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More pictures of the Terracotta Warriors and the Pandas to come!! So keep a look out!!

Updated 20/12/2007

Eats shoots and leaves...!

 

We decided to use the local Bus to get to the Panda’s rather than buy the tour that the hostel was selling, much to the disgust of the staff at the hostel! We have tried to use public transport and avoid tours as much as possible, due to the fact they are normally a bit of a rip off and you end up being led around like sheep by the guides. The only one tour we have took so far was for the Warriors and at times we felt we were being rushed through certain sections that we might normally have taken more time in.

To get to the Pandas we had to get the number one bus to the main bus depot and then swap buses for the final 20 minutes ride to the Pandas. It didn’t help matters that the hostel had given us the wrong bus number for the 2nd bus…! With a bit of frantic hand signals from us and a few grunts from the locals we found the correct bus number!

 

The reserve is huge and they are in the process of making it larger due to the success of their breeding program. First of all you walk quite away through the bamboo path until you arrive at the 1st adult enclosure. The adults are a lot more sedate to the younger adults and take an enormous time and effort just to walk a few steps - so not exactly the quickest movers on the dance floor!. Apparently they were telling us that after all of the bamboo that they eat they only absorb 2% of their intake. The younger adults on the other hand are great fun to watch. We happened to arrive at feeding time and it was just amazing to watch the way they eat their copious amounts of bamboo. It was then onto the babies!!! Already in 2007 they have had 8 births and 10 cubs so there are big plans to make the reserve larger. The babies were hilarious and the cutest things ever, it’s amazing but when they are born they are only 1/1000 of the size of their mothers!

 

At the reserve there are also a good number of red pandas. The red pandas are definitely a lot quicker and great climbers as you will see from the photographs!

 

Our bus journey back to the hostel was definitely interesting as we seen our first dead body, and, may we say hopefully our last!! It’s not surprising really considering the roads here, the only surprising thing is that we haven’t seen more accidents. They just kept the body in the middle of the road for ages and were lighting candles around her. She had obviously been knocked of her motorbike because there were bits of the bike everywhere! And no we haven’t got any photos of this!

 

Last stop Kunming!

 

Chengdu’s train station was surprisingly a lot more civilized than the others we have traveled through and the train was dead posh, well posh in relation to what our standards are at now after traveling through China! On our arrival in Kunming we were pleasantly surprised to find that the temperature had gone up by about 20 degrees! They actually call Kunming ‘Spring City’ due to the fact everyday is like spring… it’s that nice we actually had our white legs out yesterday!

 

We have been in Kunming for 4 days now, which is just long enough to sort out our Vietnam visa. We picked it up today and we fly down to Saigon tomorrow, which means we will be on a beach for Christmas Day! Mui ne Beach to be exact! So once we are all settled in our beach bungalow we will be back on-line with some photos!

 

Vietnam here we come!!!  

 

Merry Christmas everyone, hope you all have a good one & enjoy eating your turkey while we eat our rice and noodles! We will be back in touch soon.

 

Loads of love Nic and Marc xxx

The amazing Panda!!
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Public Transport on the way to the Pandas!
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Just outside the Panda sanctuary!
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The bamboo trail on the way to the Pandas
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First sighting of the Giant Panda!
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Marc with the Giant Panda!
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1st sighting of the Red Panda!
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The Red Panda!
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We did'nt even know Red Pandas existed!!
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BABY PANDAS!!
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Updated 14/12/07

Well now we have finally got Japan updated on here we can start to fill you in with the sagas that have happened since arriving back in China.

 

We are writing this while sat on the overnight train in Xian train station waiting to leave for our 18 hour epic train journey to Chengdu and while were dying to dive right in and tell you about everything that has just happened now getting on this train we think it is probably best to start from the beginning when we first arrived bank into China through Shanghai…

 

Arriving back into China had its mixed blessings. The upside has to be the cost element and how cheap it is compared to Japan, however, and this is a big however even though the Japanese seem to be a completely different race than us you have to give it to them that they are among other things immensely polite and everything revolves around not loosing face. They are also obsessed with cleanliness (their cars are amazingly gleaming not just the majority of them but all of them; we didn’t see one unclean car!!). Everywhere was spotless, public areas, hostels, toilets and believe us it was a huge and pleasant surprise after being in Beijing!! One thing that was a bit odd is how they will not cross the road until the green man shows, green cross code and all that but hey you could be on the quietest road with not a sole in sight let alone any cars and they will stand and wait till the green man appears! We were going along with it at first but in the end it was a bit much!! It was quite funny to watch as all of the Japanese stood there waiting and then you would see a Westerner come out from nowhere and cross the road. Well it couldn’t be anymore different than it is here in China…! The streets in Shanghai are just as manic as they were in Beijing, the locals cross whenever they feel like, Cars ignore the lights and the Westerners run across with fear in their eyes! Where as Japan is packed full of social rules China on the face of it seems to have none! Everything is filthy dirty – the air, the toilets, the clothes and the people need to seriously sort out the spitting!! We have both never had our gag mechanism brought into action so often, but hey it’s bloody cheap!!! To be fair this country does hold some of the most amazing sites, which is either due to their vast history or their immense scenery. Where as Japan is a bit hard as English speakers to travel around, China is harder but everything we have seen so far has more than made up for that!

 

Shanghai

 

The amount of money they are spending on Shanghai at the moment is evident everywhere you look. As we travelled in on the local bus from the airport we could see how huge areas of the ram-shackled housing areas are being knocked down for the next wave of sky scrappers to be built. We got off the bus at People’s Square and then had to tackle the roads on foot for about a 15 minute walk to Nanjing Road. As it happens our hostel was right in the centre of things and behind the Marriott hotel. Other than tackling the roads we also had to tackle the guys trying to polish our shoes which was a bit ridiculous considering we were both wearing hiking trainers and were both carrying dirty big rucksacks, not really in the position to get our trainers polished! Every five or so feet we were walking these guys were trying to dive for our shoes! Its amazing how quickly on our return back to China that we become hard faced and just keep walking as they approach. It’s a case of every man for themselves and if you stop even to say ‘no thank you’ they have you there for about 10 minutes.

 

Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower

 

We went to the TV tower which they sell as being the highest in the world and from up there you can really get a perspective of the work going on around the city and great views of the Bund and River.

Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV tower
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View of Skyscrapers being built from the tower!
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View from the TV Tower!
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The museum of the history of Shanghai was the best museum we have seen in China and is on the bottom floor of the TV Tower. This is where they tell the story about the first Opium War and how, after the Brits won the battle the trade agreement was opened up. It also goes into depth about the huge influence that came from the British, of how Shanghai progressed and how they built the area of the Bund, incidentally at this time Hong Kong was also handed over to Britain. In this museum it seemed to be the first time that the Chinese might have asked a fluent English speaker to help with the translations on the descriptions of things as they actually made sense for a change. We couldn’t believe that in everywhere including the Forbidden City in Beijing the signs made no sense at all, in the end you kind of give up reading them and loose interest.

Did'nt like the look of this one!!!
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Nic at the Museum!
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After visiting the museum we walked across to the River to see the amazing views of the Bund!!

Nic at the Bund!
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View from the cafe down at the Bund
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Dragon boat across the River
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We actually got a monorail under the river which was a bit bizarre. At the ticket desk they call this a site seeing tour under the water but it just turned out to be a load of flashing lights to some daft music, each time we got to the next display of lights the speaker would say random words like Inter Galactic!! Anyway, it was a quick way to get us back over to the side of the river our hostel was on. We had planned to visit the British Consulate to sort out about going to Hong Kong. We realised, because we had a double entry Chinese visa and had already entered China twice (once from the UK and once from Japan) we would have to get another visa to get back into mainland china from Hong Kong because it works on another visa system. After finding the place we were only to find out it was or course Saturday and the place was closed!! It was a lovely place though and the guys that worked there must have the life of Riley.

 

We were getting the overnight train on Sunday to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors. The train didn’t leave until 8.45 pm. The Hatton flight in Las Vegas that was on at 4 am UK time was on at 12pm our time in Shanghai, so off we went to Big Bamboo, which is the Brit bar just behind the consulate to watch the fight. We got talking to lots of ex-pats that now live and work in Shanghai. They were telling us about the wages and info on working out in Shanghai and some of the pay packets these guys are on kind of gets you to think were working in the wrong country!! (Even so no amount of money would make us put up with life in China!).

Shanghai Train Station

 

What a hole of a place this was!!! We thought we were getting used to being stared at in the majority of the places we visited in China but here was a different ball game! We had to go into the waiting room first to sit and wait for our time to board the train. It was absolutely packed and it looked like people had been camped out there for the last few weeks waiting for their train to leave, there were bodies everywhere and when we walked in it appeared that we were going to be their entertainment for the next 40 minutes!! One women came over to ask for money from us, we think she was trying to point out that she only had a couple of fingers left on one hand, anyway, she was swiftly removed from our area by another passenger.

The toilets…! We really don’t know how to explain the toilets in Shanghai station to give them enough justice! Let’s just say that in the ladies side you had to roll up the bottom of your trousers! The smell was like nothing on this earth! The whole time while trying to cope with all of this we had everyone in the whole place watching our every move as if we were a pair of Aliens from outer space!! They seemed fascinated with everything we did even how we folded our trousers up to go to the loo! We’re sure they would have come into watch that as well given half the chance!!

 

While getting over our ordeal of the waiting room we made our way to the train to endure the 16 hour journey to Xian. The train was hilarious and again we find ourselves lost for words on how to really give it a good enough explanation that will let you know how it was! It’s bad but not that bad that we couldn’t do it again, it’s an amazing experience but not that amazing that we would want to do it on a regular basis!! Lets just say were so glad we have done it and we will probably have to do it a few more times before our journey is through in China but it’s one thing we wont be going out of our way to do again after our year is out!

The corridor runs along the left hand side of the train and the bunks are in sections of 6, so 3 beds on each side but there is no door or curtain separating the corridor to the beds so you constantly have people walking up and down the corridors while others are sleeping, the bags get put on the rails above the walkway. You can imagine our surprise when we got to our section and realised the women at the station had booked us in two separate areas! It was only the next one along but when you have to sleep with 5 other Chinese people who can’t speak a work of English and seem fascinated with your every move it’s a bit much. It’s hilarious now when we both look back and think what we both must have looked like when we realised where we were sleeping. The journey happened not to be too bad, but it was a definite case of making sure we booked the correct beds next time! We both had middle bunks as well so there was no real place to sit; we suppose that’s why you pay more for the bottom bunks because at least you can sit upright at the bottom. The middle bunk is so close to the top bunk and the top bunk is so close to the ceiling that there is not a chance of being in any other position other than lying down!! You live and learn and on our next train journey from Xian to Chengdu we got a bottom bunk and middle bunk so we could both sit together and take over the bottom bunk to stop anyone else sitting on it, which is what they do!! If your not asleep on your bottom bunk they come along and sit on your bed!! We managed to sleep which was the main thing and in the morning once they had opened the curtains the views outside of the towns and scenery we passed were amazing to see. We even passed some rocky hillsides where they were all living in caves!!

Once we got to Xian it was just by chance that one of the locals told us we had arrived otherwise we would have still been sat on there, or should we say lying down on there! We didn’t realise that Xian was just one of the stops and the train was actually carrying on from there!! We ended up jumping into a local taxi, as trying to find the bus number we needed was impossible as there was no rhyme nor reason of how the bus stops worked they went from number 2 to number 18 then back to number 5!! After the driver initially tried to rip us off and saying the cost would be 40RMB Marc told him we would go off the meter cost, which, when we got to the hostel happened to be 15RMB so just a bit cheaper!! The driver also tried to sell Marc his belt and his necklace… not bad considering the journey was only 5 minutes!

 

Terracotta Warriors

 

Since our arrival in Xian we had heard mixed reports about the warriors from other travellers but for us it was everything we were expecting and much more!!

 

We got the tour bus with a group of people staying at our hostel and it ended up being a really good group, we had a right laugh! On our first stop we were taken to Banpo Village which is a Neolithic village that was inhabited from about 4,500 b.c. It was amazing and our guide really explained about how they lived and built their houses.

Nic at the Official Terracotta Warriors Museum
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Burial site at Bampo
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Marc with some replica Wariors!!
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You can ship these home to have in your Garden!!

It was then onto the Warriors…! The warrior’s burial only makes up a small section of the tombs that they have found or know to be there. There is actually over 600 burial sites most of which they still don’t know the content of and haven’t got the resource yet to find out, plus they would have to re-locate a number of villages and factories to excavate it all. Emperor Quin Shi Huang’s tomb is in the middle of it all. All of the tombs including the Warriors had been put there by the orders of the Emperor before he died, to take with him in the next life. We drove passed his tomb on the way to the warriors and it is an absolutely huge man made hill. He was that much of a crackpot that he had actually ordered mercury to be pumped down there to portray the Yellow river! This is one of the reasons amongst a lot of others why they can’t dig up his tomb. From everything we learnt from our guide about the Emperor it resulted in us all thinking that this guy was a complete mad man and led by his fear of death!

Entrance to the Terracotta Warriors!
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First sight of the Terracotta Warriors!
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View from the side of the Tomb
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View from the back of the Tomb!
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Info on the Warriors
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Findings in the Second pit. Chariot and Horses!!
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Archer closeup!!
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Info on the construction of the Tombs!
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The Emperors Chariot!
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One
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Two
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Three
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The result. Silk Duvets
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It’s off to Chengdu now to see the Giant Panda so we will be back on in a few days time!

 

There are more pics to come but it takes a while to get them uploaded so keep an eye out...

 

Keep in touch its great to hear from everyone,

 

Take care & lots of love Marc & Nic xxx

Update 18/11/07

Hiya!
 
Okay were off to the airport now and we can pretty much say Beijing is well and truly done! or at least the parts we wanted to do...! Here are our last few days in Beijing, we will be back in touch when we arrive in the land of Samurai and Geisha!
 
Natural History Museum
 
This place is completly mad, it didnt help that we had about 60 cap wearing school kids running around at the same time. We did, however, manage to get in as students so that saved us a few bob - Tax dodgers eat your hearts out!!
 
This Museum holds Dinosaur skeletons etc. but, and this is a big but it also contains disected human bodies at every angle you would ever want to see or not want to see as the case maybe! sorry no photo's of this...
 

Prehistoric!!
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Nicosaurus!!
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All the way from Surrrrrrrrey!
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Doyouthinkhesaurus!
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There's something fishy around here!
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Dead as a DODO!
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Catch a little fishy...
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when the boat comes in!!

Temple of Heaven

From the Museum we walked to the Temple of Heaven. This is where the Emperors went to thank the gods of the previous harvest, pray for the next and sacrifice animals. The old architecture was amazing with the Temple of Heaven being built with no nails and it is all set in beautiful gardens, where we spotted locals performing Tai Chi, Old men flying kites and groups of people playing keep us with somthing made of feathers, which we ended up buying and as you will see from the photo's it is harder than it first looks, were sure we will have plenty of fun with it on the beaches of Thailand!!

Sacrificial Stove
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More stoves!
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Update 14/11/07

Ni Hao! (Hello!)
 
Sorry couldnt resist using some of our Mandarin! Nearly at the end of our visit to Beijing so thought we would update you with a few more of our days out. Weather has gone alot colder here since our arrival and it is now getting well and trully into Chinese Winter! As we mentioned earlier we were paying 2 pounds for all you can eat breakfast, well now we have been to a supermarket and we are paying about 2 pounds for our breakfast and lunch for the whole week, however, Marc still thinks this is too expensive and has learnt the local phrase for too expensive "tai gui le" which is pronounced two wheeller - typical Welsh Man!
 
Jing Shan - Coal Hill
 
This is directly behind the Forbidden City and is an artifical Hill that was built with the earth from the Palace moats in the 15th century. We happened to go on one of the best days as the sky was crystal clear, which is seldom not the case with the Smog! Due to the clear skys the views were amazing and they stretched right across Beijing. On entering we bought a corn on the cob off a street vendor, all the locals seem to be eating this stuff so we thought we would give it a go, as you will see from the photo it could definitely do with some butter!! While Marc tried the sweetcorn Nic tried on a local dress for size and  the local headdress nearly cut off her circulation!!

Tasteless 'Corn on the Cob' well impressed
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Chinese try on dress
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Nic tries on native dress and headwear!!
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Amazing views!!
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Nic in one of the towers with Sunset!
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Beihai Gongyuan (North Sea Park)

This was the winter residence of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Kahan but is now where the Bai ta stands which is a buddist shrine built in Tibetan style. This is directly across from Coal Hill and has a pretty beautiful lake and again great views across Beijing. Here we stumbled across a native Chinese flute player which could be heard all across the park which set the mood. As you will see from our pics we were lucky enough to just catch the sun set!

Nic climbing down from the buddist shrine
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Native Chinese lady in royal dress
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Walking past the imperial restaurant
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Too expensive for us backpackers

Another great sunset
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Map of park
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Acrobatics show
 
This place never cease's to amaze us... The theatre itself was a bit shabby but hey were used to it now after a few days in Beijing. We got quite good seats at the front of the theatre. The performance was great and we really enjoyed it, some of the things they are capable of is fantastic. No safety nets are used just pure faith in each other that if someone was to fall their mate would catch them!! Pretty impressive to say the least. The local chinese tourists also entertained us as all they do through the whole performance is smoke, spit and talk and as soon as the show is over they all get up immediately and file out - clapping and applauding at the end is not the done thing! Well worth the visit.

The show
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Flying through the air!
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The Acrobats
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In amongst the crowd
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The Silk Market
 
Good Lord its cheap!!
 
We are not joking, we have never been anywhere like this where you can pick up so many bargains. At first they try to rip you off but with a bit of bartering!! "TOO WHEELER, TOO WHEELER!!" you can get things at a snip and with the exchange rate at 15 yuan to the pound it's shopping heaven. This would be the place to come to get all your Christmas presents and cloths for the year! Marc used his bartering skills and managed to get a pair of much needed trainers for 225 Yuan bartered down from 1500 Yuan.
After the silk market we caught the subway to one of the Chinese malls in Xidan called Parkson. We didnt go to shop but to try the food court on the top floor which we had heard was good and we were not dissapointed!! Probably the best chinese we have had since arriving.

The Summer Palace
 
Apart from the Wall this is probably the best thing we have seen so far, though, keep in mind we are still yet to go to the Forbidden city. One of the people we are sharing the dorm with is Jo. Jo ws going to the Summer Palce on the same day so we decided to go together. We decided to make the most of the public transport rather than travel on the tours and it saved us a fortune plus we got to see a great deal more of local life. We got on the underground which costs 2 Yuan. This is the price to anywhere on the subway map.

Trying to navigate the Beijing subway!
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This took us to a certain point and then we had to jump on a local bus for about 1 hour to the Summer Palace. We knew what bus number we needed but unfortunatley there always seems to be two buses with the same number and they dont always go to the same place - confusing or what!! We asked one of the locals in the queue which one was correct, in the end he understood and put us in the right spot to catch the correct bus, the hillarious part however was he seemed to have told the whole bus stop about our question and from that point the whole bus stop which was about 50 people strong was determined to get us onto the correct bus so there was no way we were going to the wrong place!! We got to the Summer Palace and it was amazing, it is built around Kunming lake. The story of the place is fasinating and the views as you will hopefully see from the pics are amazing and we can now understand why the emperors had this as their summer retreat. The main story was about Empress Cixi who from the sounds of it did'nt do much leading of her country but just spent her time excepting gift from foreign dignitries and living it up at the Summer Palace... Sounds good to us!

This was built for Cixi to go shopping
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Great view of Kunming lake
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View of lake
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Another view of Lake!!
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The Summer Palace
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This is a Mercedes Benz!!
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The first car in China

The Theatre
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We were lucky enough to see a show!!
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View from across the lake!
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View from the Bridge
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This is a great place!!

The journey back was not as simple and after numerous dashes from one side of the road to the other while locals laughed at us we got the correct bus. It was completly manic as it was rush hour( it should be called rush hour's as it does'nt just last for 1 hour more like 5!!) and the locals just keep pileling on until the doors literally wont close until it takes someone on the outside to push the doors together, needless to say we did'nt pay on this trip as there was no way the conductor could breath let alone collect money!!
 
Jo heard of a great restaurant known as the Mao restaurant (With pics of him on the wall) just by our hostel so we decided to try it before going back for the night, it was what we can only describe as a shack in the middle of the Hutong - lets just say it was'nt the cleanest and all the locals eating in there were spitting on the floor!! This is one of the things we havent yet wrote about on the site...Everyone and we mean everyone, girls included spit and not just little quiet spits they really go for it and the sound is enough to knock you sick, it seemes to be the thing to do and is just accepted, we suppose with the way the smog gets on your throat its the way they cope with it!! One guy sat on our table first started by spitting his fish bones out on a plate then finished off with a spit on the floor. To be fair the meal was really nice and well cooked so we can only hope that our stomachs agree!!

The Menu. Lovelly bit of dog!!
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Duck heads!!
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The Hutong experience
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Forbidden City
 
We walked to the Forbidden City today, which as we have mentioned is just 15 minutes walk from our hostel, we were going to see Mao's Mausoleum as well but when we got to Tian'anmen square the queue to get in was right around the square plus they dont let you in with any bags or any cameras so you have to queue in another area first to drop your things off so we decided to come back to this on another day.

They love a huddle!
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Queue outside the Mausoleum

On arrival at the Forbidden City you have to first walk through the first city gates (Meridian gate) and across the court yard at this point you are actually in the city, but do not have to pay to get this far. It's a bit of a nightmare here due to the fact that nobody pays to get this far it is full of local guys trying to sell tours, hats, brochures and other such tat, it wouldnt be so bad but they dont just offer it to you they literally follow you and push it under your nose!!

Outside one of the gates
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Tian'anmen Square
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Mao in the background - entry to Forbidden city
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Walk into the city
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Crowds outside the entry gate
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Here we got talking to a couple of Chinese students. They explained loads about the history of China and how good it is for them now. They were holding an arts expedition in the forbidden city. We went to have a look at there work and found out so much. We managed to buy a couple of paintings for next to nothing and also a traditional scroll with chinese calligraphy which was written out in front of us.

The student artists!
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We got to the ticket office at about 10:30am and went straight to the front as there was no queue, it seems all of the chinese tourists get to any tourist attraction first thing and this is when it is most hectic!! The key to seeing any of the tourist attractions in Beijing is not to get stuck behind any of the huge group tours of Chinese, they all wear their chosen colour hats and there are approximatly about 50 people following a flag held by the tour guide. We decided against the headphone tour as everyone we have spoken to say it is pointless. The various rooms at the Forbidden City hold some of the treasures that have been collected by various Dynasties and are great to see. For instance the weapons of war - said to be dated, compared to the westerns weapons during the opium wars and gifts given by westeners such as a replica of the first ever caluclator. Some things are dated 216AD such as the jade artifacts and such like. They say that there are millions of artifacts here not on show, but what was on show gives you a real insight into the history!!

Inside one of the rooms
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Enjoying a sit down at a historical table
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The love tree!!
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Rocky building in the middle of Forbidden city
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Update 09/11/07

Hi Everyone!
 
Many thanks for all your messages, it's great to hear from you!
 
Well it's been hectic over the last few days to say the least. The Sun has had it's hat on since Thursday so we have been able to wear T-shirts while out and about. We have moved into the dorm rooms now with 4 other people and so far so good! We did worry that we might not be able to sleep at first but with what we are up to in the day we fall to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow! But to be honest the dorms and facilities are really good. Anyway, here is the Wall! We will be back on with other stuff we have been up to in the next couple of days...
The Great Wall
 
We had met Clare & Graeme from Newcastle the night before and had a few drinks with them in the bar...! Not a great idea considering we were up at 5.30am to catch the bus to the wall, but well worth the hangover as we had a great night!
 
So off we went with our hangovers to the stretch of the wall called Jinshanlin to Simitai. It took about three and half hours on the bus but there was plenty to see and a few other people who were doing the same as us to keep us occupied for the drive. We decided on this stretch of the wall as we had heard that it was a lot less commercialised than other parts of the wall and would'nt contain such things as tacky souvenirs shops and coffee shops, however, one thing it did contain is a 10K hike!!! We were given 3 hours to make it from Jinshanlin to Simitai which like we say is 10K and were not talking about any old 10K, this was your heart attack type of 10K!!!! To paint the picture there was sections where we were both on all fours due to the steep incline, the fact that the sides of the wall had crumbled away and vertigo playing a factor. Looking back now and as we both sit here and discuss this while typing, it is quite comical to look back and we must have both looked hilarious but at the time the most we could do was concentrate on getting to the next watch tower in one piece!
We hope the pics do it justice, but were not sure what we are writing here or the pictures we took will explain anywhere near what it was like. Everything about it was mind blowing and the thought that this wall was built in 1376 and the fact it was even built at all is hard to believe...But here are a few pics as an insight of what we went through!

Starting Gate
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Enthusiastic beginning!
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First Glimpse of the Wall
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Looking brave and the wall intacked
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Nic unaware of what is ahead!
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I can see the pub from here!
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The new Health and Safety inspector!
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The wall has suddenly started to take its toll!
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Thought we were nearly there.....think again!
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Knackered but loving it!
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Vertigo has set in but no way back!! AAAAAH
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Oh my god where has the wall gone!
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The end is near!!
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Down into the Gorge!
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A bridge crossing just to top off the day!!
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Update 07/11/07

Day 1

Well what a first night!! To kick things off we arrived at check-in only to find out BA had cancelled our Manchester Heathrow connection.....Once we managed to get thier arses into gear and get us on the next British Midland flight available it only left 1 hour connecting time to hot foot it from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4!! Well I suppose we wanted to get fit... We made it of course but unfortunatley we were to find out 10 and a half hours later that our backpacks were not as lucky! We would like to say, hoewever, that the London to Beijing flight was fantastic and BA were great on-board, we both slept pretty much the whole way and managed to get at least one movie in (Die Hard 4!). Not to wake everyone up, everyone had been warned at the begining of the flight to keep our visors down as it would be getting light quite early, anyhow, we both couldnt resist a quick peep, we probably woke the whole section of our plane, but hey it was worth it, to our suprise we were just flying over what we now know was Ulan Bator in Mongolia and its mountains and the view was out of this world!
 

Ready to depart!!
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Well after the 9 hour 45 minute flight we landed in Beijing. The temperature is very simular to home except for the one big difference which is the mist or should we say Smog, which, is a permanent fixture, but somehow adds to the atomosphere in the centre of the city. Customs was really straight forward and once we had managed to battle our way through the hoards of Chinese tourists, we passed through with our visas with no hassle. We then travelled down to Luggage collection and noticed a loverly Chinese man holding a board with our names on!! Our first thoughts were, shit, someone has gone and booked us a private transfer to the Hostel.... yeah right, how wrong were we! Aparantely the 1 hour connecting time was long enough for us to make it but unfortunatly not our rucksacks... We spent probably about 30 minutes in a back office sorting it out. The staff were fantastic and really on the ball plus it was a quick way to make 70 pounds in compensation which we were given from BA, we are now both trying to devise a cunning plan on how to loose our luggage on every flight so BA end up funding our whole Trip!!

We've been assured that the Rucksacks will be delivered to our hostel at some point today... We are not holding our breath!

Once we got ourselves out of the airport we had the job of getting on shuttle bus number 2, which, the locals seemed to find quite amusing as we seemed the only two Westerners that had'nt just jumped into cabs... It was great fun and we got to see loads of the surronding areas of Beijing. There was one snag, once we got to the last stop we were supposed to jump into a cab for a quick ride to the hostel, however, the cab drivers had a different idea!! Because the address of the Hostel that we had been given was in English none of the drivers knew what we were talking about and just looked at us as if we both had three heads.... The upside was that there was a KFC at the side of the road and as we were both starving and in a bit of a pickle we decided and made a deal that this was the only time we would eat American Fast Food! Anyway, it was really nice and a snip at 2 pound for the whole meal (I cant believe the first food review we are giving you is a KFC, we promise it will get better!!) Stomach full we decided to go and tackle the lovely taxi drivers again. We managed to get a women driver on the second attempt and she sorted us out by ringing the hostel and getting the chinese version of the address.

Room with a view
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Marc with a choice of top notch bikes
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Our hostel which is called The Far East Hostel is right in the middle of the old Hutongs (the last remaining part of old Beijing, the small Alley ways are where the locals live and sell their wares... This is the real Beijing!!). We were taken to our room, which, for the first 2 nights we have splashed out and booked a double private room with a private shower and toilet, for only 12 pound a night it was well worth it just to get us settled in and without any clothes etc. we didnt feel much like bunking up with 12 other people...
Nic exploring the Hutongs
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We put the few things we had in the room and then went to explore the streets of Beijing. The main streets are completely manic as there seems to be no rules on where cars & bikes can go - lets just say eyes in the back of our heads would come in handy! It is defenitly going to be interesting next year when they hold the olympics to see how they will cope with thousands of Westerners decending on the City.
 
We found a traditional Tea House in one of the Hutongs, they gave us Jasmine Tea to try, it was that nice we bought some, along with a tea strainer so we can now have some on our travels.

Nic with funny looking dog
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We decided to walk down to Tian'anmen Square so to get our bearings as the square is smack bank in the centre of the city. The streets also have a certain smell that wafts up every so often which leads us to think they hav'nt got the best drainage system!! On the whole the people we stop to talk too and ask directions are all really friendly and if they can speak English they are more than happy and go out of thier way to help. One lady even offered us to get into her taxi and she would take us to the Square, however, we decided to keep on walking so we could take in as much as possible. We also used one of the public toilets, which, amounts to just a whole in the floor, but at least their clean (tip to anyone travelling to China, bring toilet paper, everyone here must walk around with it in their pockets becasue they sure as hell dont have any in the toilets! On the way to the square we started to get hungry so decided to eat in one of the local restaurants, it was the most hilarious experience either of us have ever had in a restaurant. The first waitress came over and didnt really know what we were going on about so she called her friend over who spoke a little more English. By the time we ordered we must have had about 5 waitresses tryinig to help. We ordered what we hoped was going to be Roast Duck and can you belive we couldnt even explain what Rice is in China!!! So we just went with the Duck Dish... We didnt hold up much hope we were going to get the exact dish as all 5 waitresses all walked away with a puzzled and bemused look on thier faces as we frantically looked for the word Rice in our guide book!!

Marc checking out the local delicacies
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We were quick to leave here as we must looked like aliens from outerspace!!

Lovely Duck BONES
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Lovely Grub

It didnt take long and they were back out with a huge dish of Duck, which was placed in the centre of the table. On first inspection all looked well and we were quite chuffed with ourselves for ordering the correct dish, however, as we started to tuck into the dish we realised it was Duck Bones with the tinyest pieces of meat on the bone plus quite a lot of big pieces of Duck Skin!! The meat itself was lovelly but there was not alot of it. The waitress kept coming over to stir the dish as it was on top of a candle, she still looked at us in that bemused way, needless to say we didnt eat a great deal, looking back now the only thing we can think of is that they normally eat this dish with their hands... We couldnt help but notice what other people were eating - the majority were going for fish and actually picking the live fish out of the tanks in the Restaurant.. there were tanks with Terapins and Toads and this was also on the menu, Gross or what!! They actually served the Terapin with the shell still attached..! As we were trying once again to explain something to the waitress the Terapin attacked one of the Toads grabbing hold of the toad with its mouth and whacking it against the tank. The waitress seemed quite distraught that we had witnessed this!! I think it was at this point that we both got the fit of the giggles and couldnt stop laughing, I think it was a case of "could the day get anymore bizzare!! On leaving the restaurant it was dark with very little street lights, apart from the hundred of streeet cafes and food stalls...

Beijing at Night
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Beijing at Night
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Night falls
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We then walked back to the Hostel bar and had a few drinks to try and stay awake as late a possible to fit in with the time Zone. We found a great little bar across the road from the Hostel. Here we found a friedley welcome and some great new friends. There was a good crowd of fellow backpackers who we got to know and had a good sing along at the end with a guitar strumming and a good end to a manic but eventful day!

Well deserved Beijing Draft beer
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Met some fellow backpackers!!
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Sing song
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That's all for now Folkes, will be back on when we get the chance to get back on-line.
 
Love Marc & Nic x
 
P.S Have now received our backpacks.. WOOHOO!

The Bags
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We re-enter after Japan on ..

Fri 7 December 2007, 12:15

The only things in life you regret are the things you don't do!