The Capital of China: Beijing

Thursday 30th April

On our first day in Beijing we headed to the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall. This was my second time and it was equally as fun! The bus journey lasted an hour and a half and soon enough we were on the wall. We chose to go up on the chairlift (as walking up would take an hour) and also buy the return ticket for the toboggan. It was a hazy day so the view wasn’t crystal clear. Nonetheless, we on the Great Wall!! We could still see a good distance. We climbed from the sixth turret to the first, had a small rest and then headed back to the sixth. As we ended up having another hour to spare, we continued on and managed to get to turret eleven! Thoroughly exhausted, we headed back to the exit. It was toboggan time! It was unbelievably fun. I thought it’d just be okay seeing as I have been on it before, but it was fantastic! I was braver this time and went faster (the Chinese staff kept shouting at me to slow down) and it was fantastic!  

Once at the bottom we headed to the restaurant for the included lunch on the tour and were soon on our way back to the hostel. I was so ready to shower off all the dust and sweat (lovely I know) and have a refreshing nap before we considered doing anything else for a while… 

After a short rest we headed off again. First, Hayden and went in search of a shopping centre for her to hopefully find an outfit she’s wanted for a while. I forgot how big Beijing is. The changes for the metro are rather long compared to those in London so by the time we arrived at this shopping mall centre, it felt like we’d been on a little trek! Unfortunately the shop, Monki, no longer sold this particular outfit. So she bought a pair of sunglasses and off we went to meet the others at the WangFuJing Night Market. It was full of small scorpions put on sticks like kebabs. If you’re a bit screamish about bugs or dead animals, I’d suggest skipping to the next paragraph! They also sold entire small ducks (head and feet included), some stalls sold spiders and snakes. It was rather gruesome. The small scorpions on sticks were unfortunately still alive. How did we know this? Because half of the still wiggle their little legs or have twitching tails. Eek. Unlike last time when I was with Louise (she tried crickets and cockroaches), no one dared try any of the creepy crawlies. Yet Luis did try the duck. He said it wasn’t worth 50 yuan. 😔  

   Friday 1st May

We retired early to bed and happily welcomed a sleep in the next morning. As I’ve been to Beijing before, I’m not joining the others to a couple of touristy ventures. The others started their day off by going to the Temple of Heaven. I then met them at the Beijing Silk Market about half an hour away by metro from the hostel. I was expecting the market to be in a big open space and set up as many rows of stalls lining a few streets. Instead it is a massive shopping centre just full of stuff you would by at a market. This slightly killed the market experience for me. However I was definitely in the shopping mood so I was able to enjoy myself pretty easily. I always find that it’s difficult to keep healthy or manage to eat you ‘five a day’ when travelling so whilst I waited for the others to appear, I bought a yoghurt with pieces of watermelon, melon and mango to try and rebalance the scales against the two packets of chocolate digestives I had eaten since leaving for Qingdao.. I am definitely the heaviest I’ve ever been, partly due to me being inactive for three months and partly due to stuffing my face with all kinds of food! This will definitely need to change once I leave this country. 

We shopped for about four hours in the end. It was really fun! I didn’t do too much damage to my bank balance and I’ve bought a few little bits I’m happy with. One was a small painting with my Chinese name on it:  

Once we had exhausted ourselves from haggling, we collapsed back in the frozen yoghurt place for the others to have something refreshing. As you probably know, haggling can be easy or it can be truly difficult depending on each person. And these Chinese women that manned the stalls were very good at making you feel like you have a deal when in reality you don’t! And in the stress of the moment you can end up feeling guilty by trying to offer a low price so it always rises and rises….. Until you meet theirs. And vóila, they’ve got you right they want you. Luckily we arrived mentally prepared to take on these feisty women. And I say we did pretty well. Hayden and Antonia were the most anxious however they got what they wanted! 

Back in the hostel we went to our rooms to relax for a while before heading down to the bar. At eight o’clock the hostel was having a free ‘make your own dumplings’ session. It was fun! Our dumplings didn’t exactly look pretty but once cooked they were good enough to eat!

 After that we sat in the bar and  Hayden and Luis ordered a steak and chips after the dumplings. (They were pretty hungry). They were euphoric at the idea of finally having a western dish involving steak in China. After twenty minutes it arrived. And, unfortunately, these dishes were a perfect example of China just not delivering what a westerner expects. Firstly, the steak wasn’t steak. It was like processed sausage meat in the shape of a steak. And secondly, there was chocolate sauce and jam spread around on the side of the plate! Hilarious! Luis and Hayden were slightly stunned, then disappointment struck. Luis scared the cute little lady who works behind the bar when he whacked his cutlery against the table. They ate what they could… 

This is a perfect example as to why the saying: “this is china” exists! 😂