April 2007 - China

On Tuesday the sky was blue, it was the talk of the town so you can imagine how often that happens here. After two days in Beijing there was really only one major site left to see and on this smogless, cloudless day we couldn't have planned it any better. The Great Wall of China awaited, Mutianyu to be exact, a section of the wall where every square inch is not covered by tourists and there is no sign of a KFC (good thing). A short cable car ride to the top and we were walking along the vast expanse of wall.

Up and down slopes or stairs, there was rarely a level part (which Mum found a little tough) but the views were worth all the effort and it was easy to lose track of time and just stroll. What an absolutely mind boggling wonder. How this was built on such steep slopes is just fascinating. At the end of the section of wall there was a set of extremely high steps (about 500 or so). I made it to the top with relative ease, Mum stayed down the bottom, but after a little encouragement Dad managed to climb it too (I compare it to Dad following my brother and I to the top of Uluru). At the top there were wall ruins, it was like a cross section where you could see how it was built. And the view from the top, well that’s the best moment of this trip, couldn’t have asked for a better day or better experience.

When we got back down the bottom, Mum said that she could hear me encouraging Dad like I was only standing a couple of metres away from her… Interesting. So we went back down through a sea of more motivated sellers where everything was “one dollar” and continued our perfect day at the Summer Palace.

On the way to Summer Palace our driver stopped at the Olympic construction site and if you haven’t seen a picture of the ‘birdcage’ (Olympic Stadium) go look it up now, what a massive unbelievable structure, whoever thought of its design is one crazy genius. Also we were able to see a bit of the Swimming Complex. It’s basically a box but it has blue bubbles on the outside. Wait until they light it up at night, I have a feeling it is going to look spectacular.

The Summer Palace is set on a huge lake area in Beijing. There were some restorations happening, but thankfully not the important buildings. Down to the lake and the Palace sits on a cliff face and is absolutely huge. We walked around to the famous 17 arch bridge and took many a picture. After the Great Wall we were a little tired of walking so we didn’t last too long at the Palace before heading back to the Hotel to get ready for dinner but not before stopping to have an ice cream/block on the side of the lake.

I have some new friends which will return to Sydney with me. Their names are BeiBei, JingJing, HuangHuang, YingYing and NiNi. They are the 5 mascots for the Beijing Olympics. When their names are placed together (Kaarin told me this) they spell “Beijing Welcomes You”. Kind of cool. It's like the Power Rangers, the combined forces of each to create one massive entity. My favourite is HuangHuang (the red one).

Now I have been waiting for tonight’s dinner since I first found out Kaarin and I were going to be in Beijing at the same time for one night only. The dinner did not disappoint, we went to Made in China which is a contemporary Chinese Restaurant in the Grand Hyatt. With glass displays filled with vegetables and atmosphere to boot we all knew we were in for a special treat. The Peking Duck was SO GOOD and we also had some Beijing Eggplant and something that I haven’t eaten since my first trip to Tokyo, Kobe Beef. Absolutely stuffed and very different from my first Peking Duck in Beijing.

After dinner Kaarin and I walked and talked and finally it was time to say goodbye to a friend as she begins her new life in Beijing and I continue along on my travels. It was quite bizarre saying goodbye in another country halfway across the world, last week we were both in Sydney.

Finally I would just like to make comment on the lack of traffic rules in Beijing. As the title describes, red lights are only a suggestion most of the time and on highways, the shoulders are just another lane you can drive down. When crossing roads you just have to step into a gap and quickly run to the middle, or wait until a large number of people to start crossing and join them. At first Dad was tempting fate, refusing to let go of the thought that when you have a pedestrian walk you are clear to go. Not in Beijing, it’s all about finding the gaps, both in the car and walking on the street… that a a little bit of blind faith.