No shortage of pretty parks – this one in Tai’in.

We are part of a group of 40, and there are about five groups (ie bus loads) with the same company. Most of the time we are not really aware of the other groups, other than at the train stations, when we all pile into two carriages. Like most of the others in our group, we opted not to take the optional tours on offer at Tai’in, other than a night time show. The rest of the day we did our own thing. Mike chilled at the hotel while I joined 8 others making our own way via taxi, bus and google translate to a nearby chair lift. As it turned out the chair lift was closed, but it was a scenic bus ride to a freezing cold little tourist spot near the top of a mountain.

Wondering how to get to the chair lift. It turned out they were trying to explain that everyone needed to buy a bus ticket, but park entrance ( $26 ) was free for those aged 60 and over
Sign encountered while trying to get to the chairlift.

Cold and misty at the end of the bus ride
Yes that is a fur lined hood the shopkeeper on the left is wearing.

The night-time show was in an outdoor arena, temperature 4 degrees, and warm padded coats for hire for $4.00. Sorry the photos are side on – you’ll just have to turn your head, because all my attempts to rotate the image have failed.

A fellow traveller
Mike’s attempt at rugging up….he does have two jumpers on underneath

Our second bullet train was for four hours to Hangzhoudong. The train timetable was changed to an hour earlier, which meant our hotel departure had to be 6:30 am. Luckily the hotel buffet breakfast also opened earlier.. The logistics of getting everyone and their luggage on the train in the two minutes that the train stops at the station was a challenge, as passageways and doorways were blocked by people already aboard and trying to stow their luggage. The result was a mad dash further along the train to find any unobstructed doorway. Once on board the challenge was stowing the luggage. The carriages are not designed for stowing tourist quantities of luggage, but regulations require that corridors and doorways remain clear. Those corridors and doorways became filled with several train staff trying to find places for cases, and they ended resorting to keeping some in place with sticky tape. Things got a little heated for a while, as train staff wanted to separate people from their luggage, and not surprisingly, people wanted to know exactly where their luggage was so they could grab it quickly and get off when our stop came.

The day ended with twenty minutes at a very attractive lakeside park, and then a visit to a tea plantation. Lots of other tourists, but the parks and gardens are so good I don’t care. It would be like complaining about people going to south bank

We are now enjoying another comfortable room – this time with a small lounge. Two more hotels and the river cruise to go!

Roughing it in our hotel room
Part of the view from our hotel room

First impression of Beijing for me is the amazing amount of landscaping beside the six lane roads, which at this time of year features flowering peach trees, cherry trees and magnolias. We stayed 3 nights at the hotel in Beijing, which had a rather cute chest high robot ambling around cleaning the floor in the lobby. If you stood in front of it and blocked its way it would stop and stay something (in Chinese of course) and managed to sound cute doing it.  Sometimes there was another robot in the dining room that carried dirty plates back to the kitchen.

Sight seeing proper started on Saturday, with a bunch of optional tours including Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. We had been told before hand by the guide that it was huge, really huge, that didn’t really convey the size. It’s estimated that we walked about 6kms looking at what we saw, and that didn’t include meandering. Might be worth looking at on google maps to get an idea of the size…..I can’t do it at my end. China and google not very compatible at present. People with iphones can use the apple maps. .

Don’t know what these guys were supposed to be doing at the forbidden city, but they stood they just kept on standing there
garden part of forbidden city

Most of the group elected to see the pandas at the zoo, but a group of 7 of us wanted to see the summer palace instead, which resulted in a pretty interesting adrenalin loaded car ride trying to get the gardens before they closed.  Mike was the white knuckled front seat passenger, delegated the task of holding the mobile phone. We didn’t make it in time to get in, but the ride was quite a nail biting experience with lots of very close call lane changes.

Looking down – our bus is among those at the bottom right
Love magnolias – this one was at the base of the great wall walk

The great wall got the heart rate going a bit – we could choose how far we went but were limited by time. OK, limited by muscle power and aerobic capacity as well if truth be known. I was intrigued to find a rest room at the top. Talk about room with a view – put Mooloolaba’s million dollar loo to shame. The tour then organised a visit to a centre for traditional Chinese medicine, for a $5.00 foot massage. We could have our health assessed by a Chinese medical professional. Free diagnosis, but expensive remedy. Mike was told he needed to take herbs to prevent having a stroke – only $600 for a month. Others in the group were also going to be charged a similar amount for whatever ailment they had. No buyers so far as I know.

First bullet train ride on Monday – 300 km an hour. The trip took about 2 hours. The ride was smooth, but not much leg room for sitting. Then a bus trip to the hotel. We were told to expect a better hotel than the one in Beijing, but began to wonder when the bus detoured off the main highway to a one way dirt road with a tractor coming the opposite way. Those with ipad maps found out that the little dirt road was the approved route to our hotel. Then back onto normal roads again and we went past what appeared to be a whole new town of high rise buildings being built. As it turns out this hotel is better than the last….mammoth sized bed.