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  • Day27

    Nightmare in Erlian

    September 21, 2019 in China ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Well when we left you last we were on a high, enjoying ourselves in the elaborate Mongolian Dining Car. It’s fair to say things went downhill from there!

    We spent a pleasant afternoon back in our lovely compartment sipping coffee and watching life on the Gobi but in the back of our minds we knew what was coming later in the day.....Border control and the changing of the bogeys on each carriage from Mongolian to Chinese gauge. Now we knew this was going to be a palaver (great word) lasting some time but we weren’t prepared for the scale of the shenanigans (even better word).

    Exiting Mongolia was fine. We pulled into Zamyn-Uud Station around sundown - just before 7pm - and remained in our compartment for about an hour and a half reading and using the last of our mobile internet. A border control lady collected our passports on arrival, checked that we looked like the photos and took them away. Passports duly returned some time later we departed on schedule at 8.45pm knowing that it was 30 minutes to Erlian Station in China where we would spend several hours going through border formalities and the train would be taken to an engineering shed where it would be hoisted while the wheel transformation takes place.

    The big surprise was when ‘Mr Woo’ came into our compartment with his trusty mobile phone to show us one of his translations. We thought maybe it would be ‘Hope you are having a nice time’ or maybe ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ but no, unfortunately it was something along the lines of ‘when we get to Erlian Station you have to take all your belongings off the train’!!

    Shock, horror. Now we need to give this context. Compared to most Trans-Mongolian passengers we are not travelling light, although due to our multi-movements we are quite well practiced in the art of packing. Train compartments do cause an issue as even if you are in first class they can in no way be described as being flush for space. What this means is that on arrival in a compartment we have to break down our two big cases into several smaller chunks which can then be stored in varying small shelves, cupboards, nets, hooks, under berths and in any other hidey holes we can find. With our train journeys taking between 24 hours and four days it has not been too much of an issue to break down the bags on boarding and to re-pack prior to arrival.

    Mr Woo’s instruction gave us a challenging 20 minutes to get all of our stuff together back in our cases, plus gather together our food, drink, flasks, books, electronic devices, toiletries etc (hand baggage) which were dotted around the compartment and we assumed would remain there for the 31 hours of our journey. We knew we would have to leave the train for a while but nowhere in our research and advice did it say we had to clear everything out of our compartment in the process.

    We completed the task exactly at the time we pulled into Erlian and we disembarked with several hundred other travellers (almost exclusively tourists). It was 9.15 pm and strangely the station buildings were tastefully covered in flashing neon lights (Las Vegas sprang to mind) and there was Chinese music playing through the speakers. I guess this is their reasonable attempt at ‘Welcome to China’.

    Fortunately we were near the front of the queue to enter the main station building and what we discovered to be Immigration. We queued for a while, went through passport control where we underwent facial and fingerprint recognition before or passports were stamped, then had our baggage x-rayed. We were now officially in China.

    Then it got interesting, but not in a good way. Quite simply we were confined to the station building with no information on where to go and how long we would be there, albeit we had a schedule in our itinerary that indicated a 1.20am departure (it was now 10.20pm) so we always knew it would be a long wait. We plonked ourselves down in reasonable railway station seats as did all of our fellow passengers (in various places around the building) and passed the time away - not very peacefully however as we had a large group of Spanish women sitting next to us who did not stop talking for 3 hours (all at the same time and very loudly!). There was nowhere open inside the station to buy anything (talk about missed revenue opportunity) however there was a drinking water fountain! Oh, and all external doors were locked! They obviously didn’t want you wandering around the town!! We eventually deduced from an electronic information board, that our departure time was in fact 2am. This did not help our spirits. Fortunately games on our iPads saved the day, particularly ‘Virtual Lawn Green Bowls’ - highly recommended!

    Now a quick aside. Up to last year you had the option to remain on your carriage and go into the shed whilst the bogeys were being changed. However if you took this option the toilets were locked throughout and you may have a rather uncomfortable three/four hours. Anyway this option is now off the table.

    Back to present day Erlian Station and at 1.15am we were alerted to the fact that boarding would recommence. With unbridled relief we reloaded our bags onto the train with Mr Woo’s kind assistance (the low platform is unhelpfully over a yard below the train) and then unpacked to be able to get everything away so we could get to bed. The train pulled out of the Station we never want to see again at exactly 2am.

    It was a quick coffee and lights out for 2.30am. The good news is that the berths are comfortable. The bad news is that our first 5 hours in China were bloody awful! There are no photos of any of this as the ‘no photographs’ signs looked extremely non-negotiable. To put the frustrations of these past 5 hours into perspective it represents just 0.7% of the overall trip and on an adventure like ours things will not always be exactly as you hope.

    After an exhausted sleep we returned to good spirits on Friday morning and enjoyed tea and porridge around 9am. We had obviously missed a few hours visibility of China due to sleep but what we saw first thing was a mix of large towns with factories, big out of town industrial units and arable land (mainly corn). A lot of housing that looked very poor indeed and the amount of general rubbish dumped in ditches, river banks and by the railway line was quite depressing. Not quite Mongolia. Also Mr Woo’s number two (now that doesn’t sound very nice but you know what we mean) is on duty this morning and he is a right misery guts, although he does allow us to alight for a couple of minutes at one stop.

    With a scheduled arrival at 2.35pm we enjoyed our last pot noodle lunch on the train. Whilst in Ulaanbaatar John decided that he needed something with a bit more heat so he purchased a ‘2 x Very Hot Spicy Chicken’ which did not lie as it was just about the hottest thing he had ever eaten in his life bringing tears to his eyes. Perhaps the clue was in the title. We are hoping for no repercussions.

    We arrived at Beijing Station exactly to schedule (overall punctuality has been excellent), said goodbye to Mr Woo and his number two, and were met by our new guide Ben and then our driver Yang. They will be looking after us for two days now as we embark on the last leg of our journey.
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  • Day27

    A long Lucky, Ducky Day

    September 21, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    So we jumped into Yang’s car at Beijing Station at 3pm and Ben gave us some important information about our afternoon City Tour straight away. Two of the main attractions, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City were to be closed from tomorrow for 11 days so today was our only chance to see them!

    The reason for the closure of these areas is rehearsals will be taking place for the big parade to be held on 1st October to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

    We were very lucky to have the chance to see these places, however last entry into the Forbidden City is 4pm and you have to be out by 5pm. There was obviously no time to check into our hotel we just needed to get a shift on despite having just come off the back of a 31 hour train journey.

    Now came another surprise. Ben told us that although we had been due to stay at the Kapok Hotel right in the City Centre near the Forbidden City (which had been booked at least 6 months ago), because of traffic restrictions caused by the Anniversary celebrations our booking had been transferred to another hotel (the Citadines) 3.5 miles further out from the centre.

    This caused much jumping up and down and whinging from us about our disadvantaged location and wasted pre trip research but Ben kept calm and told us that it’s not like the UK and if the government say something must be done then it has to happen. We have subsequently learned that all the hotels close to Tiananmen Square are having to ship out foreign tourists for two days (Saturday and Sunday) in part to stop them taking photos of the parade rehearsals. Quite bizarre really.

    Anyway this couldn’t allow us to be diverted from our high speed, race against the clock, sightseeing Tour. Our first stop was the vast Tiananmen Square, the biggest Square in the World. It is mighty impressive with iconic buildings flanking it’s sides, Mao Tse Tung’s Mausoleum and The Great Hall of the People being the two best known.

    Then it was a quick dash to the Forbidden City (arriving 10 minutes before last entry) which was the work place and home for Chinese Emperors over the Centuries until their removal during the revolution of the early 1900’s. It is a huge site filled with Palaces of different meanings and functions. Despite the time constriction we had a good look round and then walked to a nearby hill to look down on the Forbidden City and really grasp the scale of the complex.

    We then checked into our ‘new’ hotel and to cut a long story short we have calmed down in our objections. The bottom line is that our new hotel is fine and the rooms are very well appointed (breakfast is top class too). We also know that all the reasons behind our hotel switch are absolutely true and that our UK Agent also only found out about the change yesterday.

    We realised how very lucky we were because if we had arrived in Beijing a day later on our schedule we would have missed these two top iconic sights which would have been a disaster.

    Tonight we wanted to visit a particular recommended restaurant named Siji Minfu for Peking Duck. Now this would have been a 7 minute stroll from our original hotel, but a look at the map showed that it would be nearly an hour walk from our new location. With the help of reception we got a cab which arrived there in less than 15 minutes. We had read there is usually a big queue for tables (this was correct!) and when we got there at 8pm we were told it would be an hour and a half wait. They gave us a ticket with our queue number and we headed about 100 yards to the bar of the Crowne Plaza Hotel for an hour (regular street bars don’t seem to exist here) before returning to Siji Minfu and waiting just 10 minutes for our table. It was worth the hassle. After a prawn starter our duck was carved in front of us and melted in the mouth. As per usual we were the last people left in the restaurant and paid the bill as the chairs were being piled on tables and the kitchen staff were leaving the building. It was then a taxi back and in the room by 11pm.

    It has been one hell of a 24 hours for us since entering China but after some ups and downs we ended on a high and are looking forward to another trip highlight tomorrow, The Great Wall.
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  • Day28

    We hit the Wall

    September 22, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    It’s Saturday and our last day of sightseeing as we have left the final full day of our journey, tomorrow, absolutely free.

    Ben and Yang were ready for us at 8am and our first port of call was the Olympic Park and an outside view of two adjoining Stadia constructed for Beijing 2008. Firstly we saw the Bird’s Nest, a very recognisable and impressive stadium which accommodated the track and field events. Then we saw the adjoining Water Cube which looks like it is covered in bubble wrap. This housed the swimming and diving. The Chinese are very proud of holding International events and nationals still travel from all over the country to see landmarks such as these, in fact there is an average of 80,000 people per day who visit the Olympic Park (you have to pay to even see the stadia from the outside and even more to go inside).

    From here we had to travel 70 kilometres to The Great Wall of China. Our Tour Company does not visit the closest section to Beijing City due to over crowding and for this we are thankful. There was some interesting scenery on the way as we travel through hillsides famous for large scale production of all kinds of fruits and nuts.

    Now we arrive at the location known as Mutianyu and enter a world of a well oiled Chinese machine. Our first view of the Wall is a very long way above us and you can just pick out the line of the wall and a couple of turrets. The first stage is an efficient shuttle bus that transports us 5 minutes up the hill to a drop off point. From there you have an option of walking an hour up steep steps to the Wall or taking the cable car. Fortunately our Tour already included tickets for the latter. Well organised queues are of course the order of the day.

    We have been to several ‘Wonders of The World’ and iconic sights and one consistent theme is that we have been prepared to be disappointed but never have been. The Taj Mahal and Macchu Picchu spring to mind. The Great Wall is no exception. When we dismounted the cable car we got our first proper view and it was breathtaking in it’s scale and construction.

    Ben walked with us for a while and then left us to trek off on our own for an hour. The walk along the Wall is particularly interesting because the gradient and surface varies all the time. Sometimes it is a slope, sometimes steps (shallow, steep, narrow, wide) with gentle and sharp gradients. There were towers of varying sizes every couple of hundred yards apart as the Wall stretched ahead and behind us out of view. You have to keep remembering that this wall is many centuries old and runs for around 5,000 miles.

    There were quite a lot of people there but it was not overcrowded. The only problem was the heat and it was certainly hard work walking in around 28C between noon and 1pm. The shade of the towers was always welcome. We used our full time there and then descended back to base at the bottom where we enjoyed a nice lunch with Ben and Yang. As we have witnessed before on this tour, any opportunities guides and drivers have for a free meal is taken with relish. As it was an ‘as much as you can eat’ buffet our two helpers attacked the buffet as if they hadn’t eaten for several months. Now Yang is a big lad and decided not to eat at the same table as us, however we were able to see him devouring huge quantities of Chinese food at high speed and thought it would have been useful to wire up his chopsticks to the Chinese National Grid to give it a boost! To be fair I suspect all of our guides and drivers are not on brilliant money and we don’t blame them at all for enjoying plentiful good quality food when they have the chance.

    Then it was 70km back to Beijing which took about 2 hours. Now Ben had about four platefuls at the buffet and that took it’s toll as he slept for almost all the journey back. Fortunately Yang managed to stay awake and got us back to the hotel by about 4pm. We’d really enjoyed our last days sightseeing but were pleased to now have no more organised footslogging.

    We had not booked anything for the evening and took a short stroll from our hotel and fortunately found a precinct about 2 minutes walk away with a number of restaurants as well as, and we certainly found this hard to believe, a bar! So we sat outside this stylish bar with live music being played inside, Janet had a couple of G&T’s and John two cans of Guinness, as we weighed up our dinner options. When we asked for the bill the waiter came and shook his head when John pulled out a credit card. He quickly got his iPhone translator out and showed us the words ‘Cash only’. ‘No problem’ John intimated to the waiter with hand signals ‘but how much?’. The waiter got his calculator and punched in 220 (about £27). Mucking about John took the calculator off him and in the manner of market bartering changed this to 180. The waiter laughed and made gestures that a drinks bill is not negotiable. John took the calculator again and for a joke punched in 200 at which point the waiter said OK and the deal was done. We have never been able to negotiate a bar tab before! He got a good tip.

    After a big Chinese lunch we settled for dinner at the nearby Italian, named Annie’s, for pizza which we enjoyed with a bottle of red. The music selection swung between the Love Theme from The Godfather, Al Martino and Opera in a random rotation which is probably designed to make the locals feel that they are actually in Italy. It caused us some amusement after we’d heard The Godfather theme tune for the 5th time! By the way we were the last people to leave the restaurant....again!
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  • Day46

    Peking - Sightseeing

    October 16, 2019 in China ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Nach einer Nacht mit viel Schlaf (endlich! - denn wir waren noch immer fertig von den letzten Tagen, an denen wir schlecht geschlafen hatten...) sind wir aufgebrochen um uns den Himmelspalast anzuschauen. Danach sind wir dann weiter zur Verbotenen Stadt. Die Gebäude sind wirklich beeindruckend und sehr weitläufig, jedoch mindestens genauso beeindruckend sind die Menge an chinesischen Touristen dort. Genauer genommen ziemlich anstrengend und nach zwei Stunden hat man die Schnauze voll. 🙈
    Danach brauchten wir etwas Erholung und sind deshalb zum Olympia Gelände mit dem „Bird’s Nest“ gefahren. Dort haben wir uns dann bei Costa Coffee, einen Kaffee und Muffin gegönnt, weil wir noch zwei Tagen schon keinen Appetit mehr auf chinesisches Essen hatten.... ich hoffe dieser kommt bald wieder!
    Bei unserem Streifzug durch die Stadt ist uns aufgefallen, dass es wirklich viele Fahrradspuren gibt in Peking, die Roller (nur elektrische) jedoch jede rote Ampel ignorieren und man daher beim Überqueren der Straßen ständig aufpassen muss.
    Am Abend haben wir uns dann mit Hollie, die wir aus der Mongolei kennen, zum Abendessen bzw. auf ein Bier getroffen. Dabei haben wir auch Andy, ihren sehr süßen Hund kennengelernt. 😊 und dann kam auch noch Ran mit Zwei Leuten aus dem Hostel dazu, so dass wir eine nette Gruppe waren...
    Wir müssen zugeben, nachdem wir uns nach dem letzten chinesischen Essen nicht wirklich gut gefühlt hatten, hatten wir bereits nach zwei Tagen schon keinen Appetit mehr auf Chinesisch, weswegen uns die bestellte Pizza besonders gut geschmeckt hat.
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  • Day25

    Peking und die verbotene Stadt

    November 1, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Nach einem super angenehmen Flug, sogar inklusive unerwartetem Frühstück im Flugzeug und BVB Werbung der Mongolischen Airline bin ich gestern in Peking gelandet.
    Nach dem ganzen Einreise-Heck-Meck 😊 und einer kleinen Zugfahrt zu meinem Gepäck ging es dann leicht übermüdet zum Hostel.
    Schade nur, dass ich erst den falschen Ausgang aus der Metro genommen habe und dann leider die falsche Adresse markiert hatte 🙄 Somit gab es dann einen Umweg von 2,5 km, mit vollgepacktem Backpack 😩
    Im Hostel endlich angekommen war der Tag für mich auch schon gelaufen.

    Heute nahm ich mir die Verbotene Stadt und Umgebung vor.
    Wow, also krasse hätte der Unterschied zwischen der Mongolei und Peking wohl nicht sein können 😂 so viele Menschen 🙈 und im Sommer tummeln sich da sogar noch mehr.
    Auf den Platz des Himmlischen Friedens passen sogar bis zu eine Millionen Menschen. Das wäre dann ca. einmal die Kölner Bevölkerung 😅
    Die verbotene Stadt mit Ihren ganzen Tempeln ist zwar sehr schön aber durch diese ganzen Menschenmassen brauch man leider Glück um mal ein Stückchen ohne Menschen zu sehen.
    Auch das Metro fahren ist wieder mal super easy und (wenn nicht gerade in der Rushhour) auch sehr entspannt.
    Ich bin gespannt was die nächsten Tage zu bieten haben.
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  • Day3

    De Chinese muur!!

    September 23, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Wauw vandaag naar De Chinese muur. Wat een belevenis. Vanmorgen weer heerlijk ontbeten en met z’n allen (90 pers) naar De Chinese Muur!! We hebben 1 1/2 uur gereden totdat we er waren. Werden door de gidsen naar de bussen gebracht die ons weer naar de kabelbaan brachten. Met de kabelbaan naar boven en toen begon onze klim naar De Chinese Muur. Het was, gelukkig, niet druk. We zijn met z’n 6en verder gelopen. Patrick, Miranda, Harrie, Mia, Jan en ikke. Er waren behoorlijke steile trappen maar kregen er een prachtig uitzicht voor terug. We hebben ervan genoten. Na deze belevenis naar het Olympisch Stadion. Mooi om gezien te hebben... Daarna naar een theater waar we acrobaten zagen. Geweldig wat die konden. Nog heerlijk gegeten en terug naar hotel waar we nu lekker gaan slapen daar we er morgen alweer vroeg uit moeten om naar Binnen-Mongolië te vliegen.Read more

  • Day2


    September 22, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Vanmorgen alweer vroeg uit bed. Heerlijk ontbijt gehad en daarna werden we met bussen naar het Zomerpaleis gebracht. We zitten in een bus met de Belgen 😂. Zomerpaleis was heel mooi maar wat een drukte. Zoveel Chinezen op een hoopje. Na het zomerpaleis zijn we naar het 789 district gegaan waar kunstenaars hun kunstwerk tonen en verkopen. Toen nog een thee ceremonie meegemaakt met heerlijke thee. Na dit alles als afsluiter naar een Tibetaans restaurant met zang en dans geweest. Dit was kei leuk en zeer gezellig. Als afsluiter in het hotel op het dak nog een afzakkertje. Een top dag gehad.Read more

  • Day7

    Plein van de Hemelse Vrede!

    September 27, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Gisterenavond was weer een zeer gezellige avond. Waren pas om 3 uur in bed en konden vanmorgen “uitslapen”. Om 8.15 u opgestaan en heerlijk ontbeten. Alles ingepakt en naar ‘Het plein van de Hemelse Vrede’ gegaan. Helaas konden we nergens in daar er van alles voorbereid moest worden voor de feestdag van 1 oktober. Het 70-jarig bestaan van China. Wat een groot plein zeg. We waren weer een attractie. Werd een groepsfoto gemaakt en er stonden meer mensen die van ons een foto maakte dan onze groep. Geweldig. Groot plein en veel te zien. Daarna werden we naar een restaurant gebracht voor een heerlijke lunch. Na de lunch zijn we bij iemand thuis geweest in Hutong en een mooie korte riskja tocht gemaakt. Nadien zijn we naar een overdekte markt geweest waar we wat souvenirs hebben gekocht. Nog even dineren en een cadeau aan Geert-Jacob (directeur DeLaval) een cadeau gegeven. We vertrekken zo naar vliegveld om weer naar huis te gaan.
    We hebben een geweldige reis gehad.
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  • Day13

    On way to the Great Wall

    April 5, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    Beautiful day out. Air quality 67 vs 176 yesterday - actual blue skies!! Note of interest - the bricks in the Great Wall would circle the world twice. Also the one thing visible from space or so the astronauts claim

    Today is a Memorial Day in China where people pay respect to the lives of loved ones who have passed away

    Kids are off school today. No tolls charged on the roads

    Next year for the first time Chinese visitors to the US will surpass US. Visitors to China. A visa for the Chinese to come to the US costs the same as our visa to China
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  • Day14

    Pearl Shop

    April 6, 2019 in China ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

    Not much going on here. Just a place to buy pearls, which a few of the ladies did. Some serious haggling going on, which is pretty amusing. Once these ladies think you might be 1% interested in something, you’re doomed. They’ll even follow you into the parking lot!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Beijing, Peking, ቤዪጂንግ, Pequín, Beȝcinȝ, بكين, بيكين, Beixín, Pekin', Горад Пекін, Пекин, Péycing, বেইজিং, པེ་ཅིང་གྲོང་ཁྱེར།, Báe̤k-gĭng, پێکەن, ބީޖިންގ, Πεκίνο, Pekino, Pekín, پکن, Pékin, Pèquin, Béising, 北京, બેઇજિંગ, Pet-kîn, בייג'ינג, बीजिंग, Peken, Պեկին, BJS, Pechino, 北京市, beidjin, პეკინი, Бейжің, ប៉េកាំង, ಬೀಜಿಂಗ್, 북경, Pekîn, Pechinum, Pechin, Pekinas, Pekina, Пекинг, ബെയ്‌ജിങ്ങ്‌, Бээжин, ပေကျင်းမြို့, Pequin, बेइजिङ, Beyjing, Péqùin, ਬੀਜਿੰਗ, Bejing, Pekin, بیجنگ, بېجینګ, Pequim, Pikkin, Пекінґ, Pechinu, බෙයිජිං, Pekini, Bejdżing, பெய்ஜிங், బీజింగ్, ปักกิ่ง, بېيجىڭ, Пекін, Bắc Kinh, Бәәҗң балһсн, בייזשינג, Baekging

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