So, a few days in Beijing – to tick off all the other touristy things it has to offer, and get the bikes packaged up in containers.
For myself, it was mostly spent with Angela’s family.
Tried to get a Mongolia Visa organised – first attempt, found the application centre – closed for the Naadam Festival. Second attempt, waited in queue for two hours, until noon, where they just shut their application windows. It’s open until 12, and at 12 – the shutters came down.
So – my flight for Saturday(today) – can be forgotten.
Also went out to the Great Wall again (Mutianyu section this time), which was as awesome as ever, but with very low-hanging cloud – so we could never really see my favourite view of the wall stretching away over the horizon. Instead, it was a view of the wall disappearing into the mist, with glimpses of it in the distance through that same mist. Still pretty cool.
Intended to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City on the morning Angela’n’co flew out – but the queue for Forbidden City looked like it would take several hours (even with tickets pre-bought)… so it was just a (relatively) quick wander around Tiananmen Square instead. Although we came in via the corner with the Museum of China on it – and there were still queues, to go through a security checkpoint. If we’d come in from the South – no checkpoints, no hassle.
Tiananmen Square – didn’t have the same feel as the last time I visited. I’d just gotten off a bus last time, very very tired, and perhaps more suggestible… but I recall it having a lot more gravitas, while also being more “fun”, if that’s not contradictory. I just remember walking in, thinking “this place has been here since before New Zealand was on any maps”, but also there were people flying/selling kites everywhere. The other day – a lot more fences up, a couple of sizable sections completely fenced off for restoration, crowd-control everywhere, security – and no kites. The crowds were much larger than normal due to Chinese summer holidays – so perhaps the extra numbers contributed to the extra crowd-control measures and therefore general soul-less-ness.
Angela flew back to New Zealand, I said farewell to the final riders left, and checked out of the hotel – moving to a cheaper one, near the Mongolian Embassy – to regroup, and try to start organising my next stage of the trip. I think I have a plan, but currently – after 3 months of having every day pre-planned, being told where to go, and early starts… I feel like I’ve hit a wall – and just want to sleep for a week.