China, last day, thank goodness – part 22

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Exit. Close the door after you leave.

Friday 14 November 2014

Awoke feeling crook (flu) and it got worse. I had brekky, then found myself dry heaving for a bit. Not nice, not well.

This time we decided to do it properly. Taxi at 0930 to Tien An Men Square. It was a long way – 20 mins drive.

I got out of the taxi feeling terrible. We walked slowly to the centre among the incredible crowds, virtually all Chinese. I had more dry heaving over a railing, feeling terrible. I could hardly walk. I sat on a box in the sun for 10 mins or so trying to recuperate. Not one person paid me any attention except Jan said a European couple were looking a bit concerned. Chinese couldn’t care. I got shots of Mao and traffic and crowds!

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Crowds, what crowds?

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These crowds!

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This was as close as I got to Tien An Men. Just to prove I was there.

I walked very slowly to the taxis at the other end and went back to the hotel, Y32.70 again. Feeling terrible. Lay on bed, tried to sleep for 2hrs with no success, but rested and better. So that was my attempt at the famous sites.

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Rah rah!

The room is still too bloody hot! 26-27C. Sweat is rolling down my neck in the bathroom. We can’t get them to adjust it properly. There’s no airflow!

Jan came back at 2.15pm, tired. This place is too hard. Can’t wait to go! Feeling pretty bad – not as bad as this morning but feverish, achey, coughing.

Email to Hanoi hotel for airport pickup. All OK. Email works OK but it’s so frustrating not to be able to access this blog.

1830 – walked to main street for food. We went into what seemed like a good restaurant, lots of customers. Picture menu, I chose what I thought were mustard dumplings. They were bloody cold cabbage rolls! Plenty of mustard, but cold and wet and sloppy..

We both chose chicken dishes, thinking they were stir fry, but both were cold!!! They just chop the chicken up with a cleaver, bones and all and serve you the mess of gristle, bones and skin. Crap food. This is hopeless. I paid, Y82 = $15.76. Even at that price, not worth it. Can’t wait to hit the airport and get outta here.

Walked back nearly 1Km? Hard going!. A woman in the lobby of our hotel, a guest, not a staff member, asked if I was OK. First time! She was Chinese looking but maybe US?

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A friendly Chinese! What a surprise.

China again, part 21

_DSC0253Thursday 13 Nov 2014

Good sleep. Up at 7.15am. Got the runs again. Five times before midday.

Jan went off to Tien An Men Square / Forbidden City by himself, but in fact never made it, instead he tried to walk there and ended up lost, walking around the lakes instead. He was back at about 2pm, buggered. He had tried to take a taxi, but found it already had passengers and he couldn’t get the driver to understand what he wanted. So he walked 17Km (?) around the lakes, didn’t see Tien An Men/FC and was pretty fed up.

_DSC0308While he was out I rolled on my glasses on the bed and broke the frame. Emergency – can they send me to a place? A desk guy takes them and says he’ll ride his bike to a place where they will fix them. Later he says the glasses bloke will be back at 5pm. He came up to the room at about 6.30pm, all fixed, They looked as good as new, and when I asked about the cost, he said no charge!! How about that for service? I am mightily impressed.

Without my glasses, I walked to small shop nearby and found it’s OK.

Out to eat at 7pm and tried what turned out to be a real dump of a place just nearby. Food was peasant fare – pork balls, cabbage, vermicelli in a soup. Another bowl was noodles, tomato, mushroom. Near cold  All crap. Y26 Jan paid. There was a drunk guy at the next table who was out to it. They tried to lift him out but he wasn’t going. Cigarette smoke! Terrible. Marks all over the walls, nothing had been cleaned for centuries. Ugh.

Not a good day. We can’t wait to move on.

China, The Wall part 20

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There it is.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Today was our trip to the slightly famous Wall. Out at 8am in a mini van and I thought, Oh, this is quite comfortable, let’s go.But for some reason we had drove into a deeeep underground garage and had to swap vans. It felt like a NY gangster scene. But our change was to a black Mercedes van. Near new, all leather. Nice.

It was about a 1 hr drive to Mutianyu. I embarrassed myself by getting caught between seats and door while trying to get out. I had to pull myself in and try again. I learnt the knack after that.

Cold! We walked up steps to a huge alpine village full of rip off shops and cafes. Jan bought a ticket for the cable car to the Wall and a sled ride back. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance so I stayed behind. I could see the wall, so … that was enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was cold! It was a crystal clear day but a bit of wind made it very chilly, I’d guess 2 – 4C? My hands were soon hurting. Of course the way is lined with stalls all trying to grab your sleeve or at least your attention to sell you gloves or scarves or beanies.There were very few customers. I had the world’s most expensive Cappuccino, Y35 = A$6.73..I fell asleep at the table, but since I was the only customer it hardly mattered. I’d chosen this place in preference to the Burger King next door, but I think I should have gone there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI went back to the van about 1230 to find Jan already there. I wouldn’t have made it, he said. Even he had trouble – he said the cold was 0C or below with a freezing wind. He couldn’t stay warm.

So it was off on another 1hr drive through the drab countryside along narrow roads to the Ming Tombs at DingLing. We paid Y105 for tickets and lunch, but what do we do? There seemed to be four areas, but how to deal with it? No English translations. We walked around a bit, then had the lunch we’d paid for, in a hall tucked right around the back, with only a Chinese character sign to show the way. Lunch was rice, soy chicken and cold cabbage. It was crap. Nothing to drink.

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At the Ming Tombs

I couldn’t be bothered with anything else. Jan found a tomb and went down but soon came back saying it was about 50m down steps, and even he had trouble getting back up. This was a complete waste of money. They are not geared for foreign tourism. Y105 = A$20.19.

Another 1hr drive back to hotel around 4pm. There was the 8 hrs we paid Y1,300, = A$250 for ($125 each).

Tired! I bought beer and chips Y17, but no dinner because we can’t find anything around here..

China – part 19

_DSC0264Tuesday 11 November 2014

Woke very early. Breakfast provided, nice buns, mini egg burgers, full cooked if you wanted it, croissants, salad, fruit, great brewed coffee.

Due to certain tummy troubles I slept from 0930 to 11am. Jan went walking.

I was OK at 1230 – so we booked a Wall tour tomorrow 0800, with Ming Tombs, 8 hours for Y1300 for two. Hotel will give us a cut lunch! More on this later.

Then it was out and a walk through the park to the lake. (Lake Behai?) Very, very nice area. Good photos.

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Huh? Someone did this. Good luck symbol?

_DSC0256Walked along lake to the bridge at the neck of the two lakes, with a bridge.

_DSC0304Crowds! Lunch at 1400 in an odd food hall place. Buy a Y100 encoded card, choose your food at various vendors, eat upstairs, waiter helped me carry my tray up steep stairs, then return your card when finished. I got Y65 back so it cost me Y35. It works fine but is confusing. This was about the only nice Chinese food I had in China! A crispy pancake with eggs, veges, chopped meat, spices etc, folded over and over and cut up. Crunchy and nice. Crowded tourist street! All Chinese, all rugged up in heavy parkas. Me in my windcheater, but long pants this time at least. I still got lots of finger pointing behind my back, though, according to Jan. Bloody rude!

We had a fizzy mango-passion drink because it looked so delicious. I’ve seen nothing like it. Fizzing balls in a fruit drink emitting vapour. Very nice – Y10. Gave Y20 (it’s only $4) to beggar lady with no legs. She followed us for more.

I wanted a rickshaw back to the hotel. Jan walked on around the lake. My rickshaw was Y100 for the trip to the hotel, so I thought. But after many, many turns and streets, I ended up back where I started! It wasn’t a scam, he just misunderstood my request, even though I showed him the hotel name on my map. He gave me the Y100 tour! It was OK, but it meant I had to walk back to hotel.

I got lost! It seemed so simple on the map. I went down wrong street after wrong street. I didn’t get back until 5pm. Tired, and a bit crapped off.

Bought 2x 500ml cans beer at Y9.90 ea, peanuts same, Y29.70. Plastic bag Y3!

Hotel at 5pm. Pain in feet!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow 1955. Shadow Art Performance starts soon.

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Shi Cha Hai Shadow Art Performance stage

8pm: sure enough, the Shadow Art Performance starts. It’s the traditional Asian shadow play with puppets backlit onto a screen. Musician to the left. Sorry about the poor photos, I was so tired.

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China At Last – part 18

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A hutong is an old style alleyway

Monday 10 November 2014

Awoke suddenly at 0500. We had to be ready to go by 0630 and I thought it was 0600 so I jumped out of bed in a panic, then looked at my watch again and saw the right time..

We had time for brekky. We have to wear the same clothes as last night as our cases were collected overnight. Out to Club Fusion at 0630. Not bad, not too long a wait before our bus group was called. Crumbs, to think I thought we would do our travel into Beijing on our own. Possible, but only if you’re young and brave.

Off the ship about 0645, to find all our bags lined up in rows in the immigration hall, No customs or immigration checks this time, presumably because we were done at Shanghai. Reasonably fast passage to our buses, pulling our own heavy bags, of course..

Set off for Beijing in Silver 3 bus at 0725. Freeway all the way. Plantation trees all along the route, millions of them. I’m not exaggerating, millions of trees in neat rows in plantations, kilometre after kilometre, most of them propped with bamboo tripod supports. This is China’s green policy in full view. They will be very attractive forests in a few short years. Excellent.

Stopped for a loo stop and shop at about 10am. Starting blocks, no loo paper but used paper in a plastic bin. Need I say more? By what standard is this OK? Horrible.

Traffic grew as we neared the city. Gradual increase. We made our stops at major hotels. Driver kept getting stuck in the hotel parking areas, backing and swearing to get out. He’s not a very good driver.

Our guide was another serial talker at first, Galen, but he shut up as we dropped people off. Blessed quiet. I asked him many questions as we went along, about government, press freedom (there ain’t any) and so on. A Govt job for Chinese is no. 1.desire, a job for life, secure. “We Love China”..

Then I got a big surprise – we passed under a wide footbridge, with Einstein’s relativity and gravity equations in metal signs on the railings! Where else in the world would you see that? Wow. I was impressed.

Finally reached the Shi Cha Hai hutong about 2pm. We had a quite long (300m?) walk down the hutongs to reach our hotel, having a dispute about which turnings to take, but we got there OK. Nice check-in. They speak halting but quite good English. Room is brilliant, one of the best I’ve ever had, I think. Modern, recently built, immaculately clean. No fridge in the room, so I had to go downstairs and ask that my insulin be kept in their fridge. No problems, but every morning and evening I had to go to the desk and retrieve it, use it and go back again.

Once rested, we went out for a walk about 2.30pm to an ATM on a big main street nearby.. Drew Y1,000 = A$192.30 approx. Needed my CBA EFTPOS PIN but no trouble. Amazing, it all works worldwide. More walking, slowly, in pain – my feet and ankles hurt like hell. Had lunch 3pm at a small cheap looking restaurant, all we could find. Beer Y6 = $1.15 for a 600ml bottle of Chinese beer, but it’s only 3.6% alc! As I was to discover, that’s basically all you can get in China, low alcohol, some as low as 2.6%.

But we were totally confused and frustrated. Bloody people can’t seem to understand pointing at a picture on the menu and putting a finger up to say one please. What is there not to understand??!! Each time we did this, we got a string of questions in reply. Eventually we got shrugs of shoulders. In the end we got a big bowl of barley, cabbage and egg soup Y15, but very bland, and six big things like giant spring rolls, very nice, Y20.

I also got lots of funny looks and finger pointing because I was wearing my ship summer rig in the Beijing climate – shoes and socks yes, but white socks, with shorts and a thin black T shirt. I was cool, for sure, but not cold, but the locals thought this was a great joke. So bloody what does it matter what I wear? We wouldn’t treat Chinese tourists this way. I laugh at it but I was pretty pissed off.

Walked back to the hotel via a shop – 500ml can German beer, 2 x mixed drinks, peanuts, toothpaste at last, Y63.70. Back to hotel so tired that I collapsed on the bed at 1730. Tried to sleep but wouldn’t come. Noises! Finally took a sedative at 2130 and after a while dropped off. Woke at 0530.

This Slow Boat is About to Reach China – part 17

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunday 9 November 2014

Longitude 124.12E, Latitude 35.84N Speed 38Kmh

Temp about 10C? Not bad. Windy but dry and cloudy. 59F at 0830.

My cabin bill – US$1057.59 so far!

Here we are at the tail end, the last day of the cruise. We get off at TianJin tomorrow morning early. We’ve booked a bus to get us from the ship right through to Beijing, to the Lido Hotel, wherever that is. We’ll get a taxi from there to our Shi Cha Hai Shadow Art Hotel. I’ve shown the beautiful waitress Keqing (Keching) the hotel booking form to see that the taxi driver will be able to understand it. She says yes, no problems. Also, she says that taxi drivers understand “money” and “how much?”. No doubt they do.

On the ship I’ve just tried to exchange US$ for Chinese Yuan but the machine doesn’t give anything except Korean Won. Big bloody help. We’ve just left Korea. So I go to the ATM but it’s not working. Big bloody help.

Impressions of the trip so far:

  • What a mixture of emotions. It seems an age since we left Singapore but it’s only 16 days. What a range of different places we’ve been thorough.
  • The highlights have been the Hong Kong departure at night, unforgettable, and leaving Nagasaki at night as well, with an orange full moon rising over the hills.
  • My feelings are, I’m sick of people! Being in such crowds, I suppose. I am so sick of being talked at. Not talked to, talked at, with no breaks in the conversation and no interest in what I might have to say.
  • I am sick of the haughty attitudes of Americans, not all, but too many. Similarly, to a lesser degree, of British.
  • I’m sick of boring Aussies, unintelligent, embarrassing yokels.
  • I’m especially sick of eastern Europeans, or whatever they are. Rude, thoughtless, ill mannered, pushy.
  • Chinese are OK, but keep to their own kind.

But essentially I want to get away from people. Never again will I do one of these mass group tours. I’m not sure how much future travelling I’ll be doing, but it’ll be back to individual travel, for sure. Some people cruise all the time, staying on the ship for the reverse voyage to Singapore. Aaaarrrgh. No way.