Sunday, 31 May 2015

18/05/2015 - 29/05/2015 Brisbane to China and Paris

18/05/2015 – Brisbane to Beijing

We had a great flight on Cathay Pacific from Brisbane to Hong Kong – even the Big Fella who continually complains that he cant sleep on any of the flights had a fair amount of sleep – might be the fact that he had a flat bed that was 2 meters long, and we had had 3 dinners.  Before we left home the Big Fella says we better have something substantial to eat, because not sure if we would be served dinner – one meal down.  We get to the Qantas Club and they have a lovely Chilli Con Carne – meal two done, then we get on the plane and they serve us a meal of prawns and scallops – needless to say we cant pass that up.  So between the meals, and the flat bed I slept very well – I did get to watch one full movie.

Well – lets just say I still have not learnt my lesson – I know how many times does it take.  Yet again we find ourselves doing the airport dash to make our connecting flight from Hong Kong to Beijing.  I had asked Dave what time we were boarding (as he has control over boarding passes, passports etc – don’t know why he doesn’t trust me not to lose them) and he advised it was 9:00am.  So we were sitting in the lounge nice and relaxed.  When we hear our names called out over the speaker system (apparently this was our 2nd call, so up we went to the reception desk, to be told that our flight was on final call and very close to shutting the doors – so a mad dash to our flight with many apologies to staff who were waiting for us.  Mmm our flight left at 9:00am not boarding at 9:00am.

After we land in Beijing and we are met by our guide and driver, who drop us of at our hotel – we have the afternoon to ourselves, so after a wee nap we head on out to dinner to a restaurant recommended by our guide for the Peking duck.  It was a great suggestion and the duck was absolutely delicious, the skin was very very crispy and the meat was extremely tender.  This restaurant is voted in the top 5 for Peking duck in Beijing, so it wasn’t cheap, but it was certainly worth it.

After dinner we went for a walk around the mall area – well we see some great sights and luckily we had already had dinner or I may have been tempted to try the scorpions on a stick….  So far Beijing has far exceeded my expectations our guide and driver are just wonderful and the city is unbelievably clean, apparently the Chinese really cleaned up the city before the 2008 Beijing Olympic games.

19/05/2015 - Beijing

Today our guide and driver picked us up and we headed on out to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Wow so much history and culture – what I remember most was that the Male Servants – were not real men (as our guide says) they were eunuchs.  What Dave got out of it was that one of the Emperors from the Tang Dynasty had 3000 girlfriends and one wife.  Apparently the Emperor would choose which girlfriend he was to spend the night with by a picture drawn by an artist.  

Our last visit for the day is the Temple of Heaven.

Dave and I are pretty easy to pick out in the crowd.  For once I am one of the tall people here – I love it, I can see over a lot of peoples heads.  Dave is normally easy to pick out in a crowd but especially so here.  He did ask me though, if he would look like a tourist if he wore shorts – mmm I don’t think the shorts are the give away.

Beijing has a population of over 25million, so there are crowds everywhere you go.

20/05/2015 – Beijing

After breakfast we visited the Great Wall (Mutianyu Section).  Well we made the decision that we would take the chair up and ride the slide down.  However, after Dave and I have scaled one section of the wall and are now at the area to go back down, Dave decides he wants to go a bit further.  Well as many of my good friends know my bladder is not the best, so I decide to wander off to the washroom and let Dave do a bit more hiking, we agree to meet down the bottom.  Unfortunately, just before I was going to head back down our guide has appeared, very apologetically saying that she had forgotten to give us our tickets for the trip back down the mountain.  I say its no problem Dave has just gone for a walk and will be coming back down our way soon, so I will wait for him (with my legs crossed trying to keep my bladder under control).  So I am keeping a keen eye out for Dave, after 45 minutes I’m getting a wee bit desperate and my eyes are starting to turn yellow, when I see my guide coming back up – yep Dave had walked to the other Gondola and paid another fee to go down and meet at our meeting spot.  So walking very carefully and trying hard not to sneeze, laugh or cough, I make it back down and to the washroom without embarrassing myself.  Our guide was very very apologetic. 

The Great Wall was just unbelievable, the sights were just majestic.  A lot of this section of the Wall had been restored.

In the afternoon we went to the Olympic site of 2008 to see the Birds Nest and the Water Cube.

21/05/2015 – Beijing

After our day yesterday, Dave and I are really excited about our trek, to a lot less touristy area and one were the Wall hasn’t been restored Gubeikou to Jinshanling.  One section of it had been bombed by the Japanese during Word War II.

Mmm when I booked I was told that it was a medium level hike. I actually should of realized it wasn’t going to be easy, as when we looked at the itinerary we were going to hike 10Kms in 4 – 5 hours, all I can say is that the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a walk in the park and they no longer frighten us.  Not only did we need to trek for about 40minutes just to get up to the Wall, after about 2kms we then needed to trek back down, to go around the section of the Wall that was in the Army grounds, then trek back up.  I don’t know which was harder going up or going down, the going down was a lot easier on the fitness, but not particularly easy on the knees, and you had to tread very carefully as the path was only about 1 foot wide with trees and shrubs overgrowing it, and loose gravel all the way down.  Going up was really tough and showed us how unfit we are and that perhaps we should of kept up with some of our training.  It certainly didn’t have any tourists trekking this section, actually we didn’t see anyone else doing the same Trek.

This section of the Wall was just stunning and so awe inspiring, to think that the soldiers and prisoners had to make and haul the bricks up to build the wall is just astounding.  It was so worthwhile and so beautiful, this has surely been our highlight so far – don’t know what our bodies are going to think in the morning.

22/05/2015 – Beijing to Xi’An

After we cautiously get out of bed and realize that our bodies weren’t too bad, our guide and driver take us to the Zoo.  Well I wasn’t disappointed with the Great Pandas they put on a good feeding show and were just adorable to watch, I could of watched them for hours.

After the Zoo we then visited the Summer Palace, then for a quick lunch. We were then taken to the train station to take the high-speed train from Beijing to Xi’An.   The train went up to speeds of 308kms per hour needless to say we covered 1200 kms in just over 5 hours.

Dave and I have decided that we have seen enough Palaces, whilst stunning as they are they are starting to look a like. 

23/05/2015 – Xi’An

Xi’An has a population of over 8 million people and is home to the Terracotta Warriors Army.

The first Emperor of China ordered the creation of this army of terracotta statues.  It is said that one of the reasons he built this army was because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife and the emperor wanted an after-death army.

The Terracotta Warriors Army was well worth seeing and can now be crossed off our bucket list.

Later that night we went to visit the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.  These towers are stunning at night.  The Bell Tower’s Bell was rung at sunrise to mark the start of the day and Drum Tower’s drum was struck at sunset to mark the end of the day.

24/05/2015 – Xi’An to Beijing

I think the Big Fella is happy to be leaving Xi’An’s food behind.  In Xi’An they cook with a fair amount of Chili, compared to Beijing.

Today we boarded the Z20 Sleeper Train for our 11½ hour journey back to Beijing. We decided before we boarded the train that we would buy a couple of cold beers each for our trip; the last train trip the beer we purchased was room temperature.  So our guide and driver stopped for us at a local shop, so for around $6.00 we bought 4 beers (500mls ea, 2 packets of biscuits and two bottles of coke).  According to our guide the locals don’t drink too much alcohol (only Chinese Wine), so we weren’t surprised when our guide offered to go into the store and buy us ONE beer each – mmm.  So we were waiting at the train station and decided to have a beer, they were so nice and cold that we opened our 2nd can, mmm they went down well, so we decided to buy a few more beers for the journey.  So in our nice little room with bunk beds, we polished of the remainder of the beers and tried to settle in for a good nights sleep.  After getting used to the rock hard bed, I slept pretty well – cant say the same for the Big Fella, I don’t think the beds are made for a 6ft 4” man, needless to say I had the top bunk.

Today was a bit of a rest day, though we did find a local chinese chain restaurant where for about $6 we bought two main meals.

Overall we have loved our time in China.   The Chinese are pushy, but with over 25million people living in Beijing, you can understand.   For some reason the Big Fella wasn’t pushed around too much.  The traffic is horrendous and there doesn’t seem to be any obeying of ANY traffic rules, including indicating, staying within your lane, changing lanes, U-Turns etc.  If you need to make a U-Turn you simple stop and turn wherever you are, it doesn’t matter if there are multiple No UTurn signs everywhere.  However, there are times when the rules are obeyed and this is when there are cameras, it appears everyone knows where these are.  Dave and I wouldn’t even think about driving here, we were frightened just trying to cross the street, crossings don’t mean the cars will stop, apparently there is just too much traffic for the cars to stop for pedestrians so it really is cross at your own risk.  We were like the ducks in the shooting gallery, starting to cross then running back to the footpath, only to try again and again.  We did get a good laugh in relations to their highway signs - to tell drivers not to overload there vehicles they have a picture of a ute with an elephant sitting in the back, to tell drivers not to have their load to high they have a giraffe sitting in the back of the ute.

I have had enough of Dave pointing out to me the mobile towers, I have told him many times that I am not interested, but he still keeps pointing them out, they are everywhere even when we were climbing the Great Wall.

27/05/2015 - Paris

Today we spent most of the day on the Hop On Hop Off buses (4 in total) getting the lay of the land and seeing the famous sights.  Mind you we still got lost several times, but hey thats half the fun.  We got home from our sight seeing around 9:00pm, just in time to get ready to go out to see Moulin Rouge.  So feeling a wee bit tired we decided to get our taxi driver to drop us off at Starbucks for some coffee.  Once we exited the taxi we realised Starbucks was shut - bummer.  So not really taking much notice were the Taxi Driver had left us off and only passing the theatre once on our Hop On Hop Off bus, I have us going the wrong way only by 180 degrees.  So we hailed done another taxi, who delivered us to the door.   Our show was scheduled to start at 11:00 however, it actually kicked off at 11:40pm, so whilst we were both very tired, we thoroughly enjoyed the show.

28/05/2015 - Paris

Today we had a late start after our last night.  We went to visit and explore Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.  Notre Dame, just blew us away - so spectacular.  Inside the church there is a relic believed to be from The Cross and there is also The Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion.  From Notre Dame we headed on over to the Eiffel Tower, the view from here is spectacular and provides a great view of the city.

29/05/2015 - Paris

Today we have set aside to see the Champs Elysees again and the Louvre.  This morning I have woken with a cold - might have something to do with the fact that our room was freezing, the air conditioner had a mind of its own, we found it worked its best when it was turned off.  So whilst I wasn't feeling well the Big Fella got me to the Louvre to see some of the famous sights.  Dave really enjoyed his time there, but I was a bit frustrated with the crowds and the fact that I couldn't understand the workings of the Audio System we had hired - either could the Big Fella.  The Louvre was well worth a visit though and we did get to see all the sights we had marked down, except for one no matter how hard we tried.

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