Tuesday 22 Aug
Hutongs, bicycles, pea and corn ice cream and bread that talks...
We both loved Beijing with its crazy mix of old and new, sights and smells that we have never before experienced and the unrelenting pace of a city in the throngs of major change. It was an exciting place to be as we stayed in the hutong (old alleys where 50 percent of the locals live) which meant everything was that much more alive and real and in your face.
We braved the streets by hiring bicycles - after London driving we thought we would be well prepared... after a few near misses (Andrew had no brakes and I had no bell) we got the hang of it and visited the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven Park. The Forbidden City is vast - you could spend days exploring the temples and gardens, times are a changing however as believe it or not there was actually a Starbucks tucked away in the corner. And yes we succumbed to the pleasures of a Grande Latte. Very bad, very Western and very shameful but damn it was enjoyable!
The Temple of Heaven Park (just the name makes you want to go there!) was a vast 247 hectares of park where we thought the highlight would be a 65 metre echo wall (you can whisper on one side and can be heard clearly down the other end) but unfortunately it was closed for renovations so we had to make do with another highlight - a sweetcorn icecream. It was delicous and has been added to our list of strange flavours including pea which is now a daily must.
Talking about my favourite subject - food - in case you haven't picked up on that yet - it was amazing and very cheap. About 2 GBP without beer and 3 GBP with beer for 2 people - and so many vegetable and tofu dishes we are in complete veggie heaven. There was also masses of street food including sweetcorn, eggy breads, melon and then on the other extreme scorpions, swallows and bugs of every description. We will upload photos when we can (it is very hard to do this in China). Let's put it this way - if you can put a stick through it, you can eat it. Although we were told last night that they definitely don't eat cats in the South. Dogs yes - delicous, but the thought of cats turns their stomachs. Humans are such socialised creatures.
You can't visit China without, you guessed it, a visit to the Great Wall. The temperature and the humidity over here is insane. You are drenched as soon as you walk outside and we did a good 1 1/2 hour walk pretty much the whole way up stairs to get the views that you will see when we upload the photos. It was stunning and unbelievable that humans could actually be bothered to build a wall 6000 km long. It probably seemed a good idea at the time. The best part of this trip was that we got to toboggan down the mountain afterwards.
One last important thing. We discovered Bread Talk. I will be amazed if there isn't one in London when we return and if any of you are feeling entreprenerial you will make a killing if you open one up. One thing you could count on - Andrew and I would be your number 1 customers!