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There are so many people traveling daily between Shanghai and Beijing that they have about 8 trains per day. This is the funny part though - they ALL leave between 7 and 8 PM nightly! (Think LA to SF or NYC to Washington) It really works well, the business people (or tourists) board the train around 7-8 PM; have some dinner and then go to sleep; the train arrives in Beijing 12 hours after leaving. This way people can have a full day in Shanghai; travel over night (and a good nights sleep); be in Beijing at 8AM and work all day; then return again in the evening!
So we caught the 7:28PM train (Z6). The train is nicer than the one we took to Hong Kong in April - newer; cleaner; etc. We felt like we were on a flight - they gave us a nice hot box dinner and free toothbrushes; etc. We fell asleep and woke up in time to see Beijing coming up!
We did our research on the internet (of course) and found a great hotel that was 1 block from the Beijing metro and 2 blocks from the Embassy area. It is very clean; has a very helpful staff; internet access; and a nice restaurant. It's called The Red House. We had a suite with a huge living room; nice kitchen; big bedroom; and nice bathroom. The price was 380RMB/night (about US$45).
We arrived in Beijing and took the metro (subway) to the hotel; checked in; and walked down to the Indonesia Embassy to turn in the paperwork for my Indonesia Business Visa! We will pick it up on Friday.
After that, we took a metro to the Forbidden City which is the center of Beijing. We rented the audio tape (pretty slick - it knows where you are so Yanti & I kept in sync listening to the facts). The place is really something. HUGE! We followed the tape route and took lots of pictures (HERE). Unfortunately (boy, I hate using that word) they are working on a lot of the palace in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. However, we got great pictures and enjoyed it! We were exhausted by the time we left. BUT, Yanti wanted to do some shopping and there is plenty near-by. So we wandered around but Yanti didn't think the bargains were as good as Shanghai or the selection any better, so we didn't buy anything. However, we did find a great shopping place called the 'dirt market'. It had many interesting things - art, antiques, statuary, and more. Bruce found some cute (?) glasses there.
We took the subway back to the hotel to rest for tomorrow.
I guess Beijing gets really hot in the summer. So if your the Emperor, what to do? Well you build an incredible palace and huge lake in the hills near Beijing! This place is REALLY HUGE! The lake is HUGE. As Mel Brooks says "..it's good to be the king..". No one could help but be impressed if they had to visit the Emperor in times past. Just to give you an idea of how big - it took us over an hour to walk back to the entrance and we were only in the middle or so of the place! Again, check the pictures HERE.
We had taken the subway and a bus to get there, but were beat so we took a taxi back. A word about the Taxis in Beijing. They're CHEAP. Much cheaper than Shanghai. Even though the subway is great, we ended up either walking or taking taxis the rest of our visit. And, speaking of Beijing compared to Shanghai - Beijing is beautiful; QUIET; not as crowded; and easier paced than the HUGE; noisy; and crowded Shanghai!
There are many places around Beijing where a visitor can see this mighty construction project! The one that is the closest to Beijing is the most crowded; the best is a 4 hour trip away :-( Because we were leaving Beijing that evening; had to check out of the hotel; and had to pick up my visa; we ended up going to the closest part. It is still very impressive. This thing runs for 1,000s of miles and was very difficult to build! It is one of the 7 Wonder's of the World though and it's easy to see why. Again check HERE for pictures.
Next - BALI!!
I've given my notice at Wall Street English and my last day will be July 2. On June 28th, a company will come and pack up our things that we want shipped back to Bali (we'll send it by ship which is slow but cheap!) So we're VERY excited about it!
As I said in my last ChinaUpdate, we'll be living in Ubud again and working with Dr. Louis Leonardi to market his incredible book (the web site is now up at www.PreSurgicalCare.com). We hope to find a nice house quickly and it will have A GUESTROOM! So let us know when you can come for a visit!
So this will be my last ChinaUpdate and the next update will be a BaliUpdate! Our time in China has been very interesting. Some things have been great (the people, the sites, the culture) and some things we'll be glad to leave behind us (the damn car honkings; the huge crowds; the spitting; the really loud talking). But in general, our one and half years in China have been very educational. Everyone should plan a visit to this 6,000 year old culture and huge country (the size of the US).