The Olympics, crowds and then where did all the people go?
19.08.2008 - 23.08.2008 28 °C
Again we failed to find INTERNET in a major city so here is Beijing but a little late.
We ended up getting to Beijing by bus as the train was full. Pleasant enough journey, but then we had to get ourselves across town. The Olympic helpers, although they didn't really speak much english found us a taxi that took us to the subway. After much confusion we ended up with a ticket, why the need for the confusion I'll never know as all tickets no matter how far you were going were two Yuan. But never mind we made it to Gaobaidian the village we were staying in with our family. However we had no directions and no idea where we were going. Thankfully the friendly transport policeman found us and took us to his office where he called Ivy and she came to show us to our family. The house was ok, I think they had done it up expecting lots of olympic guests, but as far as we could tell we were the first ones they had had. Many people had pulled out as the hotel prices had dropped after lots of people struggled to get visas so couldn't go to china.
Our first morning in Beijing didn't go as planned. While attempting to ask for a laundrette the lady decided it would be better if we washed our clothes at her house (all this by sign language as she spoke no english). So the first two hours were spent hand washing our clothes (and in Brendas case dying her new top red).
We finally escaped and made it to Tiananmen square which is olympic mad
and packed. We decided to go on Olympic Team visiting day, and had we seen anything other than chinese weighlifters we may have spotted someone we knew but never mind. The Forbidden City (across the road) was also packed but we wandered round with the GPS triggered audio guide, I think its all been upgraded since I was there many years ago. It was as I remembered it, but there were some good hats around.
In the evening we found a street which was packed (like the rest of Beijing) but all the shops were empty, it was really strange and rather than eating in the only occupied shop (20USD beijing duck) we found a side street with prices more to our liking.
We then went to see an Acrobatics show. It was great. So many people on one bike and guys bending and flying around all over the place. It was however the first place we've been to that banned photography, probably to make you buy the program afterwards which I did. Then promptly lost it as the little woman we were staying with thought it was for her and ran off with it. Later that evening Brenda spotted it so I decided to steal it back (not very nice I know but I had no way of getting anotherone). However my career in stealing stuff probably would be short as I thudded across the house in my flipflops (thankfully everyone was asleep or out).
The second day it was raining very hard (several roads flooded if you saw the 50K walk you'll know what I mean), but we were running out of time and decided to head to the wall anyway. 4 hours of subway, buses and a taxi and we made it to Simatai, which is 120 km north of Beijing. It also happened to be dry. We were a little confused as it was empty, after the crowds of Beijing we were expecting to see someone else there, but we walked to the cable car, rode that for 30 minutes, got the train up and walked the final section without seeing anyone. There were lots of "farmers" who became our guides, I decided to walk the final section to the wall as fast as I could to lose him, but despite sounding like he was going to collapse he kept up (I must have had full fat coke before running up). He then lead us from watch tower 8 to 16. It was a tad steep in places and you couldn't go beyond 16 as it was too dangerous. Surprisingly we saw a couple of other people up there too, but no where near as many as we had seen on the TV a couple of days before. It was a little misty though
You may notice from our clothes that we were once again in T-shirts and shorts and it was hot again.
Our final day in Beijing started as ever with breakfast. Our little lady was trying everything for us, including poisoning Brenda with peanuts. Even showing her the "I'm allergic to peanuts" chinese in my book made her smile with delight. The dumplings were pretty good, but the random stuff covered it what could be blood and odd meat that looked like dog food didn't go down so well.
We rushed around, sent stuff home, despite what the ,lonely planet says the post office was really helpful, having made space in my bag I then bought some new jumpers for Mongolia. No old markets it all seemed very new, but you had to haggle hard, they started at stupid prices for T-shirts like 600yuan and if you stuck to it you could get them down to 30. It was also olympic visiting day here too and loads of people in sports kit were walking round. I think i hit the Olympic official from Ethiopia with my bag, oops.
We also got into the spirit of the olympics
We headed back to our village for lunch, ordered what we wanted with no english being spoken and then made complete idiots of ourselves by throwing the noodles into the pot of boiling water as they came. How were we meant to know you were supposed to stretch them first.
Finally we got to see the olympic venues. We walked past the birds nest, pool and onto the hockey site.
We saw two matches, Argentina Germany didn't draw in many supporters which was a shame, and I managed to support the losers!! Then time to whip out my tasteful orange shirt to support Holland. An inspired purchase from the wall.
It was a good game, lots of cheering for both sides and Holland won.
The medal ceremony
We then headed home, it took ages, the problem of staying out of the centre of Beijing. We we home by 12 and up at 5 for the train.
We were on train K23 to UlaanBaatar it was the smartest train yet. There were TVs and everything (but the films were dubbed into french). ue to lack of sleep I spent much of the 30 hours sleeping, or watching the world go by. But will continue mongolia shortly.