We crossed from Mongolia over the border into China late in the evening. We awoke the next morning to the sight of intense agricultural activity in the fields. In contrast to the Gobi Desert the day before, people were out everywhere. Manual labour as opposed to machinery was very much the norm out in the fields. For all the hype about the rapidly-expanding Chinese economy, many of the rural people, even quite close to Beijing, still live a primitive way of life.
Human-drawn seed planter!
A huge expansion in high-rise buildings has taken place in the towns and cities of China over the last decade as people from the countryside search for a more prosperous life.
The old and the new China
A couple of hours out of Beijing, we got a glimpse of the Great Wall in the distance. The railway then ran through a series of gorges and tunnels in spectacular mountainous scenery.
Finally, after just over 6 days and 5000 miles, we arrived at Beijing Station. There we said goodbye to our fellow travellers and set off to find our hotel for 2 nights.
Goodbye to Jeremie & Justine
The hotel was in a 'hutong', one of the many alleyways which criss-cross the city where people live in ramshackle single-storey brick houses. The hotel was simple but very comfortable, run by delightful young people. Breakfast was in a roof garden. Walk out of the entrance and you were immediately into the street life of ordinary people with old and young sitting around, buying and selling, playing draughts, having a haircut etc. Away from the touristy spots, European faces are still a curiosity to the locals who would often fix you with stare. Although disconcerting at first, smile at them and you would be greeted with a beaming smile back. We were glad to be in this part of town rather in an ostentatious tourist hotel somewhere else.
Three men, a cat and a hole in the ground
Beijing is infamous for air pollution. Obviously, they are trying to do something about this because almost all the mopeds, bicycles and tricycles used to convey goods have been fitted with battery-powered electric motors. It's surprising that this hasn't caught on as much in Europe as yet.
We spent a lot of time walking around the city taking in the sights including the Forbidden City and the flag-lowering ceremony at dusk in Tiananmen Square.
Street food is plentiful in Beijing with weird and wonderful delicacies for sale such as scorpions or dung beetles on a stick ! (No - we didn't try them.)
Spontaneous open-air dancing is extremely popular in China. It has developed as a form of keep-fit and brings people of all ages out into the parks and squares. It's unusual human activities like this which makes travel to other countries such a joy.