Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Beijing to Xi'an
The Beijing Olympics are making the headlines today and we had a look at the stadium a couple of weeks ago. The coach pulled over on this motorway and we got a good view from a pedestrian bridge. There were many other people up there and cars and coaches parked below so I presume this is the spot they want you to see if from. I noticed a couple of men dressed in black keeping an eye on people - they are everywhere and can be spotted a mile away.
The real state of things can be seen above the hoardings from the coach windows - there is an awful lot of work to do! The air in Beijing didn't agree with me at all and I have no trouble with asthma or anything like that so I dread to think what it's going to be like for the athletes in the summer heat.
We took a rickshaw ride through the old Hutong area. This small area of old style housing is said by some to be protected from being destroyed to make way for the new only because it attracts revenue from the tourists.
The whole group went in a convoy!
I couldn't get over how genuinely friendly the residents looked even though their streets are invaded by snap-happy foreigners like me.
Paul snapped this cute little boy waving from his gate.
We went there to have lunch with some of the families. I think most of us assumed we would be eating with local families but we sat in rooms like this and were served food by the owner of the house who we met afterwards to give gifts and thanks. The food was excellent!
But then we had to face that familiar corridor of street sellers waiting for us outside! Chopsticks anyone?
Of course it was all carefully staged but the unscheduled trip to a pearl market was one too many. The success of the trip is very dependent on the guides, and the one we had in Beijing didn't impress me at all. I think much wasted time could have been saved if he had planned ahead instead of gathering up the group and then sorting things out while we waited. His job was to get us from A to B and I don't think he gave too much thought to the bit in the middle and whether we enjoyed it! Oh well, I don't care for pearls but I didn't realise that so many were contained inside...And why is it tall people always like to stand at the front?
It was like watching Wacky Races from the coach windows though! All sorts of mad and wonderful things on the road seen in a second and too quick to photograph.
This was by no means the most over-loaded tricycle I saw! That man nonchalantly strolling in the background shows how the pedestrians in Beijing cross the road. Even when you are on the zebra crossings the cars won't stop but from my hotel room I saw am elderly lady walking diagonally across a busy intersection as if she was strolling in the park - you act like the cars don't exist and somehow they miss you!
And so to Xi'an. We went 'first class' on an overnight train and there were four bunks to a cabin. My sketchbook is in this shot - proof I was there and this isn't a stock photo! (I didn't complete any sketches here though!) Second class had six bunks to a cabin (I could see through the windows of the train on the platform) but I didn't see third class. I had been dreading this but it was actually very clean and comfortable - the loos were fine (horror stories of seeing the ground through the hole and of guards standing outside proved unfounded!) and there was even a room with a row of sinks for freshening up in the morning. Although there were plenty of sockets there was no electricity so no hair washing and blow drying for me!
Breakfast is served!