Onwards and eastwards

13th of March was D-Day.
Departure day that is!

At noon we met up at Bergen train station with impossibly stuffed backpacks and slight travel-fever. After a seven hour train ride and two seven hour flights we finally arrived in Beijing, China, dangerously sleep-deprived and low on energy. Luckily we had already fixed transport to our hostel, and could just jump in a car without the hassle of finding the right buses or trains in our condition.

We are staying in the middle of downtown Beijing. Our first night we walked its narrow "hutong" (alleyes) searching for food. After stumbling around, paralyzed by all the pretty chinese characters and wandering masses, we went into a small place with pictures of noodles in the window. The menues were all in chinese and the guy behind the desk just shook his head at our english. Needless to say our mandarin is not very good, and so we ventured on.

Finally, we ended up in a nice restaurant with pictures in the menu (phew!) and a helpfull staff. Pointing, gesticulating and smiling got us three full dinners. Oops. We couldn't finish half the food, and had to leave the restaurant full and embarresed. After dinner at about six, we went back to the hostel and literally passed out from lack of sleep.

Friday was our fist real day in Beijing, and we decided to visit some of the classic tourist attractions. After getting a little lost, asking around and finally getting stopped at a police barricade, we found out that Tiān'ānmén square was closed due to the Communist Party holding congress. We could see their headquarters(?). Huge beige blocks, roofs lined with hundreds of waving red flags. The Forbidden City was, however, open as normal and filled to the brim with chinese tourists. Somehow we must have stuck out from the crowd while loitering around the huge palace. Groups ran up to us, posed and took our picture, treating us like some kind of attraction!

 

Due to the jet-lag we woke up really early and finished The Forbidden City before noon. Deciding we had time for an adventure, we got on the subway in search of the Summer Palace. Again, we pointed on the map, gave the ticket-guy some money, and recieved two tickets worth a trip from Dongsi to Beigongmen. The subway ride went surprisingly smooth, and we arrived without much hassle. The area was scenic, and we especially enjoyed walking along the narrow riverside streets, with its tiny shops and bridges.

Being subway-pros by now, we felt completely at ease getting return tickets from the automat and travelling back to the hostel.

The next morning we decided to push our luck further, finding a bus to take us to the Great Wall. After carefully planning the route and writing down the stops in chinese, we headed to the station. A guard(?) quickly understood where we were headed and dragged us onboard. Outside it had started snowing, and the chinese commuters chattered happily on the warm bus.

About an hour outside the city, he pushed us outside in the snow. Another man put us in a car with two other chinese women. We assumed that this was supposed to be a taxi. Despite our confusion, everything went smoothly and we could soon see the Great Wall, snaking into the mist. The Wall looked like a fairytale, swept in snow and fog. It had some pretty steep sections, and tourists were slipping around all over the place. We decided that it was perfect sleighing conditions, and made some makeshift sleds from plastic. Back in the city and cold from the snow, we decided to warm up by eating hotpot in Ghost Street before heading back to the Hostel.

On our last day in Beijing, our arms felt like wet noodles. Something had to be done. We located a bouldering gym pretty close to the 798 Art District. With no subway station nearby, we opted for a taxi. He droped us off between an apartment building and a field. A lady noticed our confusion and waved us in the right direction behind a wall. The bouldering area was right next to a football field where a children's birthday party was being held. Chinese "Happy Birthday" played on repeat for close to three hours, and we're honestly not sure how we stayed sane. The rest of the day we explored the industrial streets of the Art District.

 

From the Happy Dragon Youth Saga Hostel, Beijing, China.

- P&C