Pingyao to Beijing to Hong Kong
After the overly touristed small town of Pingyao we caught a 2 hour bus to Taiyuan to catch the 6 hour bus to Beijing. Another shock of a contrast moving from small town to a city of 13 million. We stayed in a true hostel in dorm beds and noisy revellers to all hours of the night. Hurrah for ear plugs.
We went to Tiananmen Square to the first day and walked around the gardens. After a short nap at the hostel we went to check our the famous Silk Market. Wow! I never knew that 'Hello' actually meant 'come in and buy some plastic crap.' With shouts of 'special price', 'cheaper for you', and 'looky, looky' and people actually grabbing us and pulling us into the stalls it was quite fun. It's so hard for us westerners to get used to the haggling scene. We're used to paying the price we see on the tag. Here everything starts at about 10 times what it's actually worth and you work it down to the almost-not-getting-ripped-off price. I bought a shirt that started out at 800 kwai and ended up at 80. We also checked out the Pearl market, which is bigger and a little less pushy.
The second day we went to the Secret Great Wall, a tour through the hostel which visits an untouristed part of the Wall where the is almost no restoration. It was pretty cool to see how some parts have lasted so long and others have gone almost entirely back to nature.
No trip to Beijing would be complete without some Peking Duck so of course we had it 3 nights in a row. One of those nights was with my cousin Sarah who is teaching English in Beijing. We went to a very posh restaurant (at least compared to the fare we ate as backpackers) complete with the drunk French table who sang the entire night through.
The last day was reserved for the Forbidden City, whcih was definitely a highlight. Sadly, they're doing a lot of renos on some of the major buildings for the Olympics so they were all covered over. It was still an amazing sight. One more meal of duck and we caught our train back to Hong Kong (making it by only 3 minutes).
Now we're back to 30+ and 80% humidity for the next 3 days to recoop before we head back for home. More pictures are to come, but this will be the last post before we get home.