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Travel Story by Tom Mulloy

  A few days in the Chinese capital
Beijing, China

Chinese acrobats

It was time to board the train for the last leg of the Trans-Siberian journey to China. We dreaded to think who our cabin mates might be, but were relieved to find that it was a young British couple. On our 30-hour journey from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing there was the usual encounter with the border guards but they were quick and quiet this time. Before we could enter China the train had to make a quick stop at the bogie (train wheels) changing shed, as the Russian tracks are a bit wider than the international track standards! After a few hours of playing games of ‘paper, rock and scissors’ (fast becoming our favourite pastime), drinking tea and views of the Great Wall we finally arrived in Beijing.

After looking at the hostel's homemade map we thought it would be situated near the station. But after a few minutes walking and being bothered by touts (people offering hostel stays) we gave in to one Chinese guy who took us to our hostel in a really tiny motor rickshaw. It was like an upright coffin and just big enough for one person. Squashed in our seats with our rucksacks pressed against us, we only saw glimpses of the city through the rear window. Finally we arrived and were shown to our rooms. We were both keen to sample Chinese crispy aromatic duck but much to our disappointment it was slimy and covered in fat – never again! Feeling a bit queasy after our meal we were attracted to a pub with a very charming name, "Shut up, Just Drink!” Naturally we went in for a few beers.

We did the usual sightseeing tour of the Forbidden City and were amazed at its sheer size and the numerous temples. Seriously, how many temples does the emperor need! And of course, no trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Both of us decided to trek a section of the wall where there were few tourists. Here, the wall is left in its original condition. At the end of the day we were worn out with aching muscles that left us virtually unable to move the next day! A visit was made to Tiananmen Square and to Mao's mausoleum. This was rather interesting as we could compare it with the Lenin version. Two dead bodies and a cow so far!

We changed hostels in Beijing and moved to Saga hostel, which is much closer to the city. There we managed to book a train ticket to Shanghai as well as tickets to see the much-acclaimed Shaolin Warriors. But this turned out to be rather disappointing with it being more of a theatrical performance and not the fighting scenes Tom was expecting. Being in a central location gave us the opportunity to become regular visitors to the local Starbucks - their hot chocolate and café mocha were too good to miss!

The last day in Beijing was spent visiting the Blue Zoo, an aquarium. It was too small for our liking especially after seeing a turtle in a confined space with restricted movement. Then we got the overnight train for the 12-hour journey to Shanghai. We are used to long train journeys by now! But we shall return to Beijing to catch our flight to Hong Kong. So far, we have travelled more than a third of the globe over land!

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Click on photo to enlarge

Statue at the Forbidden City  Tom & Graham at the Great Wall  The Great Wall of China

Date Submitted: 28 Sep 2006

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