Thursday 24 March – The Forbidden City

Excellent flight to Beijing but oh so long of course. We took off at 8pm… After supper of smoked salmon salad followed by beef with rice and a plastic glass of red wine, I watched the movie “Brooklyn”, then dozed on and off until lights back on and breakfast at about 2.30am Beijing time – 5 hours back!  This was the beginning of a very long Thursday….around 36 hours I believe! The airport was just as I remembered it 5 weeks ago but this time full of people and day time. (not many people in this pic I know – they were all queuing!)

imageI was let out of the airport very easily this time, knowing the ropes from before, but where was my man holding up my name? It said on my printout that I would be met outside Starbucks. I stood beside what I thought was a Chinese Starbucks with a similar logo. I am forever trying to make something that is straightforward complicated! Anyway, to cut a long story short, as well as my tour, I found my guide. Here is Starbucks, he exclaimed, pointing enthusiastically at STARBUCKS just 50 feet away.  Of course he continued to laugh about my mistake until we got to his driver in the car park outside, who wondered where we had got to. Well it had been a long flight with change of time and currency!

image The tour was all I expected it to be.   As we had lost half an hour, we agreed that my guide, David, would make good use of the time we had. First we went to Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately we got held up in horrendous rush hour traffic (my fault). But the slow traffic gave me the opportunity to photograph the incredible city architecture.  Some of the brand new contemporary designs really captivated the imagination, and clearly built with Beijing’s population of 21,150,000 in mind!  The third most populous city in the world.

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image Chin chin, our driver, dropped us off so we could walk around  Tiananmen Square and on through to the Forbidden City. This place was built for the emporor 600 years ago and the architecture and artwork was absolutely stunning.  I couldn’t take in all the history the guide was telling me at that hour of the morning so bought a colour booklet all about the city to read later so that I could just enjoy this incredible spectacle and take photos.

image imageimage image image image image image image image image image imageThe Chinese style gardens had huge ancient trees with gorgeous twisted polished bark.  David said that very soon all the blossom would be out making the gardens even more beautiful.  We only had time for a couple of hours here, although David said there was 6k more beyond the central part that could be explored.

image image image image image image Chin chin picked us up at a convenient spot then next off to see Beijing’s famous pandas. image image image David then left Chin chin to drive me back to the airport and we were in plenty of time for my flight to London.

imageimageThe security was extremely tight after the explosions in Belgium. There were so many people being channeled through and many who were late for their flights were allowed through to the front of the queue causing even more mayhem. They called me over because I’d left my empty sun cream tube in the bottom of my backpack. Just what they don’t need in one of the world’s busiest airports. Everything had to come out, tube removed, then all put through again.  In the process I dropped the dreaded Alcatel on the floor and it broke apart…. good I didn’t need it any more!  Damn thing still works although it now has a slightly cracked screen. Finally through security, I found my gate right at the other end of the huge airport as before. Changed into flying casuals (as you do) in the loo, tee shirt and leggings to sleep in, hopefully;  filled water bottle and sat charging my devices til we were called to board. We flew out of Beijing bound for Heathrow at 2.30pm….. by this time well into Friday in New Zealand, but still a lot more of Thursday to come before I get home!

imageIn fact, I guess I should add this little addendum as it’s still Thursday and really the end of my adventure.  I sat down in my chosen window seat number 34A and an engaging smiley face looked down at me and said hello, and promptly settled himself beside me.  Four hours later after most other passengers had fallen asleep and the lights were dimmed, we were still chatting enthusiastically about our travels and experiences along the way. It turns out this young German had pretty well followed my path around New Zealand (not intentionally of course).  Amazing that we had both chosen to book this excellent value China Airways flight home from New Zealand on the same day and for the same reasons, and then been given seats together for the final leg.  You just never know where your path will lead you… just keep taking the path!

imagePS: I think you’ll find all the photos the right way up now.  Well they are if you click on them!  Apparently it’s an iPad thing if you don’t hold the iPad up the right way when you take the photo.  Difficult to tell sometimes in the bright sunlight.  Anyway apologies for that; I could only correct it on my pc when I got home.

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