Safely home

Well I’m back home at last and have been spending the day trying to unpack, catch up on emails and msn and sort out my photos as well. I’ve just put about 40 more photos from China up in the gallery including some panoramas – more to come, especially some great wall ones but they’re not quite ready yet.

Anyway, several people have asked about the Korean family. It turns out after much negotiation that they actually wanted to sleep on the floor, so they just had two of the large spare rooms and slept on the floor whilst we slept in nice comfy beds. On the Monday, Ellie came to stay with us; it was really nice to see her again and she seemed to have had a good time in her travels around China.

We went into town about 11ish, met Jenny and then did the tourist thing around the forbidden city. It was really amazing, but I was feeling quite tired so I couldn’t really appreciate it too much. When I had had a 15 minute nap in the gardens however, I revived somewhat and we then went home and cooked dinner.

On Tuesday, we (myself, Ruth, Anna and Ellie) went to the great wall. We found the craziest driver in the world. We argued him down to a reasonable price of 90RMB/person unlike the 400RMB/person that many people seemed to pay. His people-carrier had one spare seat in it so he was forever picking up pretty Chinese ladies and taking them along with us to wherever they wanted to go. This, coupled with the heavy traffic meant that it took us three hours to get to the wall. His driving was seriously scary though, he would just go over the grass when there was a traffic jam and he had a siren and loud speaker fitted to his car so that he could scare all the other road users. Anyway, we eventually reached the Great Wall.

The first thing that strikes you about the Great Wall is that it is well… a great wall… There’s not really any other way to describe it. At 3,946 miles long it’s about 6 times longer than the height of the UK. However, the second thing you notice is that it is full of people trying to sell things. In our four hour walk we must have been asked if we wanted to buy some water or a t-shirt about upwards of 100 times. It’s not just that but these people follow you along the wall and frequently refuse to go unless you buy something from you. Fortunately we realized this reasonably early on and made sure that they understood we were not going to buy anything at all from them. It’s not just the hawkers that you have to watch out for but also the people setting up toll booths anywhere along the wall. We had to pay to enter and we asked if this would be sufficient to get us up to the Wall itself (using the cable car) and along the wall and were assured that it would be. We then found that we had to pay for the cable car, several stops along the wall we also had to pay to go through and then the bridge across the river. What annoyed me the most was not that they did this but that they didn’t tell us beforehand. In England if you have to pay for something, you would be told beforehand so you could choose to do it or not. In China at least in their treatment of tourists they don’t seem to care about this and keep on adding in extra charges. It’s just decency that you say beforehand how much something will cost. Anyway, the wall itself was amazing but was rather spoilt by these people.

On the last day we spent the day in Beijing central just pottering around the shops and buying things. In the evening we went out to a very expensive restaurant and had Peking duck, the best that Jenny had ever had and so therefore probably the best in the world. After this, we went to an acrobatic show which was simply amazing – see some of the pictures I took. It’s the Chinese idea that if you practise at something long enough (ie from birth) you will be good at it, and in this it seemed very true. A good way to end our trip to China. We had some issues getting back into the house and had to wait outside for about an hour but otherwise it was fine.

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