We are now officially in China! Yey. We are also wide awake and nearly on local time, which has taken the combined efforts of Jo kicking me to keep me awake and my own renowned will to stay awake when I am close to a meal time. The weather is inclement, but that is okay as we weren't planning on doing much in Beijing this month - activities in the capital commence toward the end of the trip as we are flying out of Beijing on 26th September.
My humblest apologies for my literary skills by the way, especially those exhibited in the last e-mail. Please send any complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will be promptly dealt with.
Anyway, it is now Sunday and we are leaving the glorious heavenly capital tonight at 2230hrs to go to a town called Tofu (Qufu shurely?) where Confucius was born and died. We haven't done much here, at least not much to talk about, but we do seem to keep busy for most of the day. Let us explain.
On arrival we decided it would be a great idea to go across Beijing by public transport in order to avoid the expense of getting a rip off cab from the airport. We travelled by Bus, then by tube, then by cheap cab (10p/km) to the hotel. The Dabao is a fantastic place, and about 4 times as expensive as the hotels we plan to use for the rest of the trip. This expense was well worth it though, as our room not only had a fridge in it, but was also the temperature inside was like a fridge. Unbelievably, all the knobs and switches on our bedside command and control centre - for the first time in a hotel ever - did something.
Jo is backseat driving this missive, so I will reliquish control to her now:
Jo: Err, dunno what to say now -it's always so much easier from behind...
We have actually done quite a lot, crossing central Beijing three times by Public Transport on the first day for example. An interesting observation arose from this activity, for it seems that driving on roads which have only (and rather boringly I think) an integer number of lanes is a nasty British habit, and the Chinese have discovered the freedom of decimal lanes. We drove all the way to our hotel in the 3.25 lane, which straddles the third and fourth (obviously) and affords the driver rather more options. Inneresting.
That was most of the first day taken up. Spent the evening playing backgammon and eating in our v. v. friendly hotel restaurant. Ed has discovered the Chinese equivalent of a nice piece of buttered toast; the ubiquitous egg-fried rice. So we ate a lot of that and collapsed at about 9.30pm.
Yesterday we awoke at 5am and trotted out into a delightfully cool and fresh Beijing. We hopped into the centre of town for breakfast, which we ended up eating in McDonalds, which was the only place open I stress. Then we hauled ass over to Jingshan park which is where the last Ming Emperor topped himself (work-related stress I understand) and settled down amongst hordes of people patting themselves and yodelling, which passes for morning exercise here. We sat down at a little table and were just relaxing when a couple of people parked themselves on some rocks above us and started shouting their morning 'hai's', somewhat startling.
Ed: Jingshan park, I might add was rather picture sque compared to Behei park, the one next door which we visited before lunch. Behei is very pretty with an island and a lake around it, yet it has transmogrified recently into the venue for a permanent crappy travelling fairground type thing. Being there on a Saturday, the place was packed with people, which meant that all the picture sque swan pedaloes were out for the day. The upside of the park being there meant that we could play Mash-a-Mouse for a bit to kill some time (winning two bracelets for our display of mouse mashing skill I might add) and we could also drive model radio control put-put boats around a little part of the lake. V. fun.
Getting hungry, Jo and I decided that it would be nice to go to the little restaurant where I first had supper in China, near Tiananmen square. I was assured this was only a small walk away. Tiananmen square was a medium walk away, but we ended up on the wrong side of it, so the restaurant was quite a long way away. We ended up walking 14km around the city that day.
Visiting Confucius old school type place in the afternoon, I fell asleep and Jo did some vocab (learning the words for things like "turn left here!" - a phrase that we quickly found out neither of us knew after assuring one taxi driver that we would direct him to our hotel.) (I've remembered it now -Jo).
Sushi conveyor belt supper and the start of a rainy period that persists to this very moment left morale a little low - especially after subjecting ourselves to chinese tourist television. We went to Deli France this morning (Sunday) to eat croissants and mini pizzas and drink proper coffee. The bill came to 36 yuan (3 quid). If I was a chinaman working a normal wage, that is equivalent to spending twenty pounds on a breakfast, so naturally it was really really tasty. Off to look at wrecked US spy planes in the military museum now, and I am going to buy a notebook and pen so I can plan these diary entries a bit more (enough rambling anecdotes for now -ed).
Since last diary entry, we have decided to keep better track of which events we think would be interesting, which might mean that this just reads like a long list of things we have done. Tough. This is a hard job.
War museum - water flood - big missiles - go chinese trip - massive building (try harder -ed).
To be a little less brief, after the last message, we went to the Beijing People's Army People's War Things Collection Museum, which contained many many big things like fighter planes and 2 stage missiles and the odd piece of American spy plane pilot pickled in rice wine. Scenes of Jo explaining to me what the chinese words under each exhibit said while I was saying exactly the same thing to Jo because of extensive indoctrination in the ways of war by my father ensued. All highly interesting, even if we didn't get to have a go at playing with the anti aircraft guns (main attraction). It was raining heavily outside, and v. misty, which made the massive Soviet building look v. impressive. Unfortunately, like the building, most of the exhibits inside were all from the 1950s, and they all appeared to have been captured (liberated) by the chinese in various skirmishes.
On the tube ride afterwards Jo noticed that she had dropped her wallet. First casualty of the journey so far - it contained hardly any cash and a couple of cheap train tickets - but it was still rather annoying. Went back to Beijing Station to find the train we were going to catch that evening was now full up. V. upsetting, so much so that the lady behind the ticket desk took pity on us and actually offered us some tickets for the train that was supposedly full. One cheeky cut-price dent in the Chinese Communist Party's ticket allocation for the train later and we had relaxed a little, and were well on the way to a comfort food session at the nearest McDonalds. Guess who the comfort food was for?
The weather that day had been very calm and cool, as a storm the previous night had cleared the air and cooled everything down. The temperature had dropped ten degrees or so to 20 and the humidity went from "wet-pants" to "dry-socks" quite agreably. We even saw the distant mountains at sunset, bloody rare thing in August!
To end the evening we [Jo] got pissed at the Bar we frequented last year and enjoyed a fine supper of Deli France Bread (equivalent price to Chinese person - 5 pounds) and Jo's travel jam. Yum.
Got on train 2300 - went to sleep - go to Yanzhou station at 0900 following day - felt terrible. The End.