When we left Australia we were limited to what we could take with us as we had to be able to carry it with us. As such we each had a luxury item. Jill took her hair straightening iron and I took an espresso coffee machine and ground coffee. To accommodate such items other things had to be forgone. We both chose to travel with limited footwear with a pair of boots each, some Jesus sandals, thongs for the showers and I had an extra pair of runners (not that I was planning to run). Upon departure we were joking with friends about the German backpackers wearing their Jesus sandals and socks and made a pledge that if it was cold enough to need socks then we could wear proper shoes. This went out the window last night as both Jill and I departed the backpackers in Jesus sandals and socks. Needless to say that we looked quite the fashionable couple.
Today we had our second crack at the Summer Palace or officially in China Garden of Nurtured Harmony, which is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palatial buildings in Beijing. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. This time we took the train directly to the Palace and were left with a short walk to the entrance and the hike up the hill (with the obligatory stairs) to the palace. From that point on it was all down hill which made the journey that much more reasonable. It was still a long walk but the effort required was considerably less. That said we got to the bottom and Jill said that she wanted a boat ride. So after wandering the grounds we headed to the paddle boat hire joint and got a boat that required us to pedal for the next hour.
On the up side we got the best possible view of the joint from the water, on the down side we pedalled one of those boats around a lake. Jill took a photo of a very unimpressed husband as he bobbed up and down on the water. I am not sure if any of you have tried to pedal these boats but the effort of the pedalling does not translate to forward momentum but rather the tide just drifts you into the middle. Once in the middle we got some good photos and then tried to pedal back to the dock. After what seemed like an eternity of getting nowhere and watching others being towed back to shore by the motorised versions (the ones that Jill thought would be no fun) the wind shifted and we started to drift in the right direction and our pedalling was no longer in vain.
I am writing this in the bar at the hostel during happy hour which has half price local tap beer (actually the place and time most of these have been written). We are off for a short walk soon to go to one of the best places in town to get Peking Duck. We tried a local place last night which saw us randomly pointing at pictures on a menu. We ended up with a duck thing and a fish thing with some Chinese Broccoli with garlic and a mystery meat of some sort. The garlic was possibly exactly what my ailing bride required, and when combined with the trip to the fruit store that we took, hopefully she will be on the mend soon enough.
Two days later and we have made 3 separate and equally unsuccessful trips to find the Peking Duck place. There was a trip to the Lama Temple and another venture to the night markets so that we could get some photographs. Jill has successfully managed to pass her cooties on to me and I am struggling with a runny nose and a throat tickle. Which is aversely affecting my sleep but otherwise is just an annoyance.
We have hit all of the major tourist attractions in Beijing and now have a couple of days to experience the city and discover random treasures and sights before we jump on our train to Xian which is the home of the terracotta warriors among other things.
Just came across an amazing old dude who was staying at our backpackers. He was wearing lycra and pushing a bicycle that had saddle bags with patches from almost everywhere on the planet. He told me that he had just ridden his bicycle from Turkey to Beijing a feat that I thought was fairly impressive but in further conversation he claimed that in 2004 he arrived in Sydney and headed south and circumnavigated Australia finishing up in Darwin via Perth and Alice springs. His comment was that Australia was a beautiful place but that the flies in the desert were “a lot”. I had to laugh.