Here we are, final day in Beijing and what a ripper (get that Aussie slang in there, Ni How). If the kids thought the Wall was the pinnacle of Chinese achievements, their view got challenged today when we visited the Forbidden City. Don’t get me wrong, the Wall still holds poll position for most but the Forbidden City is definitely in a class of its own when it comes to architectural magnificence. Walking through this fabulous testament to the power of a single position was awe inspiring, layer after layer of opulence still clearly evident despite centuries of use/abuse; every courtyard leading to an even more magnificent courtyard. The students again attracted almost as much attention as the building around them with numerous requests for photo op’s coming there way. Boys and girls in equal demand and a range of photo companions from small kids to adults and this time in my case a very elderly war veteran (judging by the large number of medals adorning his chest) whose family thought he should get his picture with me, he didn’t seem so sure, I was worried I might break him, but the family were very happy with their snap so OK.
From there to the nearby hill temple where we could oversee the whole Forbidden City, a great chance to see it all in one hit. The splendour was not lost on the kids, they all have photos to show when we get back.
Lunch was really special this time, we visited a Huton, basically a small area of old residents in a walled in section of the city. Here many people still live a traditional life. Several generation may inhabit a small, by our standard house, and several families will share a courtyard area. Here local crafts and foods still generate a unique atmosphere. Only a few of these areas still exist now and are protected by law and maintained as part of China’s cultural heritage. We enjoyed a rickshaw trip around the Huton and then had lunch in a local house. This involve several families clearing rooms in their shared house, borrowing table from all around to house so many of us and cooking the food in one house to be served in the house we were using. The atmosphere was definitely unique. As for the food, the kids voted it the best they had had so far.
From Huton to a local park area where the kids got a bit of free time to play hacky sack and relax, a local guy was roped in by the guides to show the kids how to play hacky sack Chinese style. He was very good and didn’t seem to mind giving up his exercise time to show his skills to the kids. Finchy tried to show the kids how to kick a football in the same area but was told by the local constabulary not to. Not sure if that was a commentary on Ben’s football ability or what, but ah well, his ego will survive, hacky sack it is.
From park to station. The dreaded boarding of the Sleeper Train. The station was busy, kids tired and teachers stressed but finally the time had come to board. Half an hour of chaos ensued. Getting on the train was complicated by several kids being sent to the wrong carriage by the official train guard (still not sure why), tensions ran high but all rooming was eventually sorted. The cabins were basic, fleas were apparently found, but fun was found as well as the kids got the music and card games going and we headed off to our next destination. Xi’an.
Day 6 – Xian