Half term holiday and a return to Beijing with 2 friends from work. It was great when we visited in March but we weren’t returning to see all the amazing sights again, we were returning for a means to an end. Finally I had worked out the complexities of getting a ticket for the Trans Mongolian Railway and we were going to return home on it. One of the most famous long distance train journeys in the world – something people have on their bucket lists – and we were lucky enough to do it as part of a half term city break!
After a quick 2 hour flight and taxi transfer we put our luggage into the hotel rooms and then made our way to a find a theatre for a Chinese acrobatic show. It was something we ran out of time to do in March and as it was Erin’s birthday we figured we would celebrate in style. We thought there would be a choice of restaurants around the theatre, this being such a large city but no, we searched for a while in some distinctly average back streets and then stumbled upon what seemed to be a Chinese restaurant, fast food style. We ordered with lots of pointing at pictures, second guessing what it actually was. When it arrived we were pleasantly surprised, some spicy pork kebabs, a couple of cold noodle dishes, a hot noodle dish and some dumplings. All very tasty and even Noah tried and liked some.
The theatre show was amazing, everything you would expect, a man doing headstands on a stack of 8 chairs which reached the top of the theatre curtain, acrobats performing dives and somersaults through metal rings that got higher and higher, 12 people balanced on 1 bike, men juggling with multiple hats, 2 motorbikes riding around inside a small metal ball which we thought was tough but by the end of the act there were 8 motorbikes in the ball and I was watching through my fingers. The acts always surprised us, they seemed fairly tricky and often scary at the start of one but by the end the level of skill, strength and braveness was extraordinary. A great way to celebrate Erin’s 10th birthday, she was transfixed.
The next day we set off to Happy Valley – a Chinese theme park, another day that involved strength and braveness, this time from us. We passed on a couple of rides saying they looked too scary but did partake of enough to give me enough of an adrenaline rush to last into next year.
One of 2 highlights was the log flume – bigger than any I have ever been on. The carriage was 4 people wide and 5 rows. We traveled to a great height after being issued with free ponchos – there was clearly a reason for this – and dropped down into a great pool as is the usual expectation of a log flume and yes, everybody was soaked, there was no escaping it. If you thought that was bad you then repeated the procedure but this time the height of the drop was double the first one. Noah clearly didn’t like the height, I closed my eyes for half the drop down and opened them in time for the ‘landing’ when the biggest wall of water I have ever seen then descended over all on board. Seemed rude not to make use of the human hair drier at the end of the ride, especially seeing as Pete, Mark and Seb had decided to be extra cool and ride with no ponchos! I’m not sure I will ever ride such a big log flume again.
The second highlight was the Crystal Wings roller coaster ( Crystal Wings– look here if you dare) a little like ‘Air’ in England. You are harnessed in and then moved into a flying position, and for the entire ride you fly instead of sit and for the entire ride I screamed like never before. It started with the obligatory slow ascent which when you dont like heights and you are travelling up higher and higher staring at the ground is probably not the best way to spend a minute of your life but Becky reassured me that this ride didn’t involve a great drop at the top so it would be fine. She was mistaken. Once again I closed my eyes just over the top and then chose the wrong time to open them, as we were in the middle of a loop the loop staring at the ground 30 m in the air and upside down my brain couldn’t quite comprehend the whole thing, 1 minute later it was all over, Pete and I were shaking wrecks, nervously laughing at the insanity of the whole thing. Becky and Erin had such fun they rode it again.
On Day 3 we took a metro ride out to the Olympic Park with the intention of a visit to the water park in the Olympic Water Cube. Unfortunately they closed it for the season on 8th October so instead we toured the stadium and then had a very sensible lane swim in the Olympic warm up pool due to the feeling that if we’d have had a fun splashing around session with the children we probably would have been asked to leave.
We ended the day with a final trip down Wangfujing Street, once again we passed on the scorpions on sticks but did have a delicious spring roll, then home for an early night before embarking on the train ride of a lifetime. To be continued…….