Day One - Sydney to Beijing
Well, probably one of the longest days I've had! I flew from Tamworth to Sydney on Virgin and it was hands down the bumpiest flight ever. Then onto the international terminal, met my travelling group and conquered the Air China check in queue. Thoughts on Air China economy class so far; very small seats, limited entertainment and meal choice- let's say the expectations not high for the flight to Delhi! I high fived my decision to pack my natural sleeping tablets as I did manage to get a decent amount of sleep, and will probably be sharing my stash with the rest of the group who had a hard time in that department.
Note- porridge for breakfast on Air China is the Asian version...don't...do...it!
We joined the 72 hour visa queue on arrival in Beijing and what an experience! We spent just over 2 hours in a very confused line that didn't move. Many people who had booked long transits so they could sightsee Beijing in a day were denied entry however a few lucky ones weren't. Another note- stay at least a night to help ensure your entry is granted! So add on another hour or so to find our bags which had been on a three hour merry-go-round and we were out!
We were collected at the airport by our lovely guide, Candy and our driver 'Mr Monkey' and away we went. First stop a local restaurant for breakfast, where I ate my body weight in dumplings and tried a few new sweet delicacies! We were unexpectedly treated to a local wedding reception at the restaurant at the same time, cue cheesy love music including everyone's favourite 'The Power of Love'? The sightseeing was changed around a little as it was a cooler day so we then were taken to Tiananmen Square and we wandered the Forbidden City - wow, so much bigger than I expected! Built from 1406 to 1420 in the Ming Dynasty, it served emperors over the course of 491 years. The stories our guide shared were pretty saucy and at times just plain violent. Like a Chinese Game of Thrones really! This is definitely a tour for comfy walking shoes, hat, water and a private guide. You just wouldn't get as much out of it on your own.
After some lunch we were finally taken to our hotel for a much needed rest! The Chang An Grand is an impressive hotel outside and in the lobby, our room is a little tired but we are in a good location for walking around safely. A group of us did take a walk about and ended up at a local eatery for a beer. Lost in translation one of the girls ended up with a bottle of 46% 'Vodka' and 2 litres of Sprite for just a few dollars rather than a glass. After a taste and smell of the sorghum based delight it was left there and we headed off to fill up where all good night's end, Maccas! I love heading in when away to see what's different- here lots of huge chicken pieces, noodle salads in bowls and they even deliver!! Was an interesting experience to order off a clue card for westerners to say the least!
P.s. Telstra Travel Pass for China, might be at the higher end of travel communications cost, but I'm on Facebook in China aren't I! #winning