A Travellerspoint blog

Day 7: Dynasty

sunny 30 °C
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Started up a bit later this morning as I was really tired from the previous day's travels.

Plan for today was to get out and see some of the museums of Beijing.. Great plan that was not achievable.. All of the museums in Beijing are closed on Monday's!! Plan A gone had to go to Plan B.. Plan B was either Beijing Zoo or return to the FC and try and have a good look at the place.

Decided that I can see a zoo anywhere so decided to return to the FC to have a better look.

This time around the FC was no where near as crowded (although by our standards was still pretty packed!) and was able to enjoy the park a lot more. The main pavilians (where the emperor held court) are quite large and you can almost imagine the grandeur of the palace 100+ years ago. Sadly many of the pavilians are showing signs of wear and are need of a very good clean and paint.

The palace itself probably covers 10 city blocks so is really large to get around. Walking from one end to the other takes a good couple of hours and luckily I had bought a headset this time so got some more of the background of the palace. The imperial gardens are really nice and the old cyprus trees and rock formations are just amazing.

All in all the palace is one big building and lots of marble stone. Awe inspiring just from a size point of view but the summer palace is definately more beautiful and picturesque.

Met with my tour group this evening and went out for dinner. Kate is my roomy and she is from NZ. Group's demographic is half mid 50s and half mid 20s so unusual group! Everyone seems like good value so I'm sure we'll have a great time.

Posted by weary_feet 16:23 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day 6: New Friends

sunny 28 °C
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Early start today as I had planned to meet my new Texan friend Cameron again for breakfast in the one of the old parts of Beijing.

Spent a good hour wandering around a hutong (old building area) looking for some sort of tasty morsel for brekky. Ended up munching on this fried bread thing that was really more grease than bread.. Not super enjoyable...

On our way back to the subway (we were headed for the Summer Palace) we ran into some lost looking Canadians who couldn't find their hostel. Their hostel was inside the hutong we had just spent an hour being lost in ourselves so we spent the next hour helping them to find their hostel. I swear we walked up every back alley possible looking for their damned hostel. Finally after much looking (and endless hours on Cameron's 3G mobile) we finally found their hostel. It turned out to be a really old but beautiful building that was only costing them about 6 dollars a night to stay in.. Really sweet deal! Not sure i'd recommend (purely because it is impossible to find and not that close to the subway) but definately cheap.

Had a proper brekky with the Canadians at their hostel and discovered that Aussies have a lot of "Aussie-ism" words which I didn't realise we did!! For example; when we sat down to have our breakfast and opened the menu I asked every one "what they felt like for brekky"... they burst out laughing.. they had never heard the term brekky for breakfast. Another example as we were perusing the menu i said "flippin heck" referring to the cost of a cup of coffee... Tara (one of the Canadians) had no idea what I was talking about!!! Honestly, we have heaps of Aussie-isms that I assumed all english speaking people use but clearly not!!! Very humourous.... for the rest of the day every time I said an "Aussie-ism" they would burst out laughing and try to use it in a sentence!!

After brekky (which turned out to be lunch as it was after 11am) we all trooped off to the Summer Palace for the afternoon (all being; Cameron, Tara, Kelly, Richard and myself). The summer palace (SM) is just breathtaking, it leaves the FC for dead. The palace is set on the side of a large hill and looks out over this huge man made lake.. It is absolutely stunning. The palace is also really really big and we didn't even get to see half of it. Would love to go back and spend some real quality time looking around the palace. Might try for later in the week (if I have much free time).

Said goodbye to my new found friends as tonight is the night that I thought I started my trip... Found out when I returned to my hotel that I had misread my information and the start date was Monday.. oh well.. had fun while the fun was to be had!

Dinner tonight was Broccoli and Fried Rice.. Yep I ordered what I thought was a broccoli and beef dish to find it was just plain broccoli stir fried.. It was really quite good but amusing at the same time.

Off to the museum tomorrow to get some more culture into me!
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Posted by weary_feet 06:36 Archived in China Comments (1)

5: Looking Lost

sunny 27 °C
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Another late start.. hell, i don't have a job anymore so I figure what's the point of getting out of bed early! I've spent the last 10yrs getting out of bed super early and it is really quite nice to roll over and go back to sleep for another hour or so.

Anyway, got going and went down stairs to reception to find out where to go and how to go about it! Tour guiding is not the strong suit for this hotel (that is being kind).. I managed to get a map of the city and decided to chance it and just start walking and hope that I run into the Forbidden City. Conductor and Bookie had warned me before coming to Beijing that you really need a tour guide as getting around can be tricky.. Me being me, decided that they didn't know what they were talking about (even though they have visited Beijing before) and how hard could it be to get around a city?? After getting the map and the lack of information from reception, I was starting to regret my decision for not organising a tour guide and I will fully admit was feeling a bit apprehensive about walking and travelling around a city where not many people speak English and I speak only two words of Mandarin; hello and thankyou!

Took off, in the right direction (was quite proud of myself) and started walking along the road.. on my map the FC looked like a block maybe two on the map but was actually a good 2km down the road! About 500m down the road a uni student by the name of Chung Low (it sounds like that) ran into me and asked were was I from, what was I doing etc.. We started chatting and I found out that he was a fine arts uni student who was just going to the uni for awhile this morning.. I decided to bail him up (his English was excellent) and find out if he wanted to be my tour guide for the day and take me to the forbidden city, he agreed and I then had my very own guide (I'm very sure that I paid too much for his services today but I don't regret spending the money as I had no idea where I was going, how I went about it etc)

Half an hour later we made it to the FC and Tianammen Square.. My god, I have never, ever, seen so many people in one place at one time. We lined up for easily 45min (maybe even an hour) just to get tickets to get into the city.. It was absolutely nuts.. The city was amazing in size but now that I've seen it I wouldn't bother to line up for so long to see it again.. I'm glad I went but there were just TOO many people to make it even slightly bearable. Every time you wanted to take a photo you couldn't because of all of the people...

Chen Low took me to have noodles for lunch in this touristy area where they sell scorpions on a stick, starfish on a stick, sea-horse on a stick.. you name it you can eat it!! Anyway, I elected to not taste any of these delicacies and just stuck to boring old beef and noodles (which was very tasty).

Spent the afternoon at the Temple of Heaven just wandering around the gardens and enjoying the tranquility (after the FC it was nice to see trees and just relax). During our wanders we ran into a texan Cameron, who had purchased this shuttle cock/ hacky sack and was playing soccer with it. Chen Low and I joined the hacky sack/ soccer game and soon got chatting. Ended up Cameron joined us on our journey as we were next off to see an acrobatic show.

The acrobatic show was a traditional chinese acrobatic show and was just awesome!! The show had the girls twisting their bodies into weird pretzel shapes, jugglers, dancers... was just incredible. The finale was the "dome of death"-- you know the carnival trick when a dude gets on his motor bike and starts zooming around the spherical cage?? Anyway they ended up having 5 motorbikes in this sphere zooming around!!! Amazing... All i could think was the poor guy who got in the cage first how dizzy he must have been by the end!!

Awesome ending to an incredible first day in Beijing!

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Posted by weary_feet 06:29 Archived in China Comments (1)

4: Razor Wire

rain 17 °C
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Too early a start this morning. Dissapointingly discovered that I had no hot water.. a similar problem happened to me on my first night at the hotel. Because of the early hour, reception wasn't manned so i just had to build my bridge and miss out on a hot shower!

Spent the day doing a DMZ tour. Quite different to the last time I went to the DMZ. The previous time i had gone as a guest of the US millitary and we therefore went with UN troops. This time around I went on a commercial tour and we did some basic touristy stuff. I didn't have the time today to do the full tour again.. the full tour is far better than the half day "have a look at the border" tour.

I chose this tour as it went to something called the "Third Infiltration Tunnel". This is a tunnel built by the N koreans to help for an invasion. It was discovered by the S Koreans in the late 70s and was turned into a tourist attraction years later. The tunnel is about 70m below ground and to get into the tunnel you descend a very steep slope for about 350m. Travelling down was a piece of cake and the tunnel itself was quite interesting. I reckon you could fit two soldiers abressed in the tunnel but geez she would be a pretty ordinary invasion.. troops only. Most of the way I had to bend over so unless you are really short (and honestly most Korean people are about my height) the troops would have to be bent over for however many kms they were going to build the tunnel for. The DMZ is almost 50km from the heart of Seoul so I guess you'd only have to have a tunnel that went maybe 5-8k or so before you hit the outskirts of the city!

The tunnel was discovered by the S Koreans by a N Korean defector who was helping to survey and oversee construction. 4 tunnels have been discovered by the S Korean army.. supposedly there could be as many as 25 tunnels dug underneath the DMZ.. I guess if they ever invade we might find out!

All in all the tour itself was ok and was worth the 40 dollars I paid but wouldn't recommend it if it is your first time to the DMZ.. I would spend the 100 go all day and get right into the action.. We didn't even see any AKAs or tanks... very disappointing!!!! :)

The philosophies and policies have changed in regards to the DMZ. Last time I was here Kim Dae Jung had been in power about 3 years and was working on his "Sunshine" policy (referring to improving relations with the north). During his time as president he encouraged growth and prosperity with the North. There have been heaps of changes since last I was here.
Firstly, he installed a rail line into the North (the last station is within the DMZ itself!). He built a factory in the North (about 1km over the border with the south). This factory produces textile goods. The south provides the resources and the north the cheap labour. To make the factory viable they installed power lines (and provide the power to run the factory), roads, all infrustructure needed to get a factory going.

Kim Dae Jung left office in the mid 2000s (and has since passed away). He was replaced by a consertive president who immediately started to stop some of the sunshine policies. The factory is still there and is still operational (still resourced from the south). But the rail line, import customs house, warehouses etc are no longer operational and obviously tensions have increased (to the point where the north sent a missile to the south last year and killed civilians and soliders). I would estimate that S Korea must have invested probably close to a billion (if not more) to improve relations and in less than 5 yrs all of that work has gone backwards... Interesting to see what a change in the political leadership can make!

Sitting in the airport this evening writing my blog I'm a little melancholy. S Korea has changed quite a bit since last I was here.. Subtle yet noticeably... the airport for one is now a mecca (it would be rivalling some of the big ones in the world).. the subway has been upgraded.. and the DMZ itself is now a major tourist attraction (apparently at least 2000 people a day enter the DMZ for tourist reasons)... All in all Korea has become a lot more commercialised and westernised than I remember... You can still get your kimchi and pulgolgi but you can equally buy a Starbucks coffee on every street corner.. I'm glad I've returned (and I'm sure I'll return again) but I'm equally glad to go and find the new emerging Asian country of China and hope that I can recapture some of that "backstreet, quaint asia" that i've missed here in Korea.

Posted by weary_feet 07:16 Archived in South Korea Comments (3)

3: Sucker..

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Much later start today (sound of music was on tv and i just couldn't help myself!). Spent the whole day walking around the National Museum of Korea. I must say that it leaves the Brissie museum for dead, not that, that says much.. The museum is huge and i managed to only get through half of it before i was well and truly over hearing my audio commentary.

The musuem is really worth while to see how people lived thousands of years ago on the Korean peninsula. Unfortuantely I chose to start at the Paleolithic period and i soon got bored of seeing arrow heads and pottery fragmants :) (Bookie you will be happy to hear that I've taken a couple of snaps of some of the pottery for you)

Those of you who know me well, know that I really struggle to say no when people start talking to me/ selling to me... I swear that I walk around with a sign on my head that reads "I'm a sucker and a pushover. Come talk to me cause I can't refuse you". I had this really old dude (probably >80yrs old) bail me up in the museum today and babble to me in his 'k-nglish' for at least 15mins. I got his whole life story, he sang a song to me, danced for me, quoted Shakespeare at me.... No matter what I said I just couldn't get away.. I was standing there thinking "won't someone come and save me.. pls!!" The guy was harmless enough just plain annoying.. Finally, he realised that his family had all deserted him and he got quite distressed and left quickly... YEAH!!!

Not long after I decided that I had it with the museum (by now it was really filling up and it was getting difficult to even see the exhibits!!) I was tired and really over random Korean's deciding to test out their English on me so came back to my room for a brief rest before dinner.

Tomorrow is my last day here in Korea and I haven't been able to see everything I wanted to but it has definately quenched my Korean thirst. I worked out what the smell is (thanks to my old korean dude).. It is a combination of Kimchi and dried fish smell.. It pervades everything.. I worked it out whilst walking back from the museum to the subway-- out in the open with no-one around you can't smell the smell... as soon as you come near other korean's or their eating areas you can smell it! Its not that unpleasant but is certainly unique and probably one I won't miss!

I'm returning to the DMZ tomorrow before heading off to Beijing tomorrow night.

Posted by weary_feet 07:14 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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