Silly girls that we were, neither me nor Gill slept the night before our trip. Instead we pampered ourselves, decided on our outfits for the next day and then giggled till the wee hours of the morning! Understandably, when the alarm clock went off at 8pm, we were half dead. When we got into the airport limousine bus, we were half dead, when we boarded our plane we were half dead…and during the 2 hour flight to lovely China, we slept like babies. It was only when we set foot on Chinese soil that life and crazy excitement returned to us and we stared, with wide eyed awe at all the skyscrapers and unexpected, but breathtakingly beautiful, English colonial buildings. Did you know that China was an English colony? I sure didn’t but it’s pretty obvious when you look at the buildings and I felt wonderfully at home among these pretty, pretty architecture (something very lacking here in Korea) and the abundance of trees. One thing was certain; Beijing was not at all what I expected. Maybe I was just lucky, but the smoggy cloud that everybody complained about was not to be seen, in fact one of the first things I noticed about Beijing, was how extremely clean it was. It wasn’t long before I lost my heart to this charming city with its millions of bicycles, pretty buildings, big trees and oriental flavor. The Chinese people also stunned me a bit with their good English, friendly smiles and eagerness to help.
Our tour bus, which became a much loved meeting place, is vital to this story so I only feel it’s appropriate to tell you more about it. Not only was the bus the place where we got introduced to our adorable group leader, Jerry, who cutely refers to himself in the third person as “the Jerry”, but also made great friends. Me and Gill chose the backseats so that we could giggle and talk to our hearts content without disturbing “the Jerry” and equally friendly bus driver, but soon we were surrounded by 5 other girls and Charlie, who also liked to giggle and talk and would become our friends for the duration of this trip (and afterwards). It was not long before we became a tight knit group and for the next 5 days Christine (Canadian), Suzanne (South-African), Meghan (American Eskimo – I kid you not), Willemien (South-African), Jessica (American) and Charlie (American Hungarian) would become close travel partners and friends. Furthermore the bus also became our language school were “the Jerry” taught us vital Chinese such as “hello” (tru la ma), “thank you” (shee shee) and “too expensive” (tie gway la?).
So off we were on our bus, and before we knew it, we've reached our first stop: the heavenly "Temple of Heaven".....(to be continued)