Sparky Travels

December 1, 2009

Beijing pt1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 10:55 am

I arrived in Beijing’s humongous West Train Station at 10:30am on the 28th and caught the bus into the centre of town, just south of Tienanmen Square. I followed the scribbled directions from the Irish guys who recommended the hostel and checked in. Breakfast was an American cooked breakfast from the hostel, quickly followed by a nap. I awoke 3 hours later feeling like I could do with another 3 hours sleep but got up and went for a stroll round. Tienanmen Square was closed for the national flag raising the following day so I walk round the outside and took some photos of Mao’s picture hanging across the Gate Of Heavenly Peace.

Heavenly Gate

Heavenly Gate

Dinner consisted of some baozi and spicey rabbit kebabs (sold at a stall close to the hostel and really tasty). I aimed to do some of my blog but ended up watching Zodiac with an Aussie called Angus and his Dutch friend (Magdalene IIRC). Its a decent film, expertly directed by David Fincher but extremely long and - obviously - has an unsatisfactory ending.

The next day I headed out to start my sightseeing. The closest and easiest destination was the Forbidden City which dominates the area north of Tienanmen Square.  Some say that you need 2 days to fully explore the collection of Emperor’s palaces and residences but I managed to cover most of it in 4 hours. It would only take 2 days if you forward-rolled your way around while copying down the descriptions. I could have filled a day by looking at every exhibit and paying to go into the Treasure Museum within the grounds but by the time it was close to closing time I’d seen enough. I think temple (or palace in this case) fatigue has set in again which is quite timely given that there wont be much of such things in Australia. Its an impressive place nonetheless and the clock museum was worth the extra admission fee. Its another place that seems slightly too well renovated.  On the other hand, the bright decor makes it photogenic and it is certainly good value for the 40 Yuan entrance fee (£4).
I spent the evening partly doing my blog but mainly chatting to an Indian/Canadian guy who works in China.

30th Nov

After a late start Angus, Magdalene and I headed along to the 798 art district in North East Beijing for a bit of culture. The district is an old industrial block of warehouses and vfactories that has been taken over by the Beijing art scene. There are over 100 galleries and workshops alongside trendy bars and restaurants. We strolled from gallery to gallery appreciating and ridiculing the various works on display. Most of it was very good and equal to western art. It was also surprisingly subversive with interesting takes on Mao, government control and corruption. It was well worth the hour each way on crowded public transport and if we hadn’t been penniless backpackers I’m sure the bars and restaurants would have been good places to hang out.

I love art

I love art

I swapped underground lines on the way back and headed to a hostel that I’d heard ran good Great Wall tours. Beijing Downtown Backpackers is situated in a charming hutong north of the Forbidden City, resembling Carnaby strret in London. I was tempted to move there but the 50% difference in price and 30 minute walk to the nearest tube put me off. They did have daily trips to the Great Wall so I booked for the next day. As I headed back to the tube station I passed a fish and chip shop and realising it was St Andrew’s Day I couldn’t help but go in. Soon I was walking along the road munching a fish supper. It was really tasty with the right amount of grease, chips that were just soggy enough and tasty cod covered in perfect batter. I’ve had worse chippies back home. It was £3.50 mind you and lacked an orange carbonated soft drink but beggars can’t be choosers.

I didn’t manage to get to bed until midnight after buying food for the next day, sorting out my bag and chatting to my dormmate. Not ideal when you have to leave the hostel at 5am.

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