A Review of the China Trip

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this short, I know, I know, I tend to dribble on a bit in the daily blogs, and all I can put it down to is either I’m too tired and dreaming after a long day travelling, or I’ve drunk too much, or a combination of both.

After a few weeks back home in Dub Vegas its time for a little reflection on China.

What Impressed Me

  • The Infrastructure in China is fantastic and getting better very quickly
  • Xi’an – a beautiful looking city (where the Terracotta Warriors are) its a long way out but worth the visit to Xi’an
  • The food – the food was pretty good, loved sweat & sour pork, Peking Duck (don’t ask for Beijing Duck!), I didn’t eat grasshoppers or scorpions though. Food also gets a mention in what didn’t impress me
  • The beer – Tsing Tao and the local Beijing brews were very easy to consume and formed part of my fluids management regime for the trip.
  • Snake wine – firewater with a snake fermenting in it – I didn’t try it – but others did and I liked that.
  • We did a cheap and cheerful Trip A Deal trip but our group was fantastic, we really enjoyed the company and made some new friends
  • The trains, especially the bullet trains were efficient, fast and very well fitted out – 2nd Class was fine, but I reckon 1st Class would be very nice. Seats are allocated but make sure you do a little research and get to the station well ahead of time for security and check-in and find out which gate and platform to get to your carriage (Yes – your passport and luggage will go through a security check like an airport to get inside the station). Once inside there are lots of shops and food outlets and there is plenty to occupy you. A must do is the 430km/hour Maglev magnet train in Shanghai, 30km in 7 minutes – blistering speed.
  • Our guides were really helpful. China is a difficult place to travel on your own without language and knowing the nuances, the cities are so big – so travelling on an organised tour is the way to go – certainly first time anyway
  • Xi’an – this city was the nicest we visited, only for a short time but it was somewhere that I’d like to come back to see more of.
  • There is no graffiti ( that I saw anyway), and hardly any beggars. There are lots of poor people but you don’t get hit up a lot to buy trinkets, around tourist spots some of the poorer people are trying to sell fans, flutes etc.
  • Trip A Deal – the guides were great, they were organised with pretty good English and we were also blessed with excellent bus drivers.

What Didn’t Impress me

  • A couple of the hotels were a bit average and one location was a bit average, but it was a cheap and cheerful trip so I think to myself – suck it up Paul. On the flip side some of the hotels were beautiful.
  • There isn’t a lot of English spoken in China, not surprising really and my problem not theirs – so make sure you have an off line translation app Chinese -> English on a mobile
  • Most toilets are squat toilets, even in modern facilities like train stations, but there are a lot of sit down toilets as well, you have to go and hunt them down. For people with dickie knee’s – be patient and hunt down the 4-5 star toilets.
  • There really is no access to Google and Facebook and some other App’s and programs – UNLESS – you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as Nord which you can up to about 6 devices off – but there is a small cost.
  • Some food – in Zhengzhou Mark (The Mechanic) had what he thought was going to be lamb chops from a hotel menu – it turned out to be raw meat spinkled with pepper, chili and other spices – it was gross and I think an attempt at a western style meal – better to stick with Chinese food that you like. There are plenty of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, McDonalds in most cities – but when in China where possible you should eat Chinese, in my opinion.
  • They don’t know much about “black tea” – or as they call it fermented tea – in China green tea is the go and the expensive types such as Dragons Well tea are more expensive than beer in most places. Hint – get to like green tea before you go.
  • Not much didn’t impress me – really !

TIP’S FOR TRAVELLING IN CHINA – From a first timer

  • If you are taking a mobile phone or ipad
    • There is plenty of free wi-fi in hotels
    • Get a VPN (eg Nord) if you want to access Google, GMail, Facebook etc
    • WeeChat is the Facebook of China – apparently everyone uses it
    • Local Sim for data via China Mobile or China Telecom is good – you get a local number but Google Maps only work if you have a VPN
  • Travelling with a Group Tour, especially first time, is way better with the language and scale of things in China.
  • Like we were told, be careful mentioning the 4 “T’s”  – especially around local officials and guides, they will be limited in what they can say – so don’t embarrass them
    • Tibet
    • Taiwan
    • Tienanmen
    • Trump
  • Don’t miss the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an – if you have the opportunity don’t miss it.
  • Take lots of Chinese Yuan (RMB ) with you, credit cards are note as widely used as other countries. Take a little conversion grid ready reckoner with you at the current exchange rate to carry in your wallet or pocket – current rate is about 4.5 yuan to $1 AUD.
  • Bargain for most things, especially in markets, some shops have fixed prices but a lot/most have negotiable prices. When you start, start with something small to get practice and to get through the guilt that you are doing the locals out of money – a guide;
    •  Ask how much? Only start negotiations if you intend to go through to the buying stage
    • If they say 200 yuan, shake your head and say “no, no” , offer 50 with the end game to be around 100 yuan, move up to 80 and then 100, if they don’t agree at 100, walk away (the old closed book trick car salespeople use), they will probably chase you and agree, at worst buy for 120 yuan tops. then its a win win. Don’t be embarrassed to haggle, they expect it, the locals do it, but be gracious.
  • Be adventurous with the food – I didn’t eat grilled scorpions or grasshoopers but the sweat and sour pork, the Peking Duck, the wontons, the dumplings were all delicious, sometimes a little spicy but not as hot or spicy as I thought (mostly anyway)
  • Travel on the trains – the Bullet Trains run at 300 kph, so 1500 km goes pretty quickly.
  • Summer is pretty warm – you won’t need many clothes, shorts and t shirts are acceptable everywhere, wash the necessaries in the bathroom and dry near an air con outlet.
  • Do yourself a favour and check a trip to China out.

Cheers, Ciao, Sayonara

Pauolo


Links to the Blog – In Order

June 2019 – China Here we come!

China – More stuff

1 Week to Go

Day 0-1 to Day 0+1 Dubbo-Sydney-Shanghai

Day 2 – June 12th 2019 – Suzhou – Hangzhou, ChinaDay 3 – Thursday 13th June – Hangzhou to Shanghai

Day 3 – Some Photos

Day 4 – Friday 14th June – Shanghai, China

Day 5 – Friday 14th June – Shanghai, Chinai

Day 6 – Saturday 15th June 2019 – Shanghai to Zhengzhou

Day 7 – Sunday 16th June – Zhengzhou, China

Day 8 – Monday 17th June – Xi’an

Xi’An China

Day 8 – Monday 17th June – Zhengzhou to Xi’an

Day 9 – 18th June – Xi’an to Beijing

Day 9 – Late Breaking News

Day 10 – Wednesday 19th June – Beijing

Day 11 – Thursday 20th June – Beijing

Day 12 – Friday 21st June – Beijing

Day 13 – Saturday 22nd June- Beijing to Sydney

 

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Day 6 – Saturday 15th June 2019 – Shanghai to Zhengzhou

5 hours sleep, the Navigator is up at 5am, after washing last night and getting to bed at about midnight, she’s organised and wants me to be organised for a 7.30 start. Why get up at 5 ? I reckon genetics might be exposing some pretty solid dominant traits inherited from Keith McLeod – but don’t say anything to her please. Breakfast at 6 and we’re all standing around 1/2 an hour before we have to be, it’s going to be a long day!

John and Kojak ( bald headed bus driver) get us to the train station, Shonqui ( I think it is) where the bullet trains heading to the north west leave from. A magnificent modern building, highly organised and it needs to be it enormous, there are thousands of people siting for trains. We get through the security check and the passport check then minor panic – Mark can’t find his passport even though it had just been checked. Obviously he just had a blokes look because a second look finds it in his pocket. The blood starts to flow back into the Navigators face, and she calms down.

We are train G1806 from Platform 18B, Carriage 4 , seats 6a and 6b. As we are waiting I can’t help but think of how clean, modern, and organised this place is, every thing works, and it gets thousands of people to distant destinations very quickly and cheaply, but the bookings need to be done pretty well in advance, seats are in high demand.

We say our goodbye to John ( or his real name Hu) a 50 something bloke with a 22 year old daughter, he has been a great guide and organiser. I’ll mention that to Trip Advisor. We can board 15 minutes before departure, and the standard bedlam occurs when everyone tries to find their seat and somewhere to stow bags, we opt for the over head racks ( our Kathmandu 70 litre bags are ideal for this sort of travelling). 8 of another group are joking our group of 28 to do the terra cotta warriors at Xian, we’ve met some of them, and in particular 2 women who look a little wild.

We leave Shanghai and are running at 300 kph pretty quickly, heading northwest to Zhenzhou over the rich Plains that have rivers, canals, cities of sky scrapers almost all the way with market gardens and orchards mixed in as well. Fantastic roads with little traffic and parks with manicured gardens are abundant.

The Navigator has a nasty rash on her feet and ankles, so she’s a bit worried about that, not that she ever worries about much really, however it does look like something I should look concerned about. She’s going to try and find a pharmacy in Zhengzhou when we get to the hotel for some magic Chinese medicine.

After 5 hours we’ve travelled 1500 km and we arrive at Zhengzhou, it’s got the Asian haze going, it’s much hotter than Shanghai, and quite a bit drier, although the parks and gardens look magnificent.

We meet out new guide for Zhengzhou, his English name is Sean, I can’t pronounce or spell his Chinese name. He’s young, probably 30ish, he is a bit harder to understand than John, but he’s ok, he’s doing well.

A few basics of Zhengzhou, it’s a place few of you will have heard of, but it’s one of the major ancient Chinese cities, the capital of the Hunan province, population of 10 – 11 million, a commercial base for northwest China.

First stop is the Hunan Museum, which is interesting but we don’t need a lot of time there. It’s hot and sticky, and a welcome break back at the hotel is something everyone is looking forward to.

The rooms are average, the hotel is in an area where there isn’t much in the way of food options or shopping, maybe a point to mention to Trip A Deal. The 3 food options are 1 – Hotel, 2 – A Chinese Restaurant, 3 – a Russian restaurant, we opt for the hotel. It’s good except Mark ordered lamb chops, but they were fatty, spicy and inedible, the other dishes were great.

A short walk to check the neighbourhood, I find a massage place and decide on a foot massage to try and ease swollen feet and ankles, they do a good job.

Then I need a sleep, it’s been a big day

Tomorrow we’re off to the Erqui Tower and then Shaolin Temple for lunch and the afternoon, we’ll come back tomorrow night ready to kick the crap out of any potential threats Kung Fu style. This is the place Jet Li filmed his first movie Shaolin Temple – apparently?

Caio for today

Paul

Some photos;

At the Shanghai train station – big crowds

Woman Making brooms in Zhengzhou

 

 

PRC flag off a building near the Hunan Museum

Day 6 – Saturday 15th June 2019 – Shanghai to Zhengzhou

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Day 5 – Friday 14th June – Shanghai, China

A 6.30 rise, the Navigator had a migraine last night and didn’t get much sleep, which means I didn’t get much either, but no worries I’ll catch up.

Breakfast in the Holiday Inn is bedlam at 6.30, it’s chock a block, hardly any seats, and the food is pretty average. But it’s fuel for the day so I shovel a bit in.

Today’s program is a big one, we start with the Maglev train ride, 30 km is 7 minutes at a top speed of 430 km/ hour, 2nd the Bund – an area on the river on the old side of the city that looks over to the new centre of Shanghai, 3rd is Shanghai Museum, 4th is a 1/2 day tour of the city and 5th is an evening boat ride on the river to see the city at night. I weary just thinking about this!

The drive to the train is through the heart of Shanghai, we see all the landmark buildings, the massive bridges, the sea of sky scrapers with a few bits of the old Shanghai in between the new.

The Maglev train is an experimental train, there are 2 of them, it has no rails and it levitates and rides on a magnetic field, and I’m assuming it’s very expensive because there aren’t any others like it. It’s super fast, and gets to top speed of 430 km/ hour in a bit over 3 minutes, it takes 7 minutes to get to its destination 30 km away. When it’s slowing down 300 km/hour feels like it’s a canter and 160km/hour feels like you could walk beside it. When the train going the other way passes it’s like a gun going off, 2 trains at 430k makes for an 860kph effect when the meet. It was phenomenal.

The heart is still pounding when we head to the Bund and walk along the river on the old side looking over to the new side of Shanghai. The buildings are spectacular feats of engineering and design, the “Bottle Opener” is particularly interesting. Coffee and a snack before we head to the Shanghai Museum. All travellers are behaving so far, can’t really have a shot at anyone yet.

The Museum is interesting, we aren’t there all that long but the best part for me was the jade exhibition, some pieces from 2000 bc. The Chinese furniture from the Ming Dynasty period – about year 1300 for a few hundred years was good as well. The obligatory fridge magnet was purchased for 15yuan ($3)

Then it’s on the the French Quarter where few of the old buildings remain, we go to an area some are still standing and have been renovated and are full of funky expensive food operations and name brand outlets. Ironically it’s also the area where the original Chinese Communist Party headquarters was located. On a walk I find a film shoot going on, lots of people in red army uniforms singing a song and waving red flags – a director with the megaphone yelling “cut” or whatever the Chinese word for it is. 2 Paul’s from the trip don’t move from a bar and consume copious amounts of German beer, it is a warm day after all.

We then end up in and old market area, very traditional Chinese architecture, the Navigator is dribbling in anticipation of the shopping, but in the end doesn’t buy much at all. I buy a green tea and some Chinese bean cake and watch the seething crowd below. So many Australians in China, and they all look alike, I don’t know how the Chinese stand it!

A short trip to the British area, food, beer and conversation are the order of the day, we’re all getting a bit weary and it’s around 5pm

The night river cruise is more than I thought it was going to be when I saw the heaving mass getting on to the boat. The crowd spread out fairly well over the 3 decks, and I reckon I’m correct in saying that the Shanghai night time sky is spectacular – every night, not just special occasions like Sydney’s Vivid.

We get off the boat letting the rushing locals go ahead, they all clearly had somewhere to go that was more important than what we had on.

The Electrician and I head out for dumplings for dinner, as well as picking up our new glasses ( ones for the eyes). The dumplings are good, the service is a bit average, I think we arrived right on closing time.

Tomorrow we’re off early to catch the bullet train to Zhengzhou in central western China, 1500km in 5 hours.

Arrividerci from Shanghai.

Paul

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Day 13 – Saturday 22nd June- Beijing to Sydney

Day 13 – Saturday 22nd June- Beijing to Sydney
A quick debrief on yesterday, we were all very tired by the time we got to the Beijing Airport so now some observations on what happened.
We arrive at the airport, it’s enormous, and Beijing will have another airport finished next year which will be the largest in the world. Michael, our guide is still with us and gets us sorted at the Qantas Checkin desk but we are early and have to unpack, repack with shopping, lock up the bags again, get changed for the plane and cold weather back home, life is tough eh.
We get checked in, say goodbye to Michael, he has been fantastic, very honest, very informative, and can still do the travel company line.
We’re in through the first immigration bit, then customs when the Mechanic causes the Navigator to almost have a heart attack, again, over a passport issue. Genelle is busy emptying drinks, food, old deodorant etc out of her carry on backpack and Mark is sorting stuff out before we go through security, ready to go and he can’t find his passport, meanwhile I’m through but have my bag pulled out for a rescan and also I have the pleasure of another frisk from a non smiling officious young girl because my knees set the bells ringing, again.
Anyway, all ends up good, his passport was knocked off the table and was on the floor, if he hadn’t found it he’d have been in limbo land – though immigration but not through customs. Our gate is E 12 in Terminal 3, we have to take a train to the terminal, that’s how far away it is. By now The Sparks’s toes and feet are swollen, I can hardly walk and it feels like my feet are going to explode – must be the circulation issue the Chinese doctor said is my problem. Maree from the trip gives me a celery tablet which is meant to help with fluid reduction, it’s a diuretic and I know it’s working because I nearly wear my sandals out walking to the toilet on the plane.
It’s nice to get on a plane and know 34 other people well and another 26 or so we know a bit, although the plane is 1/2 an hour late leaving so it’s after midnight when we leave, I take a few pain killers and am asleep before they bring the gin and tonic and the food, but as usual it’s a very difficult sleep.
Sydney finally arrives, we do the zombie walk out through immigration and customs after buying some cheap grog in duty free.
It’s been a great trip, we have met some lovely people and the trip has been an absolute pleasure. Much better than I expected. We say our final good byes once we’re through customs and head to the Holiday Inn for a shower and a rest. Dinner at the hotel and I reckon we’ll sleep the sleep of the dead tonight.
A final sum up when I have regained composure, got my sleep debt sorted, and I’ve had some clear air to look back on the trip, it’s pluses and it’s minuses. Cheers from Sydney
Paul

Sent from my iPad

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Day 12 – Friday 21st June – Beijing

9 am start today, very civilised, just like my work days.

What do you think about Chinese for breakfast, I’ve sort of grown used to it now, dumplings, fried rice, spicy omelettes, tasty steamed rolls, it will be hard going back to corn flakes and weatbix, washes down with a cup of tea.

We leave the big bags at the hotel, they’ll meet us at the airport later tonight. It’s a hazy day, not too hot, if I was home I’d say rain was on the way.

Some China information;

The main religions of China are

  1. Buddhism – largest by a long way About 90%
  2. Taoism – Michael doesn’t rate Taoism very highly
  3. Christianity
  4. Islam – there are 1m people in a Beijing who say they are Muslim but Michael feels they are mostly more interested in money than Religion

Language ;

Bing Shrr – Cold Water

Bing Piego – Cold Beer

Choolamaa – heave you eaten yet

In 1987 China went to a market economy

In 1949 life expectancy was 49 year in China

In 2019 Life expectancy is 75, so health services have improved considerably, but is still very expensive in China, even though the doctors work for the government.

Retirement Age in China – men 60, women 55

First stop this morning is a traditional Chinese medicine facility in central Beijing, it’s a sales show again but very interesting, we all have a personal diagnosis by a Chinese Dr, with an interpreter, pulse, tongue, eyes checked and questions asked and they tell you pretty closely what problems you have and what should help fix them. Very interesting, then a 10 minute neck massage for 30 Yuen ( $5).

A wander in the expensive shopping / pedestrian mall, with Rolex watches and all the expensive brands. I buy a fridge magnet for 10 Yuen, the suckers don’t get my money.

Then on to the cheap markets, knock off watches, t shirts, electronics stuff. Heaven on a stick for The Navigator, she bargains and buys the afternoon away and fills our bags up with all sorts of stuff.

Then the airport, an hour and a half through the peak hour Beijing traffic, we’re ready for checkin at 7pm. QF 108 leaves at 12.45, after a stressful time getting through checkin, immigration and then to Gate E12 via a train ride all is good except for my feet swelling. I need the Chinese medicine!

Cheers from China for the last time

Paul

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Day 11 – Thursday 20th June – Beijing

Today the Great Wall Of China, let’s see if it’s stands up to being a wonder of the world!

But first some Chinese lessons;

Gambay = Bottoms up or Cheers

Shrr = Yes

Boo Shrr = No

Shroe = water

There is a big focus in reducing smog in Beijing, same as the other cities

There are 80,000 characters in the written Chinese Language but you can read and write with about 10,000 characters ( this is about standard for a normal person)

Peking Duck is a cooked duck

Beijing Duck is a lady boy, so be careful asking for a cooked duck, if you ask for a Beijing Duck you might get a surprise.

First thing we do is I manage to lock the safe and can’t open it, The Navigator steps into action, men in suits with screw drivers and secret keys follow her to the room, I’m too embarrassed and go to breakfast, she’s fixed the problem.

7am breakfast this morning, 8.30 am we leave the hotel, heading for first stop which is a government owned jade factory and sales setup ( I assume one of the requirements of the sponsorship of the travel company). As expected we get the pretty girl, beaming smile, very friendly who tells us all about jade, it’s hardness, the colours, we see some craftsmen working on it then we are directed to their sales team of young pretty girls. As expected we buy a few pieces for our travel cabinet, the Navigator is restrained until the almost the end. For my part, the cappuccino is better than yesterday at the pearl place.

On to the main attraction, the Great Wall. We see mountains, quite big mountains, also high bullet train bridges and then there it is The Great Wall, looks very impressive.

It’s hot, bloody hot, was supposed to max out at 34 but it feels a lot hotter. We come in at station 7, and the challenge is to get to station 12, should be easy, but the hill looks a bit steep. The Mechanic strides up the variable height steps easily, the Navigator and Me struggle and get to Station 8, sweat is running into my eyes , my shirt is soaked, the heat mixed with the physical exertion as well as fear of how I’ll get down convinces me to rest and return. The Seamstress and the The Nurse press on, the Sparky guards station 8 for a while. My walking stick is a god send, worth carting all the way here, it braces me as I crab down the steps. The Navigator takes the sensible option and takes the invalids option, a path and evenly spaced steps. The wall is a feat that is difficult to comprehend, the scale, the length of the wall, the steepness of the mountains in this part, the story is that there are thousands of workers buried in the wall. I reckon there were almost a few more bodies to add after today. Of the 36 in our group only 4 make it to station 12, an achievement of monumental proportions, I’m in awe of those that did it.

We come back to the jade place, they have lunch prepared, Chinese food, lots of it, delicious, with beer and soft drink.

We move back into the city via the Olympic Area, we see the Birds Nest stadium, the village and some of the other wares where the games were held. So,e of the group are interested and some aren’t, the 2022 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony is being held at the Birds Nest. Beijing will be the only city to host both a Summer Olympics and a Winter Olympics.

We come to the old Beijing, the village area where people live traditionally in the court yard houses, no toilets or showers but lots of space, the places sell for 30m yuan ( about $6m AUD) and we are visiting a family for dinner later in the afternoon. This is the Hutong area, a nice lake, lots of shops and we have a short time shopping. I find a post office buy some post cards and try to sell the, it’s a post office so they are government employees I guess, I write the postcards, buy some stamps and 2 very nice young staff explain that a couple of them have to go in envelopes, they peel the stamps off get out the paste and sort me out. Very official and very helpful, my mail is on its way to Australia, I know I’ll beat it home but that’s not the point. The Navigator finds a craftsman working with bottles and of course she buys a bit of stuff.

We move around into the residential area, locals are playing mahjong, kicking a bamboo shuttlecock type thing very skilfully, playing cards, little kids are on rollers skates, it has a very communal feel about it. We head off of a rickshaw ride through the Hutong lanes and then to the Hutong families house where we meet the Cricket Man. What a hoot, he’s as eccentric as they come, he breeds and trains fighting crickets, has been mentioned in magazines and books, he has a couple of pet grasshoppers who find their way on to the Navigators hand and also onto the The Seamstress’s hand. The Navigator says that the Grasshopper bits here, must be good at reading human nature.

Then dinner, it’s another beautiful meal and a few of us wash it down with rice wine, a few of the including The Sparky go for the snake wine ( dead snake fermenting in a big jar of wine), I opt for a goji berry wine it’s very nice but not as good for me as the snake wine, apparently.

We’re finally back at the hotel at about 7pm, a long long day.

Sayonara from Beijing

Paul

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Day 10 – Wednesday 19th June – Beijing

Day 10 – Wednesday 19th June – Beijing

Short Chinese Language Lesson ( Mandarin) – Phonetic

NeeHow – Hello (any time of the Day)

Sheh sheh – Thank You

Boo Sheh Sheh – No Thank You (polite NO)

Boo Yaeo – Don’t want (Stronger version of NO)

Tai Gway – Too expensive ( Genelle hasn’t used it yet)

Ding Ding How – Bloody Good

Bing Peijo – Ice cold beer

Some facts or versions of the truth;

90% of Chinese are of Han origin, the Han came from Xi’an

The other 10% are made up of about 50 ethnic groups

There are 32 provinces in China

Beijing is split into The Old City and the New City

Trip A Deal started in 2015 with 3000 travellers to China

This year they will have 30,000 travellers to China

Trip A Deal is sponsored by the Chinese Government

From 1949 to 1979 China was closed to the west

There have been 24 Dynasties ruling China

13 of these came from Xi’an

Enough of that, you’ll go to sleep. A sleep in this morning, breakfast at 7, we leave at 8. First stop is a pearl factory, the usual sales pitch by a pretty and articulate girl, a lot succumb to the lure of sales pitch, my purchase is a cappuccino, 25 yuan ($5) and it’s a good coffee, not as good as the Def Chef at home by a long shot though. The Navigator is like a moth to a flame when it comes to jewellery, I stay away from her as I tend to make sarcastic comments as she seeks moral justification to spend ridiculous amounts on jewellery, but as we all know she doesn’t have much jewellery so I figure stay away stay calm and stay alive is the best option.

Tiananmen Square is the site of the student uprisings 40 years ago, only a week or 2 ago. About the same time the Berlin Wall came down. It’s a big space, the national museum is there, the Chinese parliament is there and the Forbidden City, which was the Emperors winter palace is still standing and pretty much original runs off Tiananmen Square. There are thousands of people, it’s Chinese school holidays at the moment.

There is a long history in their area, the throne room, the concubines rooms near the Emperors rooms, something like 9000 rooms there. It’s an enormous area, clean, maintained in traditional fashion, with a beautiful garden on the edge near the moat.

Lunch is a mixture of options, The Sparky and I head to Chinese and have sweat and sour pork, spicy chicken and fried rice with a couple of local Beijing beers to wash it down. It takes about 3 hours to get sensation back into my tongue and lips after the spicy chicken, but the Sparky gobbles it up and the sauce as well – he’ll be a certainty for the ring of fire at the Great Wall tomorrow. The Mechanic, The Nurse and The Seamstress and The Navigator head to a Pizza Hut for Italian food in China.

We move on to The Golden Dynasty theatre production at Happy Valley, directed by the guy who put the opening ceremony together for the Beijing Olympics. It’s a spectacular show, with acrobats, trained flying peacocks, dancers, a water feature on stage that is hard to believe is possible. A mistake by Michael sees him hand the flag to the Navigator, we could end up in North Korea rather than at the bus.

We’re back at the hotel at 5, it’s been hot hot hot today, we’re dehydrated and tired after a long day, tonight we’re chilling. Genelle is going market shopping and I’m getting a foot massage. I don’t need much for dinner.

Tomorrow is The Great Wall, quick trip via the 2012 Beijing Olympics site, a Jade Museum (a factory with a smooth talking pretty girl who will sell us stuff), a rickshaw ride and explore the old part of Beijing and a Hutong village where they still live a traditional old style Chinese life.

Ding ding how from Beijing for the day

Paul

Sent from my iPad

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