29.07.2009 - 30.07.2009 35 °C
We got up really to go and see dead Chairman Mao, and when we arrived at Tiananmen Square the queues were awful already! We were amazed and shocked at how few Chinese people had seen him! Anyway, we had to shuffle in a massive queue for an hour until we got 3 seconds to shuffle past his 'corpse', which Chris and I thought was shockingly fake (no photos allowed by the way)! Anyway, after that we took a stroll in the nearby Temple of Heaven Park, which was more like an amusement park when we first entered as they were all doing line dancing and salsa in the park at 8am! Very strange nation! Chris and I actually believe that none of them work! Anyway in the middle of the park is a really impressive old Pagoda, which has been beautifully restored and offered us a small bit of peace away from the crowds!
The following day we took a day trip north of the city to the Summer Palace, which was really great. Unfortunately the smog was so bad that we couldn't see across the famous lake for the view of the palace! We walked all the way up to the top though and walked through all the palatial complex. After that we got a boat back across the lake and got the tube to see the Olympic Village. It was brilliant to finally see it after it being on our TVs for so long last summer, but the grey sky and the grey buildings gave the whole scene a rather dull look. Despite the fact that there were still people coming to see it, it looked rather abandoned. We strolled around for a while though and then headed back home for the night.
Yesterday we went to see the Great Wall of China, which was really fantastic. We got there in the afternoon and luckily the crowds were getting fewer in number (whereas in the morning, you apparently can't even move down the wall at all). We went to the section of wall at Badaling, which is the most heavily restored and the one which we all know. There are other, less renovated sections which the hikers like to frequent, but we felt that the stereotypical visit was OK for our first time. Some of the sections were so steep it was practically vertical, but we managed to walk a small section of it, whilst the sun was setting. Afterwards we got the cable car back down to ground level and headed back to Beijing.
That evening we went to Tienanmen Square to watch the flag being lowered. We thought that perhaps a handful of people would show up, as the main event is the raising of the flag in the morning really. How wrong we were. As ever, there must have been about 1000 people crowded around the flag pole, complete madness. They were going mad, climbing all over each other just to watch their guards take the flag down. It was all over in a matter of seconds, but the crowds seemed elated that they now had another pointless video to add to their collection. The worrying thing is that they were all Beijingers, very odd!
After that, on the way back home, we strayed onto the 'snack market', which literally sells anything you can carry in your hand, including some of the grossest things we have ever seen! One stall was selling things on skewers, when we got closer we realised there were lots of things on sale including: skewered starfish, skewered grubs, skewered scorpions, skewered seahorses and the list goes on. When we saw that all of the above were still moving on the skewers, we quickly found the nearest exit!
We have packed everything up today and we leave on our train at 11pm tonight. We are oddly nervous about it for some reason, perhaps because we are finally turning tail now and heading back home? Either way I'm sure it will all be fine. Not much left now really. We shall write once we get to Russia. Until then, we miss you all lots and cant wait to get home!
Lots of Love,
Chris and Alex xxx