We had one more day in Beijing before we each went our separate ways… most to go back to work. But I was bound for south-west China to Kunming, in Yunnan Province, and then onto another adventure trek in far western Mongolia. More about them in future musings.
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I must say that I was a little shocked to wake up in Beijing to this view with the sun trying hard to find its way through the thick smog. Where was that blue sky and fresh air we had been enjoying on our trek along the Wall and that was present in Beijing when I first arrived some ten days earlier? Anyway, whatever the weather, we still had one day together in Beijing; another day of exploring in the city before we attended a Reception given by the University of Newcastle to thank us, the ‘Heroes of the Wall Walk’.
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We started out early in an attempt to beat the traffic since we had to take quite a long drive across town to the 798 Art Precinct. This large area used to be a group of factories making electrical goods but it’s now used by all kinds of artisans.
One little saying I spotted which I particularly liked was – “the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you found out how”!
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Arriving as early as we did, we found that most of the shops weren’t open. A catastrophe for the shoppers among the group. However, most of us still found something to buy to make the whole exercise worthwhile. Like your new cap, Chris!
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These bottles were hanging around an outside bar area. I wasn’t sure if this was an art installation… or, indeed, if we were expected to add a container to the line-up! I think the former. Just imagine the hundreds… no thousands… no probably millions of containers the Chinese public would add to this line up. A bit tempting though!
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There were lots of weird sculptures.
I’ll leave you to make what you will of some of them.
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A fisherman and his son
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The fisherman’s wife and another child
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Happiness times four!
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Was this art or graffiti… or maybe both?
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It’s amazing how time flies when you are just wandering. It was soon time for yet another lunch… this time at Hua’s Restaurant. Note the red carpet! Was that really for us… or does Hua welcome all patrons as VIPs? I rather hope he does.
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Lunch was rather special… Peking Duck! I know, we were in Beijing, but this famous dish is still called Peking Duck. This is a “nouveau cuisine”, or avant garde, way of presenting the duck. After watching the chef prepare the meal, we enjoyed the eating.
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The traditional way is to wrap duck slices and veggies in little pancakes.
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And after the duck… desert, of course.
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Our next stop was at a promising looking square on the edge of a hutong. But the promise was totally unfulfilled. The anticlimax of the whole trip, for me, was about to unfold.
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It started with a rickshaw ride that, although it was on the itinerary, cost us each 20 Yuan! Not a problem. But when it turned out to be for only around 10 minutes, I thought it a rip-off. We got off our conveyance a couple of times, firstly to stand at a doorway and be told that we couldn’t go through because it was (I think, I wasn’t really listening) a military / police area. Fascinating!
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The second time we ‘got down’ was to make a home visit. Great expectations of seeing the inside a hutong family home. Not to be! We were ushered into an outer room, served a ¼ cup of green tea, talked to by the lady-of-the-house, who really told us nothing new and …
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all the time we were being stared at by a poor minah in a cage.
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Deposited back in the square we walked to the Drum Tower, which formed one end of the square, where a performance was taking place high above our heads. It would have been interesting to see the drummers doing their thing but it must have been deafening to be in the drum hall while the performance was actually taking place. It was loud enough outside.
Meanwhile our city guide’s explanation of what was happening etc. was being continually interrupted by her mobile phone ringing. It rang three times that I know of. On the third occasion I told her that I wasn’t going to pay her the 10¥ she wanted (from each of us) if she answered the thing again. Sure enough, it rang again; and nobody paid.
We were back at the hotel by mid-afternoon as we had to ‘fancy-up’ for the University’s reception put on by the UoN Vice Chancellor as a ‘Thank You to the Walkers’.
It was a bit of a shock to be in shirt and tie, and cocktail dresses for the ladies, after 6 days of sweaty walking clothes. But, with a bit of spit and polish we all shaped up very well!
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The Reception was to be on a ‘garden roof’ on the 6th floor section of an 80 floor complex. So while waiting for the main event to start, we whizzed right up to the very top floor for a drink and a peek at Beijing from way up there. Pretty impressive.
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Looking down on Beijing! Much of it lost in the smog.
The formal part of the Reception was a rather tedious affair with everybody, both Chinese and Australian, in descending order of importance, having to be mentioned. Everything had to be translated into the other language as well. We ‘Heroes’ had to parade up onto the stage and be applauded – and rightfully so! We had walked 77.4km which included the hikes necessary to get up to and off the Wall proper. A sterling effort on all our parts even if I say so myself.
Just as well we’d had that good lunch. There were 170 guests and all we saw of food was some small triangles of pumpkin. The other illusive offering we were told of was a prawn! At least the beer, wine, and I think bubbly, didn’t run out.
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It was a beautiful night outside on the rooftop Pine Garden.
And so, ended our adventure. We were all very proud to have participated in such an exciting experience and to have raised in excess of AUD80,000 for Shaping Futures Scholarships. This means that about 20 extra disadvantaged students will be given the opportunity to study at UoN next year. We sincerely thank every one of our supporters who made it all possible.
I hope, in turn, that you have enjoyed joining me for the journey through these musings.
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