Overnight to Xian 

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We had been told it was best to get all out train tickets in one hit, due to queue times for picking up tickets. Most train stations in China are packed, with lots of lines. On reaching Beijing main Train … Continue reading

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Climbing The Great Wall of China

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Jiankou Great Wall is located at Xizhaizi Village, 70 km from Beijing. It takes two-hours to drive there from Beijing. Leo our guide, from Beijing Walking Tours kept us entertained for most of this, with history about the wall and … Continue reading

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Best of Beijing

Having lost almost 2 days of our time in Beijing due to the delay and ridiculously early morning arrival, we were up at 9 ready to grab breakfast and see the sights. We set off to the nearest train station, Zhushikou, and spent 10 minutes figuring out how to purchase a ticket… apparently once you know it’s as easy as 1 – Choose destination, 2- Insert money, 3- Push button labeled confirm ticket, 4- Get on the train, no problem there then, I’m putting it down to jetlag! 

We exited the subway at the Tianammen East station and found our way up to street level. The sky was a brilliant blue, so much for all the rain! We had finally made it to Tianammen square. This place is big, with large crowds of Chinese locals wielding self sticks. We walked around for a look, then headed off to The Forbidden City. 

The forbidden city can only be described with one word – massive. This place stretches for miles, just when you think you’ve covered all the pavilions – harmony, You are faced with a whole new wing to conquer. The signage does leave a lot to be desired, with very little information available about any of the buildings. But walking around you get the gist. 

Chaoyang Acrobatics Theater – This is a must do. What these acrobats can manage to do with one bike and some chairs is amazing to see, even if their costumes and the production value lacks finesse. Dinner was dumplings and Peking duck of course! What else would you eat when in Beijing?



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Beijing – rules of engagement 

Most people travel to China on a tour, which obviously takes the hassle out of, but I love a challenge, particularly when it comes to itineraries, transport and sightseeing. Independent travel is our preference and even in China it is possible, it just takes a little more planning. The thought of a prearranged “follow the flag” tour is our living hell on holidays. Travelling through China is perceived as a challenge, but is mainly due to the language barrier.

Some rules or what we’ve learnt so far…..

China and Google aren’t very good friends – multiple VPN’s are a must – if one is down, the other generally works. Wifi is intermittent – a major point of angst for the kids. 

No smiling – everyone has been friendly and polite so far, apart from the woman who threw my credit card at me, as if it was on fire, when it didn’t go through the first time! But that still doesn’t mean you get a smile! 
Don’t expect a “sorry”, “excuse me or “thanks”. In crowded areas, such as on the subway or getting onto an escalator , just stand your ground with elbows out! It’s every man for himself here, and pushing and shoving will happen. It’s not personal it just is. Rules of engagement kids – stick elbows out and shuffle around defensively to keep people from stepping in front of you, if necessary look menacing!

Queuing – A general mulling of people is what constitutes a queue here, being next in line means nothing, someone will try to cut in. The problem is, a big gap, or anything wider than your body being pressed on the person in front, will be perceived as the end of the line, effectively just asking someone to slip in, it seems. 

Why is everyone yelling? They talk loudly here, REALLY LOUDLY, especially when they are on mobile phones, or 2, as most of the population seems to be – at once. They’re not angry or fighting, just conversing apparently. On the point of mobiles, I have phone envy! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has the latest and biggest phones, or 2. They use them for everything. QR codes are ubiquitous, and it’s a constant juggle, as people push past to get to the golden egg – the QR code! 

Celebrity status – If you’re a foreigner, you will be stared at, people pull out their mobile phone to snap photos with you, but what I find amusing is the locals don’t even try to be discrete about it. They stand a few feet in front of you, or pull you into their photo, without asking. 

Beware of the trough toilet – While hotels and fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have Western-style toilets, this is certainly not the case everywhere you go. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find toilet paper, and soap/ hand sanitiser is non existent, so carry your own. There are dividers but these don’t offer much privacy as they are only about a metre high, and not all stalls have doors……which can be a little confronting. 

Beijing apparently has a thriving coffee scene – we haven’t found it and believe me it’s not for lack of trying!

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First stop Chengsha…. then Beijing who knows when?

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I had been warned that both weather and last minute flight cancellations, can hinder travel in China at this time of year, but as always took the attitude of how bad can it be? We have always travelled in Asia … Continue reading

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Countdown to China

So three days to go before our arrival in Beijing and we’ve already crossed quite a few hurdles to get there. Who knew that this trip would take more organising than previous Asian journeys, that Visas would be a harder … Continue reading

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Easter in Gippsland 

We realised recently that we haven’t been away for a Easter break since 1998, pre kids. We were scarred by the fact it seems to rain every Easter and ’98 was the year of the glamping disaster, but that’s another story… another attempt to enjoy a break away at Easter was long overdue!

We decided to head South East to Gippsland primarily because Robin had never been there and the kids had been talking about the beach for ages. Robin was bolstered by the fact everyone he talked to leading up to the trip had nothing but great things to say about Inverloch,  happily retelling their family bonding story that involved Inverloch, its beaches and scenery. So Inverloch it was then!  

So did it live up to expectations? It rained the first day and wasn’t the warmest but hey it’s Victoria in Autumn! We still managed to get out and about exploring the area. We visited numerous little inlets, rock pools and sleepy little villages. We stopped at a lovely open gate farm where numerous lovely cheeses were waiting to be tasted, so we spent the afternoon amongst the cows eating cheese and trying local wines. 

The Easter bunny delivered surfing lessons this year. What better place to learn to surf but Victoria in grey skied Autumn weather! Almost a right of passage – those in the know tell me the best time for surfing really is in Autumn, as the onshore winds provide bigger waves. All I can say is I’m glad they had steamer suits available! 

Despite it not being the warmest, we made the most of being at the beach. At least until our next holiday…..

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