After having arrived back to our salubrious accomodation at midnight, it was a slight shock to the system when the alarm went off at 3.45am in order to get to the airport. H-J had pre-empted it somewhat by waking at 1.45am and not being able to get back to sleep so was feeling less than fresh. However, we leaped up excitedly, picked up our belongings and headed down to grab a taxi.
We were working on the assumption that every other time we’d been to the airport it took over an hour to go each way and with a 5.50am check in though it prudent to be catching a cab just after 4am. What we didn’t think about was the fact that at 4am there IS NO TRAFFIC and so we arrived bright and early at the airport…at 4.20am. Sigh.
Another surprise was that Gimhae International Airport, Korea’s second largest after Seoul, was closed. Yes, you read that right. Closed. Even piddly little pseudo-international Wellington airport only closes between 1am and 4am each day so this really took us by surprise. There wasn’t a single light on in the airport, the temperature was below zero and the doors were locked. Luckily we were deprived of enough sleep to make the situation absolutely hilarious and we duly entertained ourselves by taking photos in the dark and making a phone call to H-J’s folks to say good morning.
The two and a half hour flight that we eventually took to Beijing flew by and before we knew it we were in China! And so it began – four days of taking in mind blowing sights, sounds and tastes in a whole new country.
First stop was Tiananmen Square where we spent some time absorbing our new surroundings. Winter is a great time to visit Beijing as the crowds are relatively low-key but it was definitely way colder than anything we had experienced before.
From here we wandered across the way through to the Forbidden City which served for 500 years as the home to various Emperors and their peeps. Its a pretty massive complex so while we were thoroughly interested in exploring all the nooks and crannies this was probably the most freezing we would be at any point throughout our time in Beijing.
Toughing it out through the intense cold was totally worth though! The scale and detail of the complex is pretty mind-blowing.
Our next stop for the day was a tea ceremony where we were poured delicate cups of tea rather elaborately. It came at a fantastic time as our hands, faces and other appendages were definitely feeling the cold! We sampled around 6 different types of (warming!!!) tea and then got sucked into the gift shop where we emerged with a quite restrained two boxes.
Warmed up and quite enjoying being indoors by this point we ventured off to our final activity of the day – watching a Chinese acrobatic show. This was the first of two shows we were lucky enough to see in China. The acrobats are trained from an extremely early age and spend their young lives bending and flipping and carrying on in ways that would make most of us cringe. Apparently the art is dying out somewhat in China due to the demands to have a “proper” career – i.e. your career as an acrobat is most likely over by the time you’re in your 30s so people were finding it extremely hard to gain employment having no other experience or qualifications.
This show was awesome. There were a number of different acts including umbrella juggling,
ludicrous balancing acts on different objects,
and then, the ultimate finale, that would make a head-injured-epileptic cringe – an insane act of men driving motorbikes into a large sphere and driving around and around in bright strobe lights tempting fate and avoiding collisions by mere choreographed seconds.
Almost too much adrenalin for one day.
After a delicious dinner of Chinese hot pot (where we ate lamb for the first time in AAAAAAGES!) we headed back to our hotel for a much needed rest before another day of epic proportions…