Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Friday 17th July - Day 3

I was woken up by the phone ringing at about 07:00. It was Serena saying that as the weather was bad that we were going to swap Day 3 of the Chinese programme with Day 5. So today instead of the Forbidden City it would be free time until 13:00 an then off to shop at the silk market. Dan and Rich rang round each room to let the participants know the changes.

We then went to breakfast which was in a different building. It was a buffet and consisted of fried rice, noodles, steamed buns and other things that we didn't know the name of. After breakfast PJ, Dan Rich and myself "The Intrepid 4" waded out to explore Beijing.

It was in the words of Dan "Hooing it down". If the four of us had jumped into the moat surrounding the forbidden city we would have stayed marginally drier. Our water proofs stayed waterproof for about 20 minutes. Dan and Rich bought some rather fetching umbrellas. PJ and I took the mickey out of them for about 5 minutes and then cursed our decision not to buy one.
They may have both looked camp - but they were dry!

We decided that we wanted to go and see the Blue Zoo Aquarium which was to the east of the city. There were no tube stations near our hotel so we ended up walking a few miles until we got to the nearest one getting wetter by the minute. The tube was excellent with a glass wall separating you from the track. Doors in the wall opened when they were in line with the train doors.

We got off at the station nearest the Blue Zoo and then tried to find our way there - it took a while and several stops at maps saying "here you are!" But Dan's homing instincts eventually led us there. We realised that we only had about hour before we had to get back, so Dan went to see how crowded the Aquarium looked. He came back with the suggestion that we forget it and go and find some lunch.

We had passed several restaurants on our way to the Blue Zoo, but the thought of food was forgotten when we saw the gym equipment at the side of the road. Like an adults playground there were lots of different machines for doing press ups/squat thrusts etc.. After playing on there for a while much to the amusement of the locals (apart from the old lady who was hogging the best piece of equipment - You know who you are!) we found a duck restaurant and ordered duck for us all.

This took some time coming and initially we were worried that we had ordered a duck each! Luckily we got a duck between us and it was very tasty. I had what I thought was a wing and started chewing away. I looked up into 3 horrified faces and was told I was chewing half a duck's head - I hadn't realised. Honest!

We realised that we then had 5 minutes to get back to the hotel, which was worrying as it had taken us over an hour to get here. We jumped in a taxi which had cool light strips on the inside of the front windscreen which were activated by sound. The taxi driver had to put up with us trying to make the lights move by being noisy as possible, which is why I think it only took us 5 minutes to get back - he wanted to get us out of the vehicle.

We nonchalantly got out of the taxis and onto the 2 coaches and drove to the Silk Market which was a multistory shoppers paradise - or hell depending on whether you liked shopping. As you walked through the door it just like any indoor market but you then had to run the gauntlet of each stall holder shouting/begging at you to buy something from their stall.
"Hey Sexy man you want to buy some Jeans?" shouted one woman to me. In her defence she was wearing glasses. She just needs to get stronger lenses!

Everyone split up to go and search for their bargains, and we spent several hours haggling and saying "Bu yow" (not want!) very loudly to anyone who approached. I was with Angus, Jordan and Hendo and we ended up buying 2 pairs of shorts that we didn't really want. I was making up excuses "I am very big!", to which she replied" We have fat ones!" - cheers love! I did buy a yellow jade Mala (prayer beads) for Dawn as she was taking refuge in Mongolia.

Eventually some of us left and went for a tour with Tony and Serena who showed us some of the new buildings that had been built for the Olympics. The CCTV building known locally as the "pants" was cool and you could still see the burned out side caused by fire crackers at New year.

We wandered back to the Silk Market and got the coaches to our evening meal which was a Mongolian Hotpot - it actually comes from Taiwan and has nothing to do with Mongolia! - anyway wherever it came from it was great fun. A large circular table with heated sunken bowls that contained a broth, you then were given raw meat, veg and noodles to put in your hotpot to cook. It came with a peanut satay/chili dip which was great. It also came with raw/sweet garlic loves which were very tasty, but the hostess was shocked when I put one in the broth - "no, no ,no!" ,"Relax love. I'm a Scout!

After the hotpot we went back to the hotel and had our temperatures taken again before we went to bed - just in case!

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