The Russian Experience (part 5 of 5)
Sorry this is a bit late, I really should done this when the trip was fresher in my mind but better late than never I guess!
Day 22 (part 2): In the evening we explored some of the back streets around our hostel and got dragged off to some backstreet illegal store where we bought some DVDs for a stupidly low price. While walking back to the hostel we (well, Tim) started talking to some local Chinese girls who were trying to practice their English. We went with them to a tea shop where we did the tea equivalent of wine tasting while teaching them words and phrases from "diaphragm" to "wet my whistle".
Day 23: Had an early morning to get the 1.5 hour bus to the summer palace, which we found behind construction signs in deep smog. Saying that though, I preferred it to the Forbidden City as it was a relief to be somewhere green for a change. We tried using chopsticks again for lunch, I think I'm getting better…
Day 24: Today was the Great Wall trip. We thought it would be a simple trip just to the wall and to see the Mao tombs but, in the standard Chinese way that we're getting used to a bit now, they tried to get some more money off us first by taking us to a jade factory (1/5th factory, 4/5s shop) and other similar tourist traps. The Mao tombs were very similar to the Forbidden city architecture we'd already seen everywhere else (I think I was getting a little cultured-out now) and so was a museum we were taken to. At the Great Wall we went to a touristy section with miss-treated bears and a roller-coaster to the top of the wall (yes, a roller-coaster!). The wall was very impressive, though apparently it isn't visible from space. I've got some good pictures of this (should be put up soon…).
In the evening we went out to the Night Market where they sell street food, and I tried both scorpions and curried frog! The scorpions were much nicer than the frog which almost made me ill on the spot…
Day 25: Our last day in Beijing! We explored the markets today, failing to find cheap iPods but buying chopsticks, pashmenas and some boxers and socks so we wouldn't have to do any washing! In the evening we got the train (1st class – it's cheap) to X'ian, watching movies on our personal flat-screen TVs.
Day 26: I just had a relaxing day as my stomach was not reacting well to the scorpions! Went on a quick walk in the afternoon, and found nothing interesting except for some more DVDs.
In the evening we all went to a local Chinese fast food joint where we talked politics to a Chinese academic before returning to the hostel bar and I played some drums with a guitarist who was there – worst drum kit I have ever played on but it was nice to do some playing for the first time in 3 months.
Day 27: Stomach is even worse now after that fast food place… Went on a tour organised by the hostel to the teracotta warriors, and in the same way as the great wall tour we were taken to lots of places to sell us tat. I ended up buying some mini warriors for 4¥ (about 30p) just to haggle it to less than Tim paid! The warriors themselves were quite impressive, but it was a bit disappointing just seeing them in a huge warehouse from so far away.
Day 28: We thought we were going to see some pandas today at a "Wildlife reserve". We actually went to a zoo where we saw some pandas in small cages, wasn't quite what we were expecting… It was time to leave X'ian too, so we went and got our overnight train to Nanjing, from which we were going to Shanghaï!
Day 29: The change was uneventful, and we arrived in the financial capital of China in the mid afternoon. After checking in to our very nice hostel ('Captain's hostel') we went on a walk down the Bund, the riverside old part of Shanghaï. The walk was nice, with old English and French architecture on one side of the river and modern skyscrapers on the other. We ended up trying to go a bit further than we could along the front and instead of stunning architecture found the sewage disposal system of the city…
On the way back we managed to find a nice restaurant right on the front for some very nice food (though I didn't have that much, stomach was dodgy again! Grrr to Chinese food!).
Day 30: Went on an explore of Shanghai today and saw an old market and the new shopping street. It was surprising to see quite how modernised the city was, it was one of the few places where you couldn't haggle in the shops. We moved in to our hotel in the evening (we decided we wanted to have one night in a hotel in China as it was quite cheap…) which was past some slums in the outskirts of the centre, walking past the "barbers" where women were offering "massages". We went for another very nice meal in a restaurant on a fly-over on top of a road. Tim had the hottest dish ever made.
Day 31: A very early morning (6am) to get our taxi to the Maglev train. The train itself went at well over 400kmph, a phenomenally fast speed, but it was surprisingly smooth. The flight to Milan left on time, we watched the rubbishy movies that were on (well, Tim liked them…), I had a pizza in Milan to make sure I've eaten the national dish of every country we've been in and then we flew home to England where I finally collapsed in bed after a 26 hour day, and a fantastic month-long holiday.
To anyone who's read all of this: I hope it wasn't too boring reading, and out of interest could you write a reply on my comments? I'm just interested so I won't tell you the stories many times in person later!
Back at uni so will see most of you soon,