Clear sky Sunday

I’m laying in bed being warm, as I would be frozen by our iceberg room (we don’t want touch the aircon in case it breaks), drinking a cold beer while Cindy is showering. Today was our last full day in Beijing and to cap it off, we have our Great Wall Marathon celebration dinner.

This morning, we had a bit of a lie in, but we ended up scrambling to get ready to be on time for last day touring Beijing. We scoffed our carb filled breakfast (fried rice, noodles, a chucken sausage and yummy potatoes for me) in 5 minutes… because we didn’t want to be those people who were late.

First stop on the tour was to Beijing zoo, which was only to see the 8 pandas. We were a little bit disappointed not to explore the rest of the zoo… but no time. The panda enclosures were huge in comparison to Ueno zoo in Tokyo and these pandas were more active and had a enclosure each. We caught on camera one panda trying to climb down a rope ladder and ended up toppling over very clumsy like. The were very adorable.

We got some fried chicken popcorn from a vendor, which was tasty but Cindy and I think they could make a killing if they had panda popcorn holders, or containers etc. Wasted marketing opportunity.

After we saw the pandas we were back on the bus to go watch a tea ceremony… three guesses what this was. Yep, we watch and taste some teas before going into their shop to see all the nice teas and teapot accessories… this was decent as far as these go, but annoying as we drove for ages to get there (when we don’t like tea). They made a fruit tea, which had chunks of dried fruit in it that you could actually eat like lollies. It was nice but extremely sweet.

We ended up chatting to the owner of travellingfit while we were waiting at the shops and had a good chat. We got the call before coming to China that Cindy has gotten into Berlin marathon in late September, so Cindy was picking her brains about the expo and other things.

Next stop was lunch, Mongolian hot pot.. so Cindy and I were excited as we had Mongolian BBQ on our tour at the beginning of the trip which was amazing… but this was dull. You each have your own hot pot filled with boiling water and you pretty much cooked in water veggies (too many veggies for my liking), eggs, thinly shaved meats… it was just bland. Thankfully they had a good fried rice, our table requested a few plates of that. Our friends from Gladstone were drinking on the table with us… we finished the complimentary 3x500ml bottles of beer and then asked the other tables if they were actually going to drink/finish their beers… we ended up getting an extra 3 bottles (some were half empty or full).

After the disappointing lunch (worst meal of the trip), we were off to the Summer Palace.

*But first, I have to go drink and eat and be merry. Will finish this later.*

Okay, what a night! Back to the blog.

When we arrived at the palace, we had to walk to the entrance. The group found a shop that sold scorpions, centipedes and other gross things to eat. We didnt actually see as it was busy. I didnt really feel the need to hang around and see (or try).

The Summer Palace was massive and extremely beautiful. It’s not like one building but rather a huge amount of land with many small and very pretty buildings and a man made lake. There was a lovely Buddhist temple there too.

Apparently, the palace was made by the ‘dragon lady’ who had a son to an emperor, so she was the queen of all the emperors other ladies – the emperor died young from bad asthma so she installed her kid to be emperor. When he died young from disease, she chose another child and had to poison him after 20 years as he wanted to reform China and then put another child in. We heard about the dragon lady on our food and beer tuk tuk tour, she demanded 99 dishes and the chef only made 98, he grabbed one of his staff members dinner, which was that juicy fat dumpling thing we ate and lovely, which dragon lady loved.

Anyway, dragon lady wanted somewhere warm to go and they made the summer palace, she wanted a lake, so it was dug out and a channel dug so water could flow.

It was beautiful but extremely windy, we didn’t bring our jumpers… so it was very cool in the shade.

Our group has two branded flags, one at the front of the group and one at the back. You are meant to stay between the two flags (so you don’t get lost), anyway, we were behind the front one with the guide and we were like.. watch the flag, watch your flag… it then blows off and over a building and stuck in a tree… he was quite upset. One of our travellingfit reps was joking saying, they’d send an invoice for it… but then they lost their flag to the wind. Both left with their metal poles and no flags. It was quite comical. Our guide was a little frantic but dashed off and he found them both! The group gave him a big clap. They held the bottom of the flags after that.

One thing about the day, we had blue skies! Factories must be closed Sunday. The air was clear, we could see the sun. Beijing is definitely a beautiful city with clean, clear skies. The amount of flowers everywhere. It felt nice to breathe in the air and have the sun on your face.

After the palace, we jumped on the bus back to the hotel to get ready for the celebration dinner.

So, we got ready. Took our beers as roadies, grabbed our medals and down to the lobby. We were the only people to get the memo to wear your medals… I think a few people were envious that we had ours. We had a group photo, said goodbye and thanks to our guides and back on the bus. The venue was about a 10/20 minute walk but we had to get the group bus… so it took like 30 minutes as the bus had to do a huge loop to get there.

We had dramas with some kiwis about table seating. As there was nearly 1000 people, there were loads of tables. We were told sit anywhere. We sat with friends we had made from the group but had 6 spare seats. We had a good collection of beer glasses going on the table, when we were told we (and other tables) were sitting on the kiwi tables. We were like, we weren’t given a table number and we aren’t moving (they came late and most tables were full) – speak with our organiser who handled it brilliantly saying I get what you are saying, but…. they ended up sitting on the empty tables next to us but two if them were not impressed (they didn’t want to sit on ‘someones’ table, but they were late so pretty sure no one else is coming). The remaining seats were filled by some nice kiwis and we took it in turns going up for beer.

The hotel didn’t realise how popular free beer would be. They had poured individual glasses, but they were on the smaller side, so you had to get up a few times. But they ran out of glasses as everyone left them on their tables and no one was collecting them…. so they started filling smaller paper cups and not allowing you to take a bottle (500ml bottles) for the table to reuse your glass. So 2 paper cups would fill one glass. Logistically it was getting worse… thankfully they saw the errors in that thinking and handed out beer bottles for the table. Whenever someone went to the toilet, we would bring back 1-4 new bottles for the table.

The dinner was a large buffet, we were scared to all go up, lest the NZ ladies take our seats so we took it in turns. Three went up and three stayed to guard our seats. There was lots of food, big queues. We loaded up our plates as we didn’t want to have to come back for seconds and grabbed some dessert. Cindy got caught up having a chat to the owner of TravelingFit and was telling her all great ideas…

It was a good feed and a good night. They put on some entertainment, it went from good to bizarre. The night wrapped up at 9:30pm, where you could get a bus back to the hotel or a bus to the after party. Our kiwi mates grabbed 4 beers just before they stopped serving. So we shared them, then we started grabbing the bottles that hadn’t been finished on other tables (waste not, want not). We had a huge group photo on the stage.

We decided to walk back to the hotel with our small group, beers in hand. Took 1 wrong turn but all good fun. When we got back to the hotel, we all grabbbed an icecream from the family mart before going to sleep.

Today we are leaving the big group to join a smaller group to Xi’an. Some of our friends are doing shorter extension tours but going to Xi’an too, not sure if we will be together for it or will be completely split up.

Cindy is uploading photos to the blog now, so check that later.

Till next time.

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