I can’t believe we have been here over a week! Although China is proving somewhat colder and wetter than we imagined, it’s still been quite the adventure. Since my previous post we have managed to get ourselves in a few more predicaments but the main thing is we have also managed to survive said predicaments so it’s not all bad news!
Being the capital of such a huge country, we had expected a lot from Beijing – it was not at all as we thought. Our hostel was lovely, and we met some great people, but the city itself was more dirty and polluted than the news portrays at all. It’s slightly concerning when you look at the weather forecast and it tells you that the air quality is “hazardous”. Within five minutes of being outside we had no trouble understanding why people were coughing and spitting all over the street because we found ourselves needing to constantly clear our throats and struggling to breathe! The fact that people live every day like this is quite saddening.
Despite this, we did enjoy our time in Beijing! We wandered the streets and saw the tourist sites of the Tianamen and Tianamen Square. And we learnt that it was quite the tourist spot for people from rural areas of China, who had seemingly never seen white people before. We found ourselves like celebrities being asked for photos, and actually most of the time not asked, just photographed and gawped at regardless. I think the fact that I had shorts on with my milky white legs out in what was pretty cold weather for the locals didn’t help either.
We visited the Temple of Heaven, which is an important part of Chinese history and is essentially a place where over the years many sacrifices have taken place to pray to the heavens for all sorts of things, from better harvests and more rain to wealth and power. The architecture was particularly incredible as it was the first time we had seen this type of traditional Chinese building. A week in, we are kind of used to it now, but the feeling at the time was quite exciting.
And of course, definitely most exciting of all – we hiked on The Great Wall of China! It was freezing, foggy, exhausting, and didn’t provide us with the view that you get from the tourist guides, but we did it all the same! The scale of the tiny amount of the wall we did see was incredible. Parts of it were so steep that you found yourself using your hands in an attempt to crawl up, and coming down became quite the game.
The photos (particularly on such a foggy day) will never do it justice!
Our legs hurt for days after this trip – but thankfully we had completely worn ourselves out ready for the next leg of our journey, onwards to Shanghai.
A stark contrast to Beijing, Shanghai was very modern and metropolitan and quite like an Asian version of New York actually! We Couch Surfed with a girl called Nadina, who lived in a shared house with 10 others so we met plenty of interesting people, in the city for many different reasons.
To get to Shanghai, we took a sleeper train from Beijing! It was actually very comfy, but as I previously said, we were so tired from the wall that maybe it had just worn us out! I had to wake James up twice because he was snoring and as we were sharing a compartment with another couple, I thought it was only polite! The journey was advertised as 11hours but was just over 13 – apparently quite normal in China to not run well to time!
Once in Shanghai, we spent our first night sheltering from the very heavy rain but were able to be quite productive in terms of planning our next moves. The next day however we really got to explore! The Bund, the area by the water with the iconic skyline was spectacular. We visited both by day and by night. We explored the city streets by both subway and foot and found rip off clothes markets and then some greenery amongst the concrete surroundings in People’s Park. A place where it is completely normal to advertise for marriages to your sons and daughters and also where Chinese men who speak very good English approach you to warn you that over half of the Chinese population are actually robots being controlled by the government. Sadly, no photo of this guy, we walked away far too quickly.
We booked a flight to Xi’An and decided to book into a cheap and cheerful hotel near the airport as we had an early morning flight. This turned into quite the unwanted adventure. Booking.com need a stern talking to, as their map of where the hotel was took us down a terrifying backstreet, with dead dogs in the road and buildings barely still standing on either side of us. After 8 hours of walking with our backpacks and coming across all types of people (I kid you not), a friendly local helped us by taking us to a nearby hotel and we booked in last minute. It was like heaven on earth aftter the nightmare day we had had. We were so tired and hungry and achey, James was covered in mosquito bites and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that we were starting to resent each other! We paid more than we should have on a backpackers budget but we didn’t care. And because I chose a double room not a twin we were upgraded to an executive room! It gave us access to a VIP lounge on the 18th floor with beautiful views and even better – FREE food, drink and alcohol!! Once we were showered and full of yummy food and free rum and vodka, the days events became quite the joke and we were friends again. Hanger really is a real thing.
We slept like royalty and then made our way for an early morning flight. Where I felt particularly rough as there is a small possibility I had thrown up some rum in the middle of the night. Pour your own measures of free alcohol were too much responsibility for me to handle evidently.
We are now in Xi’An having an amazing time, but that will have to come in another post as I have been using Starbucks wifi for quite some time now and James might start to get on the wrong side of hanger again before long!