The final round

It’s been a while but we’re back with more jibber jabber! The too few hours of sleep are starting to weigh down on all of us but I managed to find some time to post this diary entry, so here goes…

On Saturday we visited the famous TianAnMen Square. The evening before we already went to take a peek as Koen wanted to see it “by night” but apparently the square closes at some point in the evening and there wasn’t any particular interesting view at that time. So on Saturday morning we hopped on the metro, when we arrived the square was teeming with tourists. Thank god the square is really big. It also had a lot of merchants trying to sell hats, fake watches, the “red book”, … You can see the history of the square is still a touchy subject, everywhere there are surveillance cameras, guards, …

Continuing into the Forbidden City, we had some fun with Hanny’s Group T flag while he was getting the tickets. All sillyness aside we checked out some of the cultural relics that were shown there. While we were there we socialized with some medical department students of some university of Taiwan.

In the late afternoon we went shopping at Silk Market. This is a large building with about 5 floors with small shops with goods ranging from clothes to shoes, to accessories, … The funny part here is that their starting prices are ridiculously high, luckily you can get 1/10th to 1/4th of the price with 10 minutes of bargaining. Apparently we are ‘tough negotiators’ according to some sellers. Then again, I’m guessing the Americans don’t know that they can get a much lower price right here. Obviously all the brand things are fake but then again for 20-40 yuan per T-shirt you don’t really care. I bought a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt for 40 while the original in the cafe itself was 200. Funny that on every floor there is a notice that you should not buy non-authentic merchandise. Some of us also bought a cheap travel router for 100 yuan.

The next day we took the bus to the Great Wall. During the busride we passed by a copy of Disneyland where its construction got shut down. Anyway, when we arrived at the wall the other groups were slowly but surely arriving as well. The first time all 4 groups of Group T were together in one place, a lot of people I can tell you. The Chinese visitors didn’t have a clue what the ‘invasion’ was. In the end it didn’t live up to the hype around the Great Wall.

After the mandatory group photo we had the option to climb one part or two parts. Due to time constraints we only climbed the ‘hard’ part which had an elevation of about 400 meter.

In the afternoon we were free to do whatever we liked. Dieter and I went to check out a cultural district but unfortunately it was quite disappointing as there were only regular shops. We did find a Seven Eleven store where we had our dinner for a measly 12 yuan, baked rice and dumplings.

Since the moment we arrived in Beijing we decided we had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe here because we kinda forgot to go to the one in Shanghai. So that’s what we did in the evening, after a good hour of walking we managed to find the cafe (thanks to 3G internet and 40 yuan of cell phone credit). We went to have a drink with 11 of us, it was quite expensive though. A fun addition is that there was a promotion where we received a Hard Rock cafe branded glass for free.

Since some folks hadn’t eaten yet and it was almost late in the evening we walked to the Bar Street/District (near ‘The Tree’). Here there were streetmerchants that sold satés (food on sticks) at 10 yuan for 5 as well as all drinks were 5 yuan. You could get a decent meal for less than 20 yuan.

This morning we finally went to Rigol. At first we watched an introduction movie about the company, after that someone of the company held a powerpoint presentation, unfortunately their English wasn’t that great nor was the slideshow particularly interesting. The best part of the company visit was the fact we were allowed to go into their production building. Seeing some giant Siemens machines making PCBs was pretty fascinating. However, there was still quite a bit of manual labor. Funfact: we had to wear coats, hats and shoe protectors but the doors were wide open and they led us through a dusty courtyard, talk about keeping up appearances ;)

In the afternoon we went to have lunch at a Korean BBQ restaurant, which was nice but apparently quite expensive. After that we decided to check out the Hutongs (sloppenwijken). Word on the street is that they might be fake and judging from what we have seen (Audi’s driving through the narrow streets, a fiber optic cable splitter, …) that might be the case.

For dinner we went to a Burger King and came back to the hotel afterwards. The journey is coming to an end and my feet are starting to dislike all the walking. Tonight I’m going to try and have a good night’s rest for a change so the last evening can be a long one and I can, in turn, sleep easily on the Airbus 380.

Well, that’s all for what is probably my last diary post about China. Just as a funfact I’d like to add that we now have over 10,000 photos so it might take a while to weed out the ‘bad’ ones and publish the good ones online.

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