Friday, April 25, 2008

Catching that run away train

It´s about time I told you guys a little bit about my time on the vodka train, the stuff you have been hanging out to hear about.

After my first relatively unsuccessful day in beijing, I returned to the hotel to meet the people whose personal space I would be invading for the next days. Not surprisingly, the tour group turned out to be a fairly motley crew. Despite the differnces in age (18 to 32), professions (students to coppers - I was the only research economist) and nationalities we all got along really well from the start. Following the initial introductions and our greeting from Alex, our honcho for the beijing leg, we went out for a bit of Peking duck and some beverages. After the meal which was pretty tasty, except for the five massive bowls of noodles ordered by Tim.

Next we hit the dodgy bars of Beijing. In the first instance we had to bargain for a good price on the beers as well as a hookah, having agreed a price, they then sent someone to the shops to get us our drinks. After a couple of drinks, we hit the clubs on the other side of the lake. Effectively our little band of 10 made up the entire clientèle we then got down to some serious drinking and bad dancing. It was a great way to finish what had otherwise been a pretty ordinary day.

The following day, we did the sights - the summer palace, the forbidden city and tiananmen square. The all the sights were pretty amazing, the summer palace is beautiful while the forbiddin city is also very impressive. One of the most interesting things about sightseeing in Beijing is that all the sights are so chocablock full of chinese tourists. Further, the chinese tourists got super excited about seeing anglo people. In particular, one guy Tim had dreadlocks which absolutely freaked the locals out, as did lauren with her height and red hair. In one case, I was pretty certain that one chinese lady wet herself in her excitement of getting a picture with Tim.

After a what felt like a really long day of sight seeing, a few of us, out our guides suggestion went to a kung fu show. The monks were really cool, and the show was pretty impressive, although it did turn out to be a bit of tacky play mixed with some cool acrobatics and crazy feats of strength. Following the show we went to the street market for dinner. While others might disagree, the food I settled on buying was horrible, particularly biting into uncooked squid. Unfortunately, this lead me to go to Maccas for something that I could be fairly sure wasn´t going to poison me.

The following morning we made our way to the ming tombs and then the great wall. After the wind and rain of the first day, the pleasant sunny conditions got us all pretty fired up (even if it was still under 10 dgrees). Although the ming tombs appear to be an impressive complex, the actual tour itself was a little dull. The chinese have a different approach to setting up there sights, were the artifacts tend to be removed and put into a museum, instead of with in the tomb.

After a bit to eat, we headed to the great wall. As a group, and based on Alex´s advice, we went to a section of the wall that is in excellent condition but relatively low on tourists. It was also made more cool by the fact that we could catch a toboggan down. It was at this point the group split up a bit, a couple of the girls decided to catch the cable car up, while the rest of us decided to walk. It was a strenuous but not difficult walk to get to the top of the great wall. Walking up also increased my appreciation of how hard it must have been to build the great wall, and the effort makes the views a little more rewarding as well.

We had heaps of fun on the wall, some sections of the wall were really steep and we had to take time to catch our breath on several occasions. Unlike many of the other sites we saw, there were also relatively few other tourists. For a bit of fun, we decided to do something a little stupid, but well worth it, that is we climbed onto the roof of one of the main guard towers for the wall. Well most of us climbed, Abbie, the youngest member of our group was hoisted into the roof in a group effort. Tim, Ned and I climbed up the outside of the tower. While the climb was particularly difficult, a slip in the wrong directions would have been fatal.

That night we were all a bit buggered and knew that the next day would be a big one, so the night was a bit of a quiet one for most of us. Two of our crew, Peter (the copper from NSW) and Tim, managed to meet a local and have an all night bender. As Pete was my roommate I was a little worried when he hadn´t made it back to the hotel 20 minutes before we were scheduled to head off to the train station for our first ride to ulaanbaatar. But, fortunately they both got back to the hotel, still well and truly drunk, with a few minutes to spare. We would make our april fools day train with our still in tact.

due to technical difficulties, pictures will follow later, but most are on facebook.

1 comment:

Kid A said...

What happened in April? Did you get a big dose of CBF?

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