The last week or so has been a whirlwind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been good, but it’s been fast. Leaving India, I caught a flight on Malaysian Airlines to Shanghai with a 24 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpur. Tossing my big bag in a locker at the airport, I caught the rail into town and off to explore a few key sites. A base jumpers delight, I scaled the Petronas Towers to the skybridge only to find it raining and poor visibility. Next I headed over to KL Tower. I promised a friend I would find a certain spot there and spend some time which is exactly what I did. I had plans to make it up to the wind tunnel just over an hour away…..but the creeping sleep caught up with me and before I knew it the day would be over.
Catching the next flight I made my way into China, Shanghai. Again, I scaled two of the cities main buildings, Jin Mao, and the Pearl TV Tower. Great sites to be seen from both, but what made the lasting impression was the construction in the new part of Shanghai on the east side of the river. Standing at the base of the Jin Mao tower and just looking around, it was easy to count at least 10 skyscrapers that were under construction and headed upwards at an alarming rate. China, and Shanghai…..might be Communist, but they went and found Capitalism in a hurry! After spending a little time wondering around the Bund area, I grabbed lunch with a co-worker from Analog that I hadn’t met yet in Xintiandia. Dennis told me stories about life in Asia and about how things were over here. It’s quite interesting hearing it from an American who’s been living the life here for some time, and it was good to chat about ‘things at the office’. It brought me back and reminded me that I too once was part of that world. It was also nice because it made me realize that I didn’t miss it one bit. Sure I might miss the friends I had made, but the office and the work was a distant memory and confirmed that I was very happy with my decision to leave things behind and travel for a while. Just around the corner was a landmark revered by the locals. It’s the building where the communist party held their first meeting. Upon arriving there to look at it, there was a bus of Chinese military personnel that had just arrived as well. Smiling and joking with one another, each taking their turn to have their photo taken in front of a landmark of Communism in China. Later I met up with a few couch surfers for dinner at an Arabic restaurant which included a belly dancer every half hour or so. Katie from Ohio and Paul from the UK made the evening pass sharing stories of our travels and future conquests to be had. The next night Paul and some more couch surfers and I went to a show called Era. I likened it to a training camp for Cirque du Soleil. Some very impressive acrobatics going on, but the show lacked what makes Cirque……Cirque. Nevertheless, it was still a show to be seen and allowed us an escape from the bustle of Shanghai.
I boarded the flight to Beijing which was supposed to get in around 2 in the afternoon. Being seated next to an American named Bill and across from a Chinese American school badminton team, we proceeded to sit on the tarmac for almost 3 hours while being delayed. First time I’ve ever been served lunch while still sitting at the gate. Bill was living in Texas and was in the import export business. It’s nice to have someone to chat with who has something interesting to say and also has a similar sense of humor. Upon arriving in Beijing and getting into town, my afternoon of sight seeing was shot and having only the next day to see the sites, I had a choice to make. Would I rather see the things around town that made Beijing the town it was, or should I take a full day’s journey up to the Great Wall of China. Which would I regret more, later having missed. It was an easy choice and off to the Great Wall “The Secret Tour” we went. I can not explain in words how amazing this hike was while being up on the wall for almost 3 hours. You can not come to China and not go to the wall. I was quite happy with my decision. It might have been a 3 hour drive each way, but it was well worth it and something that I won’t soon forget.
Upon getting back to Beijing, I still had enough time to make my way over to the ticket office, pick up my train ticket to Mongolia, see the nightly flag lowering ceremony in Tiananmen Square and meet up with another couch surfer who took me out and would not let me leave just having dinner. A bit tired I went to with her to meet up with some of her friends to the Bed Tapas Bar. Down a random side ally and almost only filled with local foreigners, the Bed Bar was a very mellow bar where you remove your shoes and the seats are pillows around large mattresses with tables in the middle. A relaxing place to end the evening in a cozy corner of Beijing.
The next day I board the first leg of my Trans Siberian, aka, Trans Mongolian Train ride. First stop, Ulan Bataar. Seeing that I had a family of 4 from Mongolia that didn’t speak any English in our 4 berth compartment, I spent most of my time a few doors down with some Aussies and Brits on a tour. Off to Mongolia and more adventures……stay tuned!!!!