Wow! How different is China to anywhere we've been so far!
We spent several hours in Hong Kong airport after the 11 hour fright from Rome. That gave us time to get visas for China, learn about train scene, book our bike cases into the LEFT LUGGAGE place for a week, learn about where the hotels were in HKG and how much they cost. Many cost 200-600 Aussie dollars for a night, so we've booked into a hostel initially for when we get to HKG on 4 December.
It was a four hour trip from HKG to Beijing by the time we boarded, flew, landed and got through customs, passport, security, baggage etc. Boy, was it great to come out to the welcoming hordes at the Beijing airport and hear a voice call out, "KEASTY!" It was our good mate Coult who lives and works in Beijing. Fay taught with him at Moulamein Central school in 1966-67. I can't express how great it is to catch up with Coult whom we had not seen for about 10 years.
Having a contact here is really handy. Coult got us from airport to guest house in a taxi for 65 yuan (about $10 AU.) The bloke wanted a hundred but Coult had his measure.
He also arranged THE comfortable room for us in our guest house for 30 AUD per night. We have our own ensuite and lockable door. We'll stay here for 5 nights before heading to Hong Kong for 3 nights.
This morning Coult took us out to brekky at a nearby restaurant (everything is walking distance in this community.) He ordered and we ate well (even if we didn't really know what we were eating.) We hope we can choose as well on our own tonight. Everything tasted good and cost about 7 AUD to feed the 3 of us.
- pointed out the hairdresser
- took us into the 7 eleven for bottled water
- found us an ATM
- taken us to the Raddison
- semi-arranged our trip to the Great Wall tomorrow
- led us into a dodgy internet bar (no grog there)
- given us a money lesson and a geography lesson and
- walked us round the area - all before he went to work!
Somebody sent me (was it you Al?) an email (Fay thinks it was from Bill) about credit card scams. We will be extra careful as a result. It'd be a shame to have a bad experience at this stage of the trip. I remember David (from my big bike ride across Australia in 2003) often reminding cyclists that the majority of accidents occur in the last 5 minutes of the ride. He was proved correct too often. If you want the email re credit card fraud, just email me and ask for it.
Talking of being extra careful, maybe I should let you know what we have collectively left or lost during our 10 month trip (that I can remember!)
- Two pair of footwear
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 good Aussie footy sweater
- a pair of binoculars
- maybe a shirt or two
- 1 Co-motion baseball cap
- a pair of scissors that were taken by an airline official (we still have the pocket knife!)
That's a pretty good effort. Maybe our most treasured things are the 20+ CDs full of photos we've taken. They always travel with us in our cabin baggage. Of course the licence plates have all (except for about 5) been sent back to Oz already.
Beijing is quite cool at present - max 7 Celcius. HKG is 20 at the same time. Might wear my Italian gloves tomorrow. Heard from Bill and Vicky Smith that there's heaps of snow in Canada at present. Glad we're over that.
Heard from Coult that there are 1,000 new car regos EACH DAY here in Beijing! Heard also from Coult that 270 (correct me if I'm wrong mate) people die on the roads daily. The traffic here is certainly something else.... but at a leisurely pace. Certainly nothing like the frenetic pace in Italy!
Cheers folks.. off to the Great Wall!