a city where 20+ million live

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Keeping an eye on the temperature on our iPhones before we left showed that China was going to be cold. And because we were doing more “off the beaten” track – we would be in the mountains which meant it would be even colder! We were on the 18-day Helen Wong: Ancient Panorama tour. The great thing about this tour was that the price we paid was inclusive of all meals, accommodation, transport and flights.

Flying with Cathay Pacific to get to Beijing was a very uncomfortable experience. The seats instead of dropping back, slide out from where your bum is. Very unusual design as we don’t know anyone’s back who actually can be angled that way. But anyway, we made it to China and found out that on our tour we had 8 people. That’s right…. ONLY 8 people: a wonderful couple from Townsville who we are still friends with today (thanks to Facebook) and 2 other couples from NSW and us from Sydney. Again we were the youngest in the group but that doesn’t faze us.

The weirdest thing to date that we have experienced was looking up at the sky and seeing only fog and pollution. The sun literally looked like a “lightbulb” in the sky or was it the moon, actually we will never know.

The sun amongst the grey skies
The sun amongst the grey skies

Driving through a city that houses almost the Australian population, you can imagine – there are cars and people everywhere all the time.

It was quite a surreal feeling to be walking around Tiananmen Square, around the Forbidden City and around the Temple of Heaven. The architecture and artwork on the buildings are intricate and carefully constructed. When we visit places like this, our minds try to imagine what life would’ve been like back in time. In this instance, it was trying to conjure up imageries of emperors and advisors and carriages and ceremonies. But the only “reference” we have to really do this though is to think of movies or paintings depicting such scenes.

As fascinating as all this history was, we were more keen on doing a few other things in this city:

1) The Great Wall of China

2) Eating Peking duck in Beijing (or formally known as Peking).

And both we did do!

Getting to the top
Getting to the top

Now nobody told us that to walk on the actual wall that you needed to climb up a gazillion steps first. Not that it would have made a difference because we were going no matter what. Starting off, we were as keen as beans but by about midway, the calf muscles start to tighten, the thigh muscles start to ache, the beanie comes off and then the puffy down jackets are stripped off… we had to get to the top – nothing was stopping us!

And when we did, all the aching and panting dissipated! Peacefully quiet facing a pathway that goes on forever…. well for approximately 21, 000 km at least. Another wake up call reminding us how great this world is and how amazing the people can be!

View more photos of our trips at Photo Gallery.

The stairs that no one tells you about
The stairs that those who have gone before forget to mention
The Great Wall that goes on
The Great Wall that goes on
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2 thoughts on “a city where 20+ million live

    jadefernandez said:
    June 9, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    My first Beijing trip was with my aunts– basically a DIY trip and boy was it hard. We stayed in Haidan district and there were only a few restaurants and even fewer people who speaks english. It was hard to order food and go everywhere. Lessons learned so for the second trip (with my family this time), I made sure we join a tour inclusive of fancy hotel stay, tours, and meals (which I really miss!). Surprisingly, joining a package tour was actually cheaper. No one else joined our tour so it was like a private one.
    Reading this post made me remember my second climb on the snowy uneven stairs of The Great Wall… there was a lady wearing 5-inch stiletto heels in front of me! :0

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      June 9, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Yikes! Stiletto heels for a Great Wall climb – maybe that was where we went wrong wearing only sneakers 😉

      China is an incredible place but certainly can be tough without knowing some of the language. We were pretty short of time and had a few things we really wanted to see so it worked for us to visit in an organised tour. Not sure what we will do next time…. But definitely would like to go back as there is still so much to see!

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