Thursday, 29 August 2013

Back to work, back to reality!

Or a reality of sorts anyway!  My timetable has changed slightly this semester, same number of hours but now I have Mondays off instead of Fridays and I've taken on a few extra hours on Saturday mornings as well to help with the savings.  Still though, a fairly nice reality to come back to after what was a great nine weeks off!

Back to work three days and already our trip from here (Daejeon) to St. Petersburg, overland via the trans-mongolian railway, and then ten days in Ireland, seems like a bit of a dream and I'm not really all that sure where to start describing it....from the start I suppose!

We bused up to Incheon, took a local bus to the wrong ferry terminal, took another one to the right ferry terminal, and boarded the boat with no money thinking we were really smart to get rid of our won so we wouldn't have to carry it all over China with us.  We weren't smart.  You couldn't use cards on the boat, nor was there an ATM so it was a particularly early night for us as we went to bed on an empty stomach!

So long Korea!
We arrived in Qingdao, China early the next morning, found somewhere to stay and went out in search of street food and a nice cold beer!  We found both, and stayed for more.  It was so refreshing to be in an country that felt typically 'Asian', a welcome respite from the sterile feeling that you get in much of South Korea.  The hustle and bustle out on the streets, the food stalls, the smells, the people dressing 'normally' and not as if they might be papped at any stage, the lack of plastic surgery and such obvious self-consciousness and the dramatic reduction in smart phone use were all such immediately obvious welcome changes from the norm of everyday life as we've come to know it.
Real life hussle and bustle Chinese style!
Mmmm....Qingdao beer, so much nicer than Korean Cass!

We spent four days in Qingdao, soaking up the atmosphere, stuffing ourselves on street food, sculling back bottles of the local brew, or draught out of plastic bags and straws, and generally enjoying ourselves, and then we boarded a high speed train to Beijing where we planned to spend the next four days.  Beijing swallowed us up entirely.  We had decided that before we did anything else, find accomodation even, that we'd by our bus tickets outta there to the Mongolian border so that we could just relax and enjoy our few days.  This was NOT as easy as it sounds.  We followed directions we'd taken from a blog to a bus station somewhere on the outskirts of the city.  We found it, not very easily, after almost two hours, and were told we couldn't buy tickets in advance. Great stuff! We were getting pretty hangry (hunger enduced anger for any of you that aren't familiar with the term!) at that stage so we decided we'd go find accomodation, get some food and ponder our next move.  The next day we set off again, to a different bus station, armed with instructions from our hostel, only to be turned away again, saying to come back the morning of the day we wanted to leave.  So two whole days of our four days were spent chasing elusive bus tickets.  But, I suppose we did get to see a fair bit of Beijing that we wouldn't have otherwise though!

World's quietest railway station?

We got up early on our last morning to see Tiananmen Square without too many people.  Big mistake, we shouldn't have bothered.  'Not too many people' and 'Beijing' don't seem to be words that can be used in the same sentence.  People were queueing up like their lives depended on it, and the place was ruined with snaking queues of people all waiting to get in for a glimpse of Mao's waxy body!  We left fairly quickly.  The queues to get into the Forbidden City were equally off-putting, but it did look spectacular when we passed it on the bus!  The Great Wall didn't disappoint though.  We did a 10km walk along a less-popular section one day.  It was a section about a 3 hour bus ride out of Beijing so it doesn't get the same footfall as closer sections.  That, and meeting a friend, who just happened to be there at the same time, for beers one night, were the highlights of Beijing.

Beijing: Some nice buildings, friendly geckos, lanterns and good company!

Made of bricks?! Imagine!
So that was our brief Chinese experience.  We left Beijing on a night bus bound for the town of Erlian, at the Chinese/Mongolian border, ready for the next leg of the adventure!

No comments:

Post a Comment