12.11.2011 - 13.11.2011
12.11.11 – Today, we took the opportunity to sleep in, after our big days at the Summer Palace and Great Wall. We woke late and headed to get our train tickets to Taiyuan/Pingyao. Unfortunately the guy decided he wasn’t going to be helpful this morning, and flat out refused to serve us. Despite having the towns in Chinese, and the dates and train we wanted – he just wouldn’t talk to us. Frustrating! Determined he wouldn't get the better of us, we asked the hotel he was selling in to call the hostel and got one of the staff there to talk to him in Chinese, and all of a sudden, with a grumpy face, he decided he would sell us tickets after all. Talk about a pain in the ass! Seriously, what’s wrong with dealing with westerners? If you don’t want to sell train tickets, don’t work at a ticket booth!!!
Frustration over and tickets in hand, we had some breakfast at Wangfujing before heading back to the Silk Street Market to try our hand at a bit more haggling. Slightly more educated than last time, we knew what we wanted, and how much we were willing to pay for it, and got some great stuff! Hannah and I hit the handbags and purses (again!), while Chris headed for clothes. Unlike Thailand, the stuff being sold here could honestly pass for originals, and the quality is amazing. If only I had more space in my backpack! Chris and I also picked up some new waterproof North Face jackets for a little over £12, as we head south the weather is getting warmer and the big coats we had for Russia and Mongolia are starting to become redundant.
I had booked tickets to the Chaoyang Theatre to see the Acrobatics show tonight, so we went straight from the markets to the Theatre and picked up our tickets (bought online for a fraction of the ticket office cost!) and grabbed our great seats in row 15, along with some popcorn and sat back to enjoy the show – a bit like the movies really.
To say the show was amazing doesn’t really cover it. It was unbelievable – contortion, acrobatics, 10 girls on a single bicycle, umbrella feet dancing (yes….really – they dance the umbrellas on their feet while twirling and passing them about), a girl balancing on 10 chairs (upside down with 1 hand), and even some motorcycles doing loops in a cage. The show was great – and we would really recommend it if you are in Beijing. We got our tickets for 110 Yuan each buying online from www.beijing-tickets.com
We took a taxi back to the hostel and after another look at my fabulous purchases from the markets, headed off to bed.
13.11.11 – Sunday in Beijing, a busy day and everyone is out and about. We decided to head down to the Temple of Heaven Park, south of Tiananmen Square and take a look. We wandered through some markets and hutongs to get there, and then bought a through ticket to enter. There’s also an entrance ticket only, but the temples you really want to see (the postcard shots!) are all behind high walls, so if you don’t buy the through ticket, you will miss seeing them.
We grabbed some drinks on the way to the park, so when we first entered, we found a nice square to go sit in and have a snack. Turns out, we were an attraction in our own right, as we had apparently sat in a locals square. Everyone just kept staring at us, and as we’ve learnt about Chinese, not discreetly! We didn’t let them scare us away though, and enjoyed our biccies and drinks before heading off to see the temples.
The Temple of Heaven is really beautiful, and we spent quite a bit of time trying to get the right photos – without any tourists in them! Then we went on to the Echo Wall and the Round Altar before heading to the West Gate to catch the No. 2 bus back to the Hostel.
We had decided after our last Peking Duck disaster, that we needed to try again, so met Hannah and went out to another place closer to the hostel that had been recommended to us and this time we went early! Despite some initial horror when they said they were out of the duck (not again!!) they informed us they had the ‘Royal Duck’ instead of the basic duck – so we quickly chose that, determined not to miss out on our last night in Beijing.
Out it came, already shredded, on lovely little duck platters – complete with pancakes, sauces, side garnishes – the works. This was what we wanted!! So we began to tuck in, rolling pancake after pancake till the platters were bare – mmm, delish! We settled up in the restaurant, grabbed a fruit kebab stick from the night markets for dessert, and traipsed back to the hostel – full and happy – finding it hard to believe that our week in Beijing was over.