The start of another adventure.
Friday 27 October 2006 - Thursday 2 November 2006
After a minor issue with my flights from Manila to Beijing via Seoul, the result being that I had to overnight at a very flash hotel at Seoul airport, I arrived in Beijing ready to start another adventure.
The trip was operated by Exodus, one of the pioneers of overland travel. We used a Mercedes truck which, as far as I can remember, did not have a name (unusual for an overlanding company). We had two crew, Andy Robinson (a legend in overlanding circles) and Paul Catharine (a legend in his own lunchtime). For the Chinese leg we were accompanied by Ting Ting, a government appointed minder / translator / guide and so on.
Andy Robinson and Paul Catharine, our Exodus drivers, nannies, counsellors, mechanics, police negotiators and all round party guys.
One Mercedes truck. The road is in southern China, right next to the Laos border.
Tallulah and Ting Ting.
Friday 27 October - Arrived on time, caught the bus into central Beijing and found the hostel directly opposite Beijing Central Railway Station. The hostel was very handy to everything but was very smoky inside, the Chinese smoking like trains everywhere. Bed was comfortable though.
Beijing Central Railway Station looking very nice.
Saturday 28 October - A day of wandering around Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Zhongshan Park (very peaceful), Wangfujing Daije (shopping and eating street).
The Zhengyangmen Gate in Tiananmen Square.
Monument outside the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
A modern day guardian of China.
Monument to the People's Heroes.
The Great Hall of the People.
The Gates of Heavenly Peace, leading to the Forbidden City.
The Meridian Gate (the entrance way to the Forbidden City).
The south east tower on the Meridian Gate.
The Palace Moat.
The view over the moat.
A pavilion in Zhongshan Park.
The lake in Zhongshan Park.
Sun Zhongshan (1866-1925). He is better known in the West as Sun Yat-sen.
Sunday 29 October - Met the Exodus leaders at Gulou Hotel. I then wandered around the nearby Drum Tower, Bell Tower and the local area.
The Bell Tower (and tourist coaches).
The Bell Tower again.
Traditional hutongs around the Towers.
Inside the Drum Tower.
The Drum Tower.
Monday 30 October - Moved all my stuff into the Gulou Hotel as this is were the group will be based whilst in Beijing. Shopping and more sightseeing in Gulou area although the haze and pollution made it a bit difficult to see anything. Drinks with group by Qianhai Lake.
Shops and restaurants at Qianhai Lake.
The Drum Tower and Bell Tower through typical Beijing murk.
The Drum Tower at dusk.
More of the Drum Tower.
The Bell Tower at dusk.
Tuesday 31 October - Lots of walking around the Lama Temple at Yonghe Gong, Behei Park and Jingshan Park. The parks in Beijing are very peaceful and are a refuge from the chaos on the roads. They do however cost 10 yuan ($NZ 2) entrance fee.
The Lama Temple at Yonghe Gong.
One of the many pavilions at the Lama Temple.
I think it is a lion.
Yet another pavilion at the Lama Temple.
The smoke of incense at the Lama Temple.
A secluded pavilion in Beihei Park.
Transport on the lake.
The White Dagoba, overlooking the Jade Inlet on Beihei Lake.
More lake transport.
A very arty picture on Beihei Lake.
Another arty type picture of Beihei Lake and its surroundings.
Lanterns at the White Dagoba.
One of the gates to Beihei Park.
The view from the top of Jingshan Park over the Forbidden City.
More of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park.
The view from Jingshan Park, down Dianmenwai Dajie to the Drum Tower.
The pavilion at the top of Jingshan Park.
Nine Dragon Screen in Beihei Park.
One of the Nine Dragons.
Tourists and locals enjoying the park.
Wednesday 1 November - Official start of Exodus trip. Our first excursion was out to the Great Wall at Simatai. This is a non touristy section of the wall. It is very steep with superb views and thankfully there was a cable car to get to the top. We were the only tourists out there and there were very few locals trying to sell you things. The trip back into Beijing was very slow due to the enormous amounts of traffic. Dinner was at a duck restaurant.
The view of the wall from the village below.
The cable car up the mountain. Beats walking.
And the view down the mountain to the village.
One of the many watch towers in this section of the wall.
More of the wall.
From the top looking down.
And it disappears into the distance.
A few locals, a few tourists and great scenery.
The end of the accessible area. The rest is closed as it is too dangerous.
The steep drop down the river.
More watch towers and autumn foliage.
The view of the wall over the river.
We found a small bar down by Qianhai Lake (with a noticeboard outside stating "F****** good mojitos!") and we took the place over. Given there was about 20 of us we were able to negotiate the price of the beers and shots down to 10 yuan each. I left after my 100 yuan budget was consumed at some time way past midnight. I suspect that the bar had its best night's trading for many years with us in there.
Thursday 2 November - A lazy day whilst waiting for night train to Xian. Most of the other people on the trip had come up from Kathmandu via Tibet (lucky buggers) and were doing more sightseeing, as long as their heads allowed it after the experiences of the previous night at the mojito bar. I was fine and spent the day writing journal, checking email and drinking coffee.
The actual notice on the wall of my bathroom at the Gulou Hotel, Beijing. A Chinese friend of mine says that the Chinese words translate correctly, but she was surprised to see it in a hotel room rather than in a quarry.