Monday, 30 July 2012

Exploring Beijing

This place is hot hot hot. Walk outside and the heat hits you. Muggy and grey, a real steamy blanket that seems to radiate scorching air from the ground. But it is surprisingly clean here. The air is fresh and not smoggy as it used to be and there is no rubbish or graffiti. People seem very well disciplined and orderly and thankfully most of them seem to have given up spitting as a bad job.

The subway is cool too. Airport style security checks everywhere, and they x ray you bag. I got stopped and searched for having a knife yesterday – only I didn't, and they were most apologetic about accusing me. But no problem; that's their job.

The traffic is interesting too. Everybody seems to be riding small electric scooters, which are silent and make you jump as they sneak up on you. They are everywhere and it is noticeable how much quieter the streets are, and how little smog there is as a a result . And bicycles too. Not as many as old China but still a good number. And cyclists of London please note – they all stop at red lights and coexist perfectly well with cars, motorbikes and pedestrians. So why can't you do the same?

Spent yesterday morning doing jobs in the hotel, then went out for a poke about in the afternoon. Had a brief look outside the Forbidden City, and a local streets before wandering into Tienanmen Square where we stumbled across the  flag ceremony. It was quite impressive with a military  contingent goose stepping out of the Forbidden City and into the Square, the national flag being lowered ad then paraded back through the Mao Mausoleum gate. Apparently this happens at sunrise and sunset daily – a sort of Chinese changing of the guard.

Then we got lost on the way home. Walked miles before we finally found the hotel. And both of us ached – whilst we are bike fit from our ride, we haven't done much walking and we felt that last night.

Went on another foray today too. Took my camera to the Canon repair Centre as the mirror fell out at Naadam. I was expecting to pay quite a bit but they told me they'd fix it for free because it was a part that shouldn't have failed! Good old Canon! We also bumped into a Swiss couple there who recognised us from Mongolia – “ are you two the Gobi Girls?”  It is still surprising when that happens but also rather nice!

Visited the Silk market in the afternoon. Not a bit of silk in sight but rather a tourist market haunt where you can buy almost anything. It's the place to practice haggling skills too – if you can be bothered. We only wanted  a tee shirt each, and Nadine needed a pair of trainers, so arguing the toss was a bit annoying, but that's what they do as they wont let you pay the first price they demand, even if you agree to it.

Ate in a noodle bar at lunchtime. Neither of us knew what we were doing and so had to be shown by a bemused local, but the food was good . It is so much easier to eat well here than in Mongolia where everything seemed to be the most fatty and unappetising sawn off bits of animal. At least here you can get fresh fruit and veg and there is a huge variety. Mind you, that didn't stop us scoffing some chocolates from the mini bar in the room.