This is by far the most miserable of all the trains we’ve been on so far. Its cold, its small, the facilities are beyond mediocre and it smells of coal. And as an added bonus, it was delayed in getting to the station by over half an hour.
That said, after passing some pretty spectacular scenery along the way, we finally arrived in Beijing, China. Where we met our final honco, Lily.
The hotel in Beijing was the Jade International Youth Hostel, which is a weird fusion of hotel and hostel – though Vodkatrain covers the hotel rooms. Double sharing, and not bad for what it was. It reminded me of the Sant Asar in Mongolia – probably a very nice place 10 years ago…they just haven’t actually done anything to it since.
By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and freshened up, it was close to 5 and Lily took us to the dining room to go over our options for the last day. The most popular plan was renting a minibus and going to see the Great Wall, though we had to confirm it right then.
This became a bit of a problem for me because before I left on this trip, I planned to meet a friend in Beijing. The original plan was to finish the trip with my group and then spend some days with him, but he could only get the weekend off so was coming now. After some really expensive text messages, managed to reshuffle the schedule so I could meet him in the evening tomorrow, and see him tonight.
This meant I could join up with everyone and see the wall, but I also had to say goodbye for then, as they were heading to a Peking Duck restaurant and then the Night Market, while I was waiting for my friend Ricky. Really wanted to go, but was pretty sure I could visit it on my own, and I had other plans.
Ricky took me to Houhai, a rather tourist trappy part of the city with the saving grace of being very awesome. Its a hub of pubs, nightclubs, restaurants and snack bars – all decorated with bright neon and excessive noise. Ricky didn’t have any particular place in mind to eat, but gave some great advice on places to go and what to avoid. I had no preferences, so we ended up in a hotpot restaurant. Large bowl with a plain and a spicy soup, and you paid by the skewer. Had a ton of beef, chicken and veg, and Ricky was pretty particular for the meatballs and doughballs. For the two of us plus drinks ended up costing just over 80 yen, which wasn’t bad at all for 2 people.
Grabbed a taxi back, and Ricky was a godsend once again by flagging it down and getting the price right. I promised to text him once I was back from the wall tomorrow, and the two of us headed back into the hotel. The rest of the group were back from their trip (many spiders, centipedes and ducks were eaten), and they had cracked open a bottle of Ghengis Khan vodka (a certain tour member was very fond of it) to celebrate the end of the tour.
Had to call it a night not long after that though – Great Wall is up tomorrow.