Wednesday 30 September – Beijing
We joined pretty much the entire delegation in Dunhuang for the conference on the bus to the airport for the flight back to Beijing, from where they would spread out around the globe.
Maria has arranged a couple of days for us in Beijing before we head for home, so we can see some more of the cultural heritage treasures of this nation for ourselves
On approaching the airport in Beijing, from my window seat I cannot see the ground until it’s within 50 feet below us, such is the density of the smog in Beijing. Our tour agent, who goes by the English name ‘Mark’ tells us in the car from the airport to the hotel that ‘our Government will have a plan’ to ensure that the next day’s National Day celebrations are not rained upon and are smog-and-cloud-free – fat chance, thinks I. However, the next morning I am proven quite wrong, as the day dawns clear and cloudless.
Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Temple of Heaven(!), slightly further out than the one Maria had initially booked near Tiananmen Square, was very comfortable with proper beds that aren’t made of cement – and free, fast broadband!
After settling in and resting a while, we decide against dining inside this international hotel and go for a walk around the local, quite suburban, area. We settle on a little restaurant across the road from the hotel, where no English is spoken or even written, but as in the Dunhuang Night Market, the menu comes slightly illustrated, so we order by pointing at both dishes illustrated therein, and occasionally at dishes being enjoyed by nearby diners. The food is good and the staff are friendly and seem happy to accommodate our strange foreign ways, so we end up returning several times over the next few days, to what we come to call ‘our favourite shop’.
A postprandial stroll through the side streets reveals a foot massage place not far from the hotel, so we pop in and avail ourselves of the services of a couple of local lads with very strong thumbs.