Our Trans-Manchurian journey comes to an end
18.07.2011 - 18.07.2011 30 °C
Awaking for our free breakfast of eggs, toast and jam we had little to do but watch the countryside pass by and catch up on my Blog postings. Now furnished with a Chinese restaurant car both food and décor has changed. We had been told that the Chinese restaurant car would be the best on our journey. Given our experience of what, to be fair, was a free breakfast and lunch that is not wholly true. However, eating in the restaurant car did pass some time as the now green hills, valleys and more prosperous Chinese style towns and villages passed by.
By the end of the day we would have travelled nearly 5,000 miles, by rail, since leaving Moscow eighteen days previously having spent a total of eight nights on the train. As previously stated our journey has been one we shall remember with great fondness. The experience has shown us the vast Steppes of Siberia, the deserts of Mongolia and the mountains of northern China. Throughout our time on board we have met both tourist travelers and locals, communicating as best we can through English, broken foreign languages, miming and simple smiling. Every destination has brought both promised interests and unexpected delights. We both now fully appreciate the motivation for train travel and would like nothing more than to remain on this train for another 8 nights as a foreign land passes by for our viewing pleasure. As it is Beijing is fast approaching and so we must prepare to disembark.
Approaching Beijing we should have been able to catch sight of the Great Wall but with a light rain and mist descending this was not to be. Disappointed we were still able to enjoy the mountainous views after stopping briefly at Kanzuang to connect a banking engine due to the steep ascent.
Arriving in Beijing our closeted and somewhat ordered life on the train fell apart. A sea of humanity crowded Beijing Main Station. Outside the queue for taxis made even walking the six miles to our hotel look appealing. Replete with our bags we set forth to tackle the Beijing metro. Extensive, clean and cheap it certainly was. Quiet it was not. For the first time that I could remember subway trains arrived and left without us physically being able to board, due to the volume of passengers already onboard and pushing past our front of line positions. With no quieter trains forthcoming we crammed onto the various trains needed to reach our hotel.
Checking into our Junior Suite even the most basic of features such as hot shower, toilet paper and kettle begat excited comments. Somewhat luxurious compared to the train compartments and Ger camps we had become used to a hot shower and brief relaxation were called for.
Unable to resist the temptations of Beijing for long, however, we were soon back on the ever crowded Subway heading for the heart for a city that is the size of Belgium and with a population of over 17 million nearly twice as populace as that country of Tin Tin and Poirot.
Long desired Peking Duck was on the menu tonight. Perfectly served in a giant restaurant that specialized in this Beijing delicacey. By the end of our meal we would be dizzy from the number of ducks carried out of the kitchen for carving.
Reaching Donghuamen Night Food Market were would have been able to sample silk worm, scorpion, bug and centipede – all on easy to hold wooden sticks – if we had not already have eaten. Disappointed (!!) we continued towards the Forbidden City. Able to walk around its vast walls, darkness falling, this city within a city presented an awe inspiring sight. One we hoped to investigate further later in our visit to Beijing.
Wondering south through Zhongshan Park where the emperor used to offer his sacrifices we exited onto Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public space. Even late at night the square is packed with Chinese tourists wanting their picture taken outside the Gate of Heavenly Peace resplendent with flags and a vast portrait of Chairman Mao. Impressive for a one time library assistant.
Tired we attack the subway once again to return to our hotel and welcome sleep in a bed with a mattress. Tomorrow, we will continue our exploration of this vast city.