild section, that had us walking across narrow ledges and climbing up through gaps in the broken towers to venture onwards. The views after a few hours hiking were epic, the wall snaking out through valleys and over hills in each direction. After celebratory beers at the highest section we headed back before taking the incredibly touristy, but also insanely fun, toboggan track down. We dodged all the touts on our way back to the bus stop and journeyed smoothly back to Beijing.
We needed a fairly relaxing day yesterday after the long wall day. We headed out to Beihai park, rented a boat, drove to the middle of the lake and cut the engine to chill over a few beers with an epic temple as the back drop. We headed back via the Olympic Park and got our food from the local night market.
I’ve jumped right in with the food, lots of eating from stalls and going into the local restaurants. Michael is almost fluent in Chinese so that was a big help and let him inform me when I was trying sheep gut. I didn’t fancy any spider or starfish on a skewer though and apparently they’re just for tourists, locals don’t really eat that. Noodles is easily the most common food, served hot or cold, in broths or with sauce, it is everywhere. Normally quite oily and spicy, they go down a treat.
The people here are the polar opposite of the Japanese. They can easily come across as rude and pushy and I imagine a fair few actually are. They have habits like spitting everywhere or burping as and when they please that makes me cringe, but these are also people who enjoy group dancing in the squares every night and choose English nicknames like Lemon and Strawberry. It is also the country I have come across with the least English, I make sure that I have Chinese written down when trying to catch buses, otherwise I could end up pretty much anywhere!
Michael, Julia and I sadly parted ways this morning all headed off in different directions. I’m currently on a very nice bus to Datong, passing through some pretty awesome scenery including more sections of the wall. I arrived at the large bus terminal without a ticket to find out the next bus was in five minutes or I had a 90 minute wait. I ran through security to jump on, the ticket guy took my ticket, I threw my bag in and climbed onto the bus. A minute later the ticket man got on, saw me and quickly ushered me out and into the much larger coach next to the bus that I was supposed to be on, much to the locals amusement and my relief. My two week overland journey down to Xi’an begins!