Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Sights of Beijing...

We tramped miles and miles today. Goodness knows how far we walked but it was a long way. Started off downtown and collected my camera which just as they promised, Canon mended it within two days and for free. Yipee. Thanks Canon. We had to buy an umbrella en route as it started raining again – that cost us 10p, and some men nearby were welding bus wheels in the street right next to the umbrella man. Then we stopped at Starbucks – yes, they're even here in Beijing – for a quick coffee and scone, then we started our wander.

Went through a hutong first off – a traditional street with all sorts of shops and stalls and people hanging about. Little crowds of men playing some board game are everywhere too.

Wasn't sure if this dog on a scooter was a take away or a pet. You never know in China – and check out the hair do on this blinged up dog as well. He was sleeping on the couch of a shop selling nothing but cats – seriously! There were cages of them, plus one pot of mice.

Checked out the bell and drum towers which are remnants of the old wall that once surrounded the city. The 25 bells were bashed to mark the hours of the day. Not sure how the spare one fitted in – maybe it was used in unison with the bell for the other respective hour or something.

From there we went up to the White Pogoda in Bei Hai Park. This was an imperial garden until 1925, and was designed by Kublai Khan who sorted it out. Its on a rocky island in a lake and there are great views of the city from up there. Also ate some lotus flower seeds. These come as a plant head which looks like something out of the shower head, and it contains big acorn like seeds, which you split open and eat the insides. they are a bit bland but ok and the kids selling it became all giggly when they realised that we wanted to try it.

Also checked out a drink that we'd seen the locals downing. They drink it from a stone jar via a straw. It turned out to be some sort of sweet drinking yoghurt and was actually very good. It cost us 0.5pence and we're still alive to tell the tale. Bargain! Came back via Tiananman Square and the People's Great Hall. There are soldiers every few 100 metres, standing with their backs to the raod and pedestrians an, facing the hedges. They stand motionless and to attention and I bet each one could tell you exactly how many leaves there are on each plant. What a soul destroying job.

Also found the old railway station which was built by the Brits in the early 20th century. Its now a museum but there is no mistaking it – it could have come straight out of London yesterday. Not sure what they would have made of the 24 hr KFC that is now right next to it though.

Stopped by a Chinese chemist today because my shoulder is playing up yet again and needs sorting. Needless to say, we couldn't find any western medicine in there but the pharmacist gave us a potion soaked onto a sticky patch. You stick it over the bit that hurts and it all looks very official, in a proper box etc. It pongs something awful and we have no idea what it is - eye of a newt or something - but it seems to be working. And it only cost a pound; another bargain!
Now back in the room and switched the TV on – its some military channel with generals in full uniform singing love songs to the troops, who respond with well choreographed waving. Very odd and rather Top of the Pops meets Royal Tournament with a bit of mush thrown in.

Ate in our room tonight too as our feet were too sore to venture out again. We have discovered that it is the same price too, but unfortunately, they got our order wrong three times before we got what we had ordered. A bit frustrating but we got there in the end. Might hire push bikes tomorrow as we can cover more ground that way. We have both noticed how our postures have changed since we stopped riding. We had clearly adopted comfortable poses that allowed us to rides big distances on uncomfortable bikes, day after day. But now we're walking, it is something else and it is quite an ordeal to pack in as much in as we can.