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  • Day40

    Beijing

    September 25, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    After one last overnight train trip, one final epic journey through Chinese customs and immigration and a five hour wait in the customs hall while they changed the bogies on the train, we made it!

    We have now traveled from Helsinki to Beijing by seven trains, including six nights spent rattling and swaying along trying to sleep and trying to avoid using the toilet.

    October 1, 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China, and there seemed to be more portaloos than bicycles on the pavement in preparation for the forthcoming celebrations.

    The Forbidden City was closed in preparation for the ceremony, but we did the walk around Tiananmen Square in 32 degree heat, watching people lining up in the shadows cast by the flagpoles, the only shade available.

    We also visited the Temple of Heaven, complete with lanterns installed in the trees and a giant video screen behind the Temple of Prayers for Good Harvests.

    That was all we had time for in Beijing, although Don and Kim have two more days to explore the Great Wall and look around a bit more.

    It has been a fascinating trip, replete with reminders of how little we really know about the rest of the world no matter how smart we think we are. For example:

    They had built a whole new MRT line in Singapore that we had never heard of.

    Sometimes countries change the design of their currency. We brought British five pound notes, and a whole lot of Chinese yuan from home, carefully saved from previous trips and now no longer legal tender.

    First class on a Chinese train is not nearly the equal of first class on a Russian one, but did come with a (male) carriage attendant who snorted, hacked and spat constantly into the rubbish bins. Unlike our Russian experience it also didn’t come with drinking water or cups, which did lead to some improvisation and some urgent shopping excursions on remote Mongolian railway stations.

    Just because a short, chubby, middle aged Chinese woman in tight jeans and a cowboy hat says a “steak” restaurant is any good doesn’t mean it is. Especially when she has a loud, grating voice and dismisses our questions with “Listen to me!”, and keeps turning the pages of the menus while we are trying to look at them. Actually, this wasn’t a mistake - we knew it would be no good but her performance was so bewilderingly funny we were unable to get up and leave.

    This has been a marvellous trip, full of new sights and experiences (almost all good ones) and shared with great, funny, caring friends. We are rather lucky.
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