I’m back at home after what has definitely been an amazing holiday. Over the last two weeks I have seen so much, met some great people and come home with memories that will last a life time. I have also, luckily for this blog, managed to take some amazing photos both in China and North Korea which my tour company have given me permission to upload as long as I don’t show our guides or anything sensitive.
The train ride back to Beijing went smoothly and after a good night’s sleep I woke up yesterday morning refreshed and ready to hit Beijing one last time to do some last minute shopping and sightseeing before my late flight back to the UK via Dubai. After arriving at the station we all said goodbye and went our separate ways although I had arranged with the Vanessa and Celia that I would leave my bags in the left luggage at the train station before meeting them at the Starbucks near their hotel so we could look around Beijing together.
The girls were running a bit late so after relaxing in Starbucks for an hour I met them at their hotel to decide on the plan of action for today. As I was in Beijing for a few days last week I was put in charge of the schedule for the day so I could show them the ropes and get them used to the Beijing Subway ready for the few days they had ahead in China.
I thought it would be worth them visiting Mao’s Mausoleum to compare it with our visit to the Kumsusan Memorial Palace and Mausoleum of Kim il-Sung that we visited during our time in Pyongyang so we headed straight to Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately the queue was too long by the time we arrived and we were told it would take 2 hours to get in so we decided on the next best thing which was buy tickets to the exhibit inside the gate at the south end of the square where we were able to read about the early defences of Beijing while having a good view of the Mausoleum.
We spent some time taking photos around Tiananmen Square before making our way to the Lama Temple which I’m told is the biggest Tibetan monastery outside of Tibet. The entrance was hard to find but the temple is definitely worth a visit – it’s very impressive due to the intimate detail in all the buildings of what is a sight of great importance to Tibetan Buddhists. We made our own way around rather than using the audio guide on this occasion but we saw everything that we wanted to including the prayer wheels, statue of Buddha, prayer courtyards and a few monks. After the obligatory visit to the gift shop it was back to Tiananmen Square where we said our goodbyes so that the girls could visit the Forbidden City while I made my way to the Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas which I felt were a must-see attraction while in China.
The entry to the Beijing Zoo is only 5 Yuan, plus an extra 5 if you want to see the Pandas, so as you can imagine the upkeep of the facility is hardly up to Western Standards. It’s a very old zoo with small, outdated enclosures which many times were just concrete rooms with bars. The Pandas were looked after well and they had a nice enclosure but just look at the conditions the Tigers were kept in!
I wandered around for an hour or so looking at the Pandas, Wolves, Tigers, Lions, Birds and Monkeys before deciding I had seen enough of the cramped conditions and that I would make my way back to the Beijing Railway station to pick up my bags.
After making my way across the city to pick up my bags I had just enough time to go to Tiananmen Square to watch the flag lowering ceremony but unfortunately I couldn’t find the right exit of the subway station and completely missed the ceremony. There was still some time to waste so I headed to the nearest Starbucks in the Wanfujing shopping centre to relax and catch up on jotting down notes for this blog.
My flight home went without a hitch and I managed to catch up on some well-earned sleep after what has been a tiring but fulfilling two weeks.