Soon the original 42 crew will be no more; only myself, Izzie and Sam will be staying another year. Before that sad day, we all journeyed to Beijing when we were given a few days off for the gaokao and Dragon Boat Festival. On the agenda for this trip was a water park, real western pizza, and a comic convention.
The fun began when we got off the subway line and prepared to walk to the hostel. As we’d been separated on the subway, we were in 2 groups, so Izzie and Sam were behind us. It wasn’t a bad wait, it was very hot but a few drops of rain were nice and refreshing. However, the second the others’ heads appeared coming up the escalator, the heavens opened. I genuinely have not seen rain like that since Mentougou at the start of my China adventure. However then I only had to venture out for a short dash to the bus – this time I had to walk a bit further. We set out sharing umbrellas and trying to choose the path with the least puddles, but it became clear that there was no hiding from this rain. Oh we tried to, jumping over deep puddles and sheltering under slight roofs when we had the option, but the minute we turned onto the hutong where the hostel was located, hope was lost. By this point it had been chucking it down for about 5 minutes but the hutong was completely flooded. The water went up to our ankles, and I realised that there was no point trying to stay under Julian’s umbrella so I waded to the hostel. Once inside and checked in we went to our room, decanted everything wet from our backpacks and dried off before having a few beers and being relieved to be dry!
The next day I was up early to see Mao. His body has been embalmed and put on display and you can visit it most mornings. To limit our waiting time, Sam, Chris and I went first thing in the morning and the crowds had already begun. After going through security screening twice we joined the line full of smartly dressed Chinese people carrying flowers and made faces at the alien-looking baby in front of us. We didn’t have to wait long, it was more of a constant slow shuffle forwards. Soon we were inside the (very 1970’s style) building and shuffling towards a glass cage with a coffin in it. After we visited we googled the mausoleum and read the rumours that it was a fake on display and not the true leader. Personally, I’m not fully convinced it was him – he looked very plastic like. The main thing we took away from our visit with Mao was how orange he was!
After being cultural for a while, us girls explored Beijing’s shopping districts before returning to the hostel for a nap. Nobody was sleeping very well because the air in the room was damp because of the drying cloths and the lack of aircon. I was lucky enough to be on the bottom bunk and managed to drift off. In the evening we explored the hutongs – one of my favourite things to do in Beijing. The sunset over the river was breathtaking and we all took the same picture of it pretty much! We went in the evening so we could have dinner at a pizza restaurant in the area. Although it is out of the way, it was full of people who had clearly heard that it was delicious. For the first time since arriving in China, we were able to have pizza which tasted like real pizza and was crispy and delicious with melty cheese!
The next day was the water park!! Obviously there are no photos from inside since my phone was locked away but trust me – it was fun! Like most attractions in Chine, it could do with a lick of paint and sprucing up a bit, but structurally everything was fine. Most of the rides used rubber rings, being a wuss I didn’t go on the ones which didn’t. Being a Chinese water park, there were lots and lots of people staring at us (pretty much the only foreigners there). The Chinese people also wear very different swimming costumes which probably increased their staring! Generally the men wear very small, tight trunks and the girls cover up as much as they can. We saw girls in denim, some in full wetsuits and most in pretty dresses. It’s certainly different to back home! It was really nice to spend the day in the sun with friends having a laugh. As is typical for me though, I did get injured. On one of the rides we were in a 4 person rubber ring and after we were pushed up the side of the wall, my bum came fully out of the hole. Because my feet were on top of everyone elses, the only thing keeping me in was my grip on the handles. This killed my wrist so I sat out the next rides and sunbathed instead! Not a bad day at all!! In the evening we met up with Thandie and Jonathan, failed to find good burgers so settled for bad ones and had a few beers in the Sanlitun district.
We were all excited for the comic convention the next day. Though it was much smaller than we had expected it was a great experience. I got to see a tiny TARDIS, a Chinese superman and lots of different cosplayers. I really wanted a Game of Throne tote that I saw everyone carrying but couldn’t figure out how to get one!! Ultimately it would probably have been better if I went to some of the panels or if the comics had English translations, but it was another day full of laughter with the 42 Crew.
All in all it was another great trip to Beijing.