We rode the train into Beijing for what was to be our last two weeks in China. The main reason for being here is to get visas to go to other countries that we are headed towards…while also giving Jill enough time to get a head start on some assignments that she needs to do for her Masters. As we were making our plans we learnt that my cousin Andrew would be in town for a one week work trip so plans were made to catch up. This was quite a funny experience as we have seen each other about twice in the last decade in Australia but ended up spending heaps of time together in Beijing.
He was being hosted by Frank…the dean of the university…who was happy to let us join in on the festivities…but would not allow us to contribute to any of the costs. Frank, Andy and the local crew worked all day and (when available) in the evenings we hooked up for about 19 dishes each night. Despite being incapable of eating all of the food…Frank would not let the guests starve…or contribute. Andy was almost dying as he was subjected to Frank’s over ordering for lunch as well.
Don’t get me wrong the food was magnificent and Frank happily picked up the tab for all concerned (including us). But he would order about twice as much as anybody could reasonably ingest. After our last night eating with them…Jill did not ingest any food for the next 40 hours. On the Friday we headed off to the Great Wall to the Mutianyu section. While we had already been there it is by far the best of the sections and Andrew’s lot was taking us.
We were in Beijing and made our first trip to the Vietnamese embassy to apply for our visa which was remarkably simple but required submitting our passport for the week. We had a blue sky day so tried to climb the mountain at the end of the forbidden city for the panorama Beijing shot (for those that remember right back to when we started this). Alas the clouds rolled in by the time sunset was due so we didn’t get the photo but we did the nighttime walk around Tiananmen Square.
The other thing of note was that my backpack had been beaten and bashed along the journey and required some maintenance as the plastic clips had snapped and there was a few scuff marks etc. Having spent the money on good packs (Osprey backpacks) this too was very simple. I sent an email advising them I needed a repair, they asked for photos, I sent them, they agreed to replace the bag. That simple.
What was not simple on the other hand was the logistics of getting the correct bag from Shanghai to Beijing in the time frame when we were there. The language barrier was a major issue to our communications but the intent behind all of this on behalf of osprey was good as they really tried hard to fix the issue. The first parcel was a smaller backpack and had to be returned. The other issue was getting a clear answer of what to do with the old pack. After much to and fro it eventually got sorted.
While in Beijing I made contact with a former colleague who was now working at the Australian embassy here in Beijing and arrangements were made to catch up. He invited us to Friday night drinks at the embassy and a Peking duck dinner with his wife and a few embassy staff directly afterwards. This was accompanied by an invitation to watch the Bledisloe Cup rugby with the New Zealand embassy staff the next night.
Jill settled in to her studies while I killed time and prepared a summary of our time here in China for the blog. On our second last day we got to catch up with Cindy (the Canadian Chinese girl we were in Tibet with) for a great lunch. We got some trinkets for the guys we would meet in Sri Lanka (met them in a hostel in Guilin) and basically ate and drank our way through the last little bit in China. We will be returning to Hong Kong in October to catch up with mike and Patricia but our China adventure is coming to an end.
There will be one final summary China post with an overview of where we have been and the highlights and lowlights of our time here…doing the maths on things here got pretty big pretty quickly…and it is fair to say that we have experienced China more so than most would ever do…and we still want more.