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China November 2011 - From Shanghai to Beijing - Page 4

Day 10 - Thursday, 10 November 2011

The forbidden city

I found out that my hotel used to be a summer holiday home for the communist party before being turned into a hotel in the 80's. Theres a long list of famous people who used to stay here.
The room is quite strange, it has a fax machine as I mentioned, but also full office supplies including a stapler, hole punch, ruler etc. The tv comes with free internet and a keyboard (I have taken the ethernet cable out of it and stuck it in my laptop), and they also have usb keys for sale in my room.
Yet after all that, no chair! theres an old desk with an ornate wooden stool with no back on it which I am perched on like a fool.

Speaking of the minibar, they also provide some camera film and what I think is a popcorn popper as well as a fully manual coffee machine including separate grinder.

Head into the bathroom, and theres 2 hairdryers, 2 sets of bathroom scales, 4 toothbrushes, 4 razors, 2 entire boxes of condoms all free.

Exactly what were the communist party members getting up to?

Onto the forbidden city, I took lots of photos.

Room rate doesnt include breakfast, so I had a giant coffee (not quite as giant as the soup bowl from last week) and a delicious muffin.
This was at 8:30, the place wasnt open and I had to convince them to turn the coffee machine on.

Entrance court, full of tour groups with blaring loudspeaker systems, flags, whistles etc. Some now have loudspeakers where they press a button and it makes a series of car alarm sounds.

Picture number 200.
The autumn leaves are everywhere. Excellent weather today, despite it being 2 degrees when I set off, its already about 15C an hour later and I am wishing I didnt have my coat with me.

Brace yourself for a few pictures of tourist stuff.

You can only walk on the right half of everything.

It was last rebuilt around 1400, so its not particularly old.

Difficult light for photos looking into the sun.

Enjoy my attempt at blurry art photo.

Many of the tourists are Japanese schoolgirls, behaving as the stereotype suggests, posing in a cute manner everywhere, non stop giggling and panda hats for most of them. Oh and also surgical masks for at least half of all Japanese school girls.

I look like a secret agent in a bad movie. If I just had an earpiece and pistol with a silencer.

Apparently, according to the Engrish signage, this is where concubines were sent if they were 'caught misbehaving'.

Exit from the palace museum part of the forbidden city, and I spot a big hill, only one thing to do then.

Excellent view, very difficult light, should be up here at dusk not dawn. I can also tell from here that there is pollution haze, but compared to pictures I have seen its nothing.

I can also tell that the centre of the city, where I am staying, is indeed left undeveloped, and off in the distance in all directions I can see more of what looks like modern neon China.

More redundant view.

Last one.

Spot where the last emperor hung himself. I havent seen the movie.

Tiananmen square

I thought I might as well get another of the big tourist attractions out of the way.
Just like the internet says, Tiananmen square is just a vast expanse of concrete with nothing much to see or do.
There are some very big buildings around and in it, including the national museum which I will probably go to at some point, and also the tomb of Chairman Mao where they have the unfortunate corpse of someone that looks like him on display (apparently the real one fell apart after they pumped fresh alcohol into it every day for 30 years).
I looked around the place for signs of tank tracks, but all I could see were tourist groups sitting on the concrete enjoying the concrete.

An example of the vastness of roads in central Beijing.

The square. Theres soldiers and police everywhere, and you go through security checks to get into the square.

Not sure what this building is, I thought it was Mao's tomb but it turns out thats in the middle of the square.

A large flag, soldiers stand to attention in perspex booths whilst others goose step around it.

Theres a number of patriotic frescos such as this.

This is fairly typical for a Beijing side street, I am in the middle of the road, where they have such gardens and walkways and an army of people sweeping up the leaves.

I had a late lunch at the Chinese version of pepper lunch. You are supposed to cook it yourself but the guy must have thought I didnt know this, and he stirred it all together until cooked before allowing me to take it to my table.

Lunch was small, so enjoyed a delicious crispy chocolate vanilla cream puff from beard papa. Highly recommended!

Many stores have some sort of gimmick out the front, I have seen Darth Vader, a knight in shining armour, geishas and this guy.

Apparently, part of the great wall. There you go, I have done that now too!

Random walk

Having already been out and about twice today, I didnt plant to do anything specific in the evening. Hence I headed East to see where that gets me.
First it got me to some fancy western hotels like novotel etc. which wasnt very exciting, but there was also fancy car dealerships, including Koeniggsegg (I will spare you the photos).
I did however wander through a couple of Hutongs, which are old neighbourhoods, I dont think these ones were particularly old though, just small, dusty, and lots of people sitting in restaurants with only 2 tables glaring at me.
I guess they feel I am only wandering through what is effectively their communal garden to gawk at them, and they are right.

My new tactic with the 'hello, do you speak English? where are you from? are you here for holiday or work? Will you have tea with me?' nonsense is to say I am here for work, as a police man.
This is very effective, one girl actually ran off.

Rather than add more ramblings here, I will do that on the pics below of random stuff.

Blue light street had many car dealerships, including not just the car makers but the European tuners like AC Schnitzer and Ruf. There were also some really cool Toyota Tundra all black modded 4wd's that look a bit like the ones top gear drove to the North Pole, only bigger.

OK, thanks sign, now I know exactly where I am going.

Random intersection to highlight that the buildings here are not high, but they are enormous. Not just the street frontage, but the depth of some of them must be between 50 and 100 metres. No natural light in there then.

Street overpasses generally have makeshift markets. You know you have wandered away from the tourist areas once the vendors dont acknowledge you at all.

This is the rather chaotic Beijing central railway station. This is not where the new high speed trains arrive, but the older slow trains. You can get a train from here to Tibet (which has oxygen tubes attached to every seat) and North Korea. There were no westerners at this station that I could see.

Ths shops around the station are interesting, also theres a bunch of guys hanging about with sack trolleys, and when people come out of the station with bags they race to be their first and put your bags on the trolley, forcefully, and then make you pay for them to push it to the taxi / bus station.

Theres a few such giant sports centres about town.

My dinner. They had beef noodle soup and some nice looking dumplings on the menu, but I decided I should have something different, this is fish ball and something and something else in something, with noodles. It was not particularly nice but I ate it. I also had a milk tea with grass jelly and red beans, which was deliciously sickly sweet.

David Newton on 2011-11-11 said:
thanks Leo, now fixed
I am sure theres plenty more spelling errors, but I blame my crappy dell keyboard for that one.

Leo on 2011-11-11 said:
F7
Fridday
Change to: Friday

CHANGE IGNORE CANCEL

Day 11 - Friday, 11 November 2011

Temple of Heaven

Might as well keep going to tourist attractions.
Actually apparently it gets very busy on weekends at the major tourist sites, so you might get 2 days of respite from photos of pagodas and such thing.

I decided to walk to the temple of heaven, this took a bit over an hour, and went through many construction sites. The amount of construction going on is staggering, and I think this is the reason everything is so dusty.

Weather today is a bit cloudy, combined with increasing pollution this creates a strange twighlight.

The actual temple is quite small, and I am not convinced how real it is, generally everything has been rebuilt many times, but I suspect parts of this one were rebuilt some time last tuesday.

At one point I became aware that everyone was standing around looking at their watches (Hello!, watch?), and then I remembered it was 11:11:11 11/11/11

Colorful street view from an overpass on the way there.

The entrance gate, theres a small fee to get in but I think Chinese people can scan their national ID card and get in for free.

Perhaps just as interesting as the temple are the activities Chinese citizens get up to. The main activity today is badmington using your foot instead of a racquet, but also theres mass line dancing to Britney Spears - hit me baby one more time.
Dont be under the impression that temples are quiet and you have to be respectful, Chinese idol is going on everywhere with people who have brought full P.A. systems competing for volume.

The main temple.

More temple.

Close up temple, you cant go inside it, but theres also nothing much inside it.

Walkway to the next part of the temple, part of it was being re laid, and the sealer was being applied by an army of old folks.

This is a different smaller temple. Theres stories explaining what they were for, and also what various parts were ripped down and rebuilt for. Often because the new emperor didnt agree with the old emperors taste in temples.

Its me! It is a bit cooler today due to lack of sun, but no jacket is required.

The gardens around the temples are very nice, if you like autumn leaves you would be very excited. Some people travel to Japan or Canada just to see leaves change color.

After leaving the compound, I got lost looking for the subway, and ended up at this street market in the middle of nowhere. These sorts of things only I find, unless you walk for miles to no particular place, you would just go from temple to temple and back to your hotel by taxi or onto the bus following the fool with the flag and loud speaker.

Xidan

I dont have too many photos from this evening, so feel free to bitch and moan.
Xidan barely rates a mention as a place to go, but it turns out its about 10 times busier than the much hyped Wangfujing. This may be because its largely completed construction (probably only 20% under construction at Xidan vs at least 50% at Wangfujing.
The subway ride to get there was only 3 stops, but it was the worst crush I have ever experienced on the subway. I saw deep into the guy next to me's earhole, and I had no choice in this matter as I could not move, and it was hard to breathe.
Perhaps worst still, the subway train made a lot of loud screeching noises whenever the brakes were applied, and then an almighty clunk once we started moving again.
I was pretty much resigned to the fact I would be staying on the train until such time as the 400 people closer to the door got off, luckily everyone emptied out at Xidan.

Theres lots and lots of restaurants, generally on the upper floors, where there are also cinemas. The lines for these restaurants were ridiculous, so I ended up eating at Yoshinoya, one of at least 6 on the street, generally found in the basements.

In addition to regular style malls (with useful shops to most people, no Gucci or Rolex), there were also a few indoor junk markets.
The one above and below the subway station was quite interesting, a lot of strange cosmetic and beauty products as well as angry birds themed lunch boxes.

I did notice back near my hotel that it was a lot busier also, I guess Friday is a going out night in Beijing, in places like Hong Kong and Shanghai, I couldnt really discern a difference between Friday and Monday.

Finally, the pollution this evening is awesomely bad. It went from no pollution to can hardly see across the road in 24 hours. I guess the wind changed? I am now inhaling a rich soup of di methyl tetra hydro fluoric xylene.

Xidan as seen from above.

My dinner at Yoshinoya. Some plain tasting beef on top of a mass of rice. I ate the beef then mixed the salad with the rice. Also, purple drink. Even after drinking it I still dont know what flavour it was supposed to be.

One of the indoor market things I described above.

David Newton on 2011-11-11 said:
my mother kindly pointed out somewhere that I forgot to add the comments thing today. So I have now added it and commented on it myself.

Day 12 - Saturday, 12 November 2011

Beihai park and military museum

I doubled up on activities this morning. First up though, I went to Starbucks for coffee. This was an interesting visit, as the boss man was there, and had an extreme dislike of me.
He never once took his eyes off me, and barked orders at the young girls he had working there who seemed concern as to what he was up to.
The guy literally sidestepped around the store staring at me for the full 10 minutes whilst I was there.
If his issue is he dislike westerners, then it seems a bit weird to me that he owns a starbucks franchise.

Next up, the walk to Beihai park, this is just past the forbidden city and is mainly a lake with an island in the middle. A guy on a tricycle with a seat for a tourist about to be ripped off followed me the entire way telling me in good English that eventually I will admit that its too far to walk and require his services.
How wrong he was, a 20 minute walk is nowhere near my limits of walking.

The park itself is quite nice, parks in China have lots of restaurants, activity areas, temples etc. This one had a lot of temples and the drum tower on the top, the purpose of this tower I am unsure of.

Next up, I had to walk to a different subway line to get to the military museum, I had to use the facilities along the way (generally public restrooms are every 200 metres or so, with an attendant and are spotless). This particular one was the first one with multiple squat positions and no cubicles. As a bonus, you can see right in from the street, into both the mens and ladies side. Thankfully I was the only one using them and they had a single urinal at the end of the mens one.

The military museum was quite good, a massive building, with half of it closed off. It is also free and full of domestic tourists.
There is lots of interesting reading about Chinas victory against Taiwan, USA, South Korea, Japan etc.

On my way to the park, I came across a statue shop. I have purchased this marilyn monroe statue for our front yard, it should arrive in 3 - 5 days.

Passing the forbidden city, which is encircled by a moat. People seem to fish in it.

A random gate to nothing.

An army of retired volunteers on leaf sweeping duty, they have their radio going and seem very happy.

Just after I took this photo, this car flipped over for no reason at all.

View of Beihai park, the lake, the bridge, thr drum tower.

There is a 'imitation imperial restaurant' in the park, which seems to have a non stop lion dance going.

The view from the top.

I did my best to get the sun behind it to make for a more interesting photo.

There are many fat, extremely lazy and presumably happy cats resting in this park. They dont seem to fear being turned into lunch.

My lunch, possibly cat who knows! Dim sum, 2 savoury dishes and also some sweet steam buns. I ate 2 out of 3 of everything.

The impressive military museum building. It is bigger than it appears in this photo, having 50 foot high ceilings on each floor.

Tanks and stuff.

Jets, most of them surprisingly tiny. All labelled with their Chinese name despite being copies of soviet designs.

The only large Shenyang jet they had, annoyinging these are roped off so you cant walk around them and very dusty and in a poor state of repair.

A giant Mao greets us upon arrival.

The gift shop was great, this is some knock off lego brand, but the jets and ships and whatever are better than any lego I had.

Under maintenance, much of this museum was closed off. Nice rocket.

Submachine guns, everyones favourite from computer games, when the clip sticks out sideways it makes it cooler.

Anti aircraft machine guns. I could have taken a lot more photos of the museum, but I know people find them boring.

Sanlitun

My brief research using restricted internet tells me Sanlitun is the base of the expat community, as well as the bar and club going Chinese, as well as all foreign diplomats. However it also said its been knocked down and is now a building site.
All of that turned out to be true, theres lots of brand new parts, some eerie ghost towns despite being open, some packed to the rafters and full of expensive fancy restaurants, as well as some older seedy parts.

I got off the subway and went the wrong way, and ended up going past various embassies and dimplomatic compounds, where frightened people live in mini cities with bowling alleys behind huge fences with soldiers patrolling outside.
Eventually I found a back way into one of the new abandoned malls. I was prepared for dissapointment. But then off in the distance I could see the apple store logo, one things for certain, wherever you see an apple store in China you will find a lot of people.
Luckily this lead me to the interesting part of town, not the apple store part specifically, but the streets around it.
There were a lot of high end night clubs and very large expensive restaurants, the crowd was a mix of every culture, including a lot of Africans from the nearby embassies.

This is where the story gets a bit crap. Unfortunately as a single male wandering around looking at stuff, you attract the attention of anyone looking to scam you or sell you something. This is all good fun when its 18 year old Chinese girls trying take you to a tea house or prostitute themselves, however when its Nigerian men in leather jackets trying to sell you cocaine and assuring me 'its cool bro, the cops are our lookout' things get a bit dicey.
Also, the girls here are Thai or Phillipino (I think) and have much more confidence in just openly grabbing you and saying 'wanna party?'.
You would think that like me, everyone would know either of these offers is a bad idea, but I saw some frat boys with their collars popped heading off with the Nigerians.

One good thing about the brand new shopping mall areas being abandoned is, you can get into the restaurants, no queue, and happy to take a party of 1.

Its new, its open, its shiny, its deserted.

Its old, its dirty, its seedy, its packed.

I am pretty sure this is false advertising.

Apple stores bring people into the region like nothing else, I wonder if they get free rent?

A whole street full of crappy bars, and coke dealers.

The scene from above.

Redundant photo of the Sanlitun area, low pollution tonight, you can see the moon.

Still under construction, like most of Beijing.

My dinner, sichuan beef hotpot. The guy running this restaurant was extremely anxious, probably because he has opened up in an abandoned outdoor mall.
He told me, sit we have English menu, please! So I did. Then he couldnt find it, so he told me to look at the Chinese menu which had pictures whilst he found the English menu.
I saw what I wanted, it had 5 out of 5 chilli symbols next to it. He now finds the English menu and brings it to me, it has 10 things on it compared to the Chinese menu which had about 100. Kung pow chicken, sweet and sour pork etc. I was fearful of another Korean style fried chicken with ice cream incident so I told the anxious guy to bring me the sichuan beef hotpot, and make it HOT!
He then tried to explain to me that its not like American Chinese food. I gave him my famous glare. He then pleaded with me to at least order a milk drink to put out fire, I ordered plain green tea. He then checked once more, 'if you dont like you still pay, ok?'.
It was delicious, the sichuan peppers numbing the back of my tongue, the chilli creating a sensational high rivalling that of the Nigerian cocaine from earlier. Even the beef was of a very high quality, which was surprising.

Bonus photo, I got lost again going back to the subway and wandered through some Chinese private club car parks and then came out in a restaurant street with the Mysql restaurant.

mother on 2011-11-12 said:
look if you really still want lego for christmas I'll get you some.

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Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 1 November 2011
  Qantas dramas
  Sydney airport
  Shanghai arrival
Day 2 - Wednesday, 2 November 2011
  Raining
  Still raining
Day 3 - Thursday, 3 November 2011
  The bund
  Hongqiao transport hub
  Nanjing road west
Day 4 - Friday, 4 November 2011
  Going to Suzhou
  Walking forever
  Back from Suzhou
Day 5 - Saturday, 5 November 2011
  Xujiahui
  Pudong is awesome
Day 6 - Sunday, 6 November 2011
  Xintandi
  Guitars and home made dinner
Day 7 - Monday, 7 November 2011
  Yuyuan Bazaar
  Zhongshan
Day 8 - Tuesday, 8 November 2011
  Science museum
  Last night in Shanghai
Day 9 - Wednesday, 9 November 2011
  Shanghai to Beijing
  Central Beijing
Day 10 - Thursday, 10 November 2011
  The forbidden city
  Tiananmen Square
  Random walk
Day 11 - Friday, 11 November 2011
  Temple of Heaven
  Xidan
Day 12 - Saturday, 12 November 2011
  Beihai park and military museum
  Sanlitun
Day 13 - Sunday, 13 November 2011
  Going to the great wall
  The great wall
  Returning from the great wall
Day 14 - Monday, 14 November 2011
  Lost
  Really lost
Day 15 - Tuesday, 15 November 2011
  National museum
  Zhongguancun
Day 16 - Wednesday, 16 November 2011
  Qianmen and the railway museum
  Last night in Beijing
Day 17 - Thursday, 17 November 2011
  Beijing capital airport
  Hong Kong airport