Longtan Xihu Gongyuan

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    • Day 34

      Braving Beijing (and it's smog)

      October 16, 2016 in China ⋅ 🌫 14 °C

      When we woke at 8:00am this morning, the train was approaching Beijing. The wide open plains of Mongolia, and the rocky desert of the Gobi had been replaced overnight by towering mountains, dammed rivers, and heavy, heavy haze.

      You'll see from the photos just how spectacular the scenery was, as we followed along the side of a river gorge, popping in and out of tunnels, as below us, on the river, farmers tended to their orchards, in the narrow river plain before the gorge wall. After a while, it quickly became apparent that the haze we were looking through, was not from the early morning cold, but in fact, thick smog. A proper pea-souper. This realisation was particualrly awful because, we had four days to survive in this polluted jungle.

      As the train pulled into the station at Beijing, we said our goodbyes to our new train family, unsure if we would see many of them again. We had vague plans to go on a tour with Emily and Victoria, and catch up with a few more for a drink in a couple of days' time, but didn't know if it would happen.

      After the obligatory team photos, we made for the nearest ATM, to try and get some cash. This proved to be a problem. China is not the most traveller friendly place that you will ever happen upon. Finding a bank was easy enough, there was one across the road from the train station, but finding an ATM that would work with any of my cards. As it turns out, some ATMs will work, and some won't, so after trying five ATMs and three separate bank cards, we eventually got some money, and headed back to the train station, to buy a subway ticket, to go the one stop to our hotel.

      With all the hassle getting money, we had contemplated just walking to our hotel, knowing that it was close by, but without access to GoogleMaps, or any Google app, we thought it best to get the subway, as we knew our hotel was right next to its local subway station. After 45 minutes of trying, we finally got ourselves our subway tickets, passed through the secutity check point to get into the subway (every station has an x-ray machine and metal detector you have to pass through), and got on out train. Two minutes later we at our stop, and two minutes later we were in the lobby of our hotel.

      Having dressed for the cool weather we had become used to in Finland, Russia, and Mongolia, Beijing was not cold at all - it was ~15C - so by the time we got the room, we were saturated in sweat. The first order of business was a shower, and clean clothes, though clean clothes were in short supply. The second order of business was catching up on washing. Knowing that hotel cleaning costs are extrotionate, Courtney went down to the concierge, to try and find a local laudromat. While there she met Sebastian, an MBA student from Mexico, living out of the hotel for the past to months, while doing his MBA placement. He recommended a service called Laundrytown, where your clothes are picked up, cleaned and returned to you two days later. It was much cheaper than the hotel costs, and about the same as a laundromat, so we thought why not, and arranged for our clothes to be picked up the next day.

      Having dealt with the admin, and had some lunch at the hotel, it was time to go for a walk. We headed for the main shopping street. While there we found a crazy market, that had a lot of food stalls, and some other shops selling awful Chinese tat. The foods available were a bit crazy. There were scorpions, locusts, cockroachs, starfish, seahorses, and sea snails. We didn't have anything to eat, as we were still working of our lunch, but agreed to come back for dinner the next time.

      When the light had faded on the day, we headed back toward the hotel, and stopped at a local Chinese restaurant on the way. Courtney order a tofu dish, that nearly killed her. Not because it was bad, but because it was egg, in the shape of tofu, and a lot of egg at that. There must have been seven or eight eggs used at least, which was far more than could reasonably be stomached. Aside from that the food was prettty decent, if not spectacular.

      And that was the day. Nothing too exciting, nothing too boring.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Longtan Xihu Gongyuan, 龙潭西湖公园

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