Well, time had come for me finally to say good buy to Thailand, and Khoa San Road.. and boy was I glad to see the back of them both.. I left Bangkok and headed to Beijing, have to be honest I was a little apprehensive at first as I had all those visions of not being able to get around town, everything in mandarin etc.. and to make things more adventurous I was arriving in Beijing without an idea of where I would stay.
Once clearing customs etc., I used my instincts and was going to speak to the first person I saw lift a backpack of the carousel… luckily for me, this Kiwi girl was a lot more organized me and had a hostel booked and had arranged for them to pick her up. I suggested, if she didn’t mind I would pay half the transfer and see if they had room for me too. So we arrive at Leo Hostels, and I had landed on my feet. Not only did they have a bed, but also the hostel was fantastic… all the western mod cons (i.e. food and toilets), free internet, pool table and PS2 – I was sorted.
As they say every action has an equal and opposite reaction, in my case the jubilation of having landed on my feet was offset by the change in temperatures – left Bangkok with the temperature at 30c and was waiting for the minibus outside the airport with it being approx -8c . As mentioned, the hostel was a very well run and organized hostels aimed at backpackers, and they offer many tours and services throughout Beijing, one of them being a tour to The Great Wall of China which hasn’t been restored and so there are no tourists, I decided to sign myself up for the following morning.
Had an early start to get to the wall where would be walking on, which also caught me off guard – haven’t been this active in ages. We meet out guide, at what looks like some factory, which it was and also his home. This guy didn’t speak a word of English, and so it was down to the method of communication I had envisaged about china, pointing and smiling and it worked! He took us for about a 4 hour round circuit, some parts of the wall were completely ruined and so we had to walk down the side, some were barely passable and we would be literally holding on parts of the wall, and or trees to avoid falling off the edge. The return part of the walk was suppose to be via a picturesque lagoon, and forestry area, which it was kind off – seeing as the temperature was sub zero, the lagoon was frozen solid!
Having successfully completed the walk (which reminded me of my start to the South American adventures), it was time for lunch which his wife had prepared while we walked. She brought about 8 dishes, all but one was vegetarian to my surprise! As it was so damn cold, the evening was spent in at the hostel, chilling (in more ways than one I guess) and chatting to fellow travelers with the usual dialogue of conversation (where you from, where you been, where you going etc..). During these chats, I realized that there is much more to China than the great wall, and the 2 weeks I had allowed to discover it were never going to be enough.
The following day went out to The Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square.. both were pretty nice, but not over impressive – with the cold, and the number of people harassing you to see their art, or buy postcards I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. That evening went to one of the many markets around Beijing, and ended up buying things I didn’t have space to carry as things were so ridiculously cheap. After two full on days of walking and sight seeing, I decided that the next day I was keep low key and not venture to far outside the hostel, and plus I had an overnight train to catch to Xian.
I arrived in Xian after a 12 hour overnight sleeper train, I was lucky enough to have the 4 bed carriage to myself. Once I had checked in the hostel, they some how talked me in to doing a tour to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, which I did. The history of the warriors is pretty amazing, and its hard to believe they were only discovered just over 30 years ago after being buried for 2000+ years but the sight it self was OK (going to be had to please after Angor Wat) Due to my limited time, I moved on the following day to Shanghai.
Went out and about around the Bund area, to see the Pearl Tower and the Old French Quarter. Had a couple of crazy nights with a new group of travelers that had followed me there. One night in particular, went to a club Pegasus and they had a “Battle of the Mic” contest. All these Chinese dudes dressed up like 50 Cent, with basketball shirts down to their knees and silly baseball caps slagging each other off on the mics, very funny. A couple of days later I find myself in Hong Kong. Still in two minds if I like this place, its kind of really busy and hectic but if you make a little bit of effort you can escape.
Yesterday I wandered around the main HK island (I am staying in Kowloon, which is attached to mainland china) went up the worlds longest escalator (500) was suppose to take the steepest tram too, but it was too cloudy at the peak to see anything so didn’t bother. Today went to see The Big Buddha on Lantau Island and that has been pretty much my time in China and Hong Kong. Tomorrow I fly to India, were new adventures, malaria and dodgy stomach await..