As you might have already guessed I was in Beijing last week, spending my much earned break of summer vacation seeing the things I so desired to see ever since I could remember. However, it was much more of a sudden decision to go there so let me track back a bit and tell you how and why I ended up there. My initial plans for this summer was to go to New Zealand to – no it wasn't to see the country, it would be foolish to go there for sightseeing in winter – see a Tri Nations game between the All Blacks and Wallabies. However, as often happens with the best laid plans, last minute changes at work meant that I could not take time off to see the match I so wanted to. I love rugby and I love this Blacks team, and I was SO looking forward to going there and seeing the match in addition to meet up with some of the friends over there. But then I was left with a week’s worth of holidays and no plans, so then I decided maybe I should make a trip to China, to see The Great Wall of China in particular which is one of my childhood dreams.
Then I got to work; first spending hours on the net reading Lonely Planet and Wikitravels and the like deciding where to go and what to see. Finally I decided upon Beijing for it’s quite close to Japan and also most of the tourist locations are so close to each other I would have to spend less time travelling and more time seeing them. Booked a plane ticket as well as a hotel also with the help of the above said sites, which are must reads if you intend to travel anywhere in the world. After that did some more reading and got to know what to expect over there and arranging my travel plans too. It goes without saying my first and most important destination was The Great Wall, and I decided on going to Badaling Great Wall first and if possible to Mutianyu Great Wall too. The first is the most famous and the second, apparently, less crowded. I also decided upon Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and finally a much less popular a tourist destination but one that I was sure would fascinate me; an ancient observatory. Then I arranged for airport pickup and a guide with a car for the following day to go to The Great Wall. My plans were to see how it goes and then if possible travel by myself for the rest of the trip.
So then everything in place, there I was at the Narita Airport in Japan on 6th of August waiting for my JAL flight. Sweating a lot too though not because of fear of flying but because as a means of saving power the Japs have cut down air-conditioning at the airport. After about a half an hour’s delay I finally boarded the plane and sat next to a grumpy old German couple who kept talking nonstop. I quickly put on my headphones and started watching a documentary about Dinosaurs followed by Rio, an awesome movie. Well actually only half of it as that’s all the time I had.
After a smooth landing and a few minutes later I was inside the Terminal 3 of Beijing Airport and people, take it from me, that airport terminal is big. Not just big, really really big. After walking on and on for what felt like hours (okay it didn't feel like hours but it give a nice edge to the sentence) finally I arrived at the immigration counters and the Chinese lady was nice to let a tired me in very quickly. After waiting so long to pick up my baggage (why is it my baggage ALWAYS the last to arrive at the belt?) I headed outwards and found the driver dude holding a name board. He could speak only few words of English, but that and the sign language was enough for us to get by. The hotel was about a half an hour drive from the airport, and the dude laughed and put on his seat belt when I inquired him about the seat belt rules in China.
So finally after a long day I arrived at my hotel at around 11 p.m. that day. The hotel staff was nice and they checked me in very quickly not letting me wait there for long. After a nice hot shower I plugged in my laptop and sat down to do the most important thing before going to bed; to update G+ and FB status only to find out that they both are blocked in China. Oh well. Then I caught up with someone on Skype, someone as jobless as me, to have a little chat while enjoying a bar of chocolate I found in the mini-bar inside my room which contained, among other things, a packet of condoms.
To be continued…