No Katie Melluah, there are not 9 million bicycles in Beijing. That's a fact! Everyone here uses the metro which is clean, fast reliable and at only 20p a ticket to anywhere, incredibly cheap too!
Beijing is a really modern city which means so far we could be anywhere. We need to see some famous sights then it will feel more like china I suppose. This is probably the only city we will visit that doesn't have a "China Town!"
The city itself is very clean and the people very friendly and extremely helpful. It is very hot and extremely humid. The day we arrived was clear blue skies but after that we have only seen the smoggy haze that is fabled to hang over the city. We haven't found any cheap cheap stuff yet. All the shops so far have been designer gear (not our budget at all) so we are still looking for the cheap stuff
Our first few days in China were pretty quiet. We really just tried to get our bearings and grasp the scale of the map! The day after we arrived was spent hunting down the Indian visa agency and chasing all the mountains of paperwork and photocopies they wanted. Even though we had professional photographs taken before we left, ready for all our visa applications, bot no even that's wasn't good enough. They want a blue background! So after an hour of jumping through hoops our applications are in. Fingers crossed now.
We have had to resign ourselves to staying in dorms while we are here as rooms are so expensive. In our first Hostel there are 8 beds in our dorm including 2 lads from England who have been on a retreat for 9 months learning martial arts. The room is full of scary looking weapons which they leave lying around!
3 days later and we have had to change hostels as the first one was fully booked on the 4th night. We have found this fabulous place down an alley which only opened last month so practically brand new inside. We are in a much smaller room - only 4 of us this time - costing us £6 a night - £1 a night more expensive than the first one. This one however, really feels like we are in China. It is Chinese design and furnished in Chinese fashion all built around a private courtyard - its great so we're not sorry we had to move.
Tried to visit the Great Wall this morning and attempted to take the local bus 936, but not only could we not find the bus stop it takes 4 hours we found out, so it looks like we'll be taking a tour bus for this trip.
Instead we took the tube to the Olympic park and saw “The Cube” and “The Birds-nest” Both buildings are actually quite impressive but unfortunately we couldn’t go in either at the time. A couple of days later Bryan went back on his own and got to swim in the Olympic Training Pool but again the main pool was closed - For a Fashion Show. Bryan was not amused!!
We went to the Donghuamen area of the city not far from Tianemen Square, where they have a Night Market - specifically for food. We suspect it’s really just for tourists as it was obviously all staged and sold weird things like star fish on a stick or grilled sea-snake and centipede. We tried some of the more tame offerings - Bryan baked alaska and Jody had a deep-fried egg & chip concoction but we steered clear of the funny stuff.
The next day we hired two bikes, Jody's a Giant make, new, loads of gears but a little small in size, and Bryan got a 1940's style chinese, old, heavy, hard to handle, bike! Cycling around Beijing is, well what could we say, a death trap, despite the fact that there are cycle lanes, cycle road and cycle paths everywhere you go. You are on your own and you have to deal with everything from pedestrians to silent bikes that are battery operated which travel at 20 km/p and cars that zoom around with no respect for anything else on the roads. Well it's all part of the adventure.
We cycled to Tiananmen Square, but no bicycles allowed in the square, so after locking the bikes we walked around it. A huge space, and huge video screens some 50 metres long each, these must the some of the larges screens in the world. The Chinese flag at the top end, which is raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset everyday with masses of crowds of people watching. It is surprising busy filled with Chinese tourists and occasionally you get to spot the white tourist walking amongst the crowd.
White people here are almost a tourist attraction in themselves and were are frequently stopped as families want to pose for photographs with us!!
Back on our bikes we cycled to National Centre for the Performing Arts, which is huge egg shaped building surrounded by water, nice building. Short cycle to Qianmen Street, which is, well a tourist hot spot, shops, more shops, and looks more like disney than China. We did however manage to find a camera shop who would fix Bryan's camera, both the screen and dial that had gone faulty. One hour later his camera was all fixed, how is that for service?
On route back to our guest house we found a Beijing Duck restaurant (Peking Duck to those outside of China) so Bryan just had to give it ago. He got a whole duck to himself, and was very delicious, Fred even joined in to help him out.
Sanlitun Youth Hostel
Room rating: dorm 2/10 very hard beds & noisy people
Location: 5/10 - could be worse though
Staff: 7/10 - very helpful
Value for Money: 8/10
Other comments: very clean but on 2 toilets & 2 showers per floor!!
Stay again? no
Ming Courtyard Hotel
Room rating: dorm 7/10 beds much more comfortable
Location: &/10 - nicer area in a Hutong
Staff: 7/10 - very helpful
Value for Money: 7/10
Other comments: very clean much nicer character building too
Stay again? maybe
Overall area experience: 7/10 Beijing is a huge city and very hot. Takes a long time to get anywhere even though the tube is cheap and very clean