A day of queues and crowds

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
The day started well enough, we finally convinced the waitress in the hotel that chopsticks are not the best implement with which to spread butter and jam on toast and that a knife was a better option.
We headed off to Tiananman Square to visit the Forbidden City, it took an hour and a half to get through the security, the queue was so long at one stage the locals became restless and charged the security gate . Two policeman, one with a loud hailer the other with a cattle prod managed to restore order but it was touch and go. Normally the area is swarming with police, it seems it is the same the world over, there are never enough policemen when you need them.

We eventually got into the Forbidden City after yet another security check, three before 11am, this is a record! Perhaps we are philistines but I am afraid we were both underwhelmed by the site, yes the buildings are impressive and yes there are a lot of them but with the large crowds, the fact that you are not allowed in any of the buildings (you just peer into badly lit rooms through the windows) and the very repetitive audio commentary through the headphones we had had more than enough by 2pm and called it a day.

We retired to a nice restaurant for a long lunch and then did battle with the Chinese train system. When booking from the UK you get an emailed voucher which you have to exchange for tickets at the ticket office however there was disorganised chaos at the station and this was the first place in Beijing where none of the signs were in English .

So we joined a queue, got to the front only to discover it was the wrong One. The second queue proved more successful (after 20 minutes) and we got our tickets. The locals don't have this hassle as they can use a ticket machine but it won't read our passports and you need proof of ID.

We then had another queue, another security check and eventually we were in a waiting area with 500 people and 200 seats. When we finally got to our train compartment we were pleasantly surprised, it is the last train on our adventure (planes only from now on) and it was by far the best. Two beds, comfy chair and our own toilet and a good nights sleep although it was a bit disconcerting to find the train going in the opposite direction when we woke up, Presumably it did some sort of three point turn during the night.

So I am afraid our last day in Beijing was the only bad day of the holiday so far, you can' visit Beijing without going to the Forbidden City, it would be like visiting Athens and not going to the Acropolis or London and not going to watch Barnet play football but it was a big disappointment and very frustrating. Lets hope it is a one off and Xian, where we are now,
raises our spirits. We have just checked Ito our apartment and it is the most amazing place ever, all will be revealed in the next exciting instalment of Gill and John go East
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