We’re up early since Anna has promised that we’re going to see some of the great wall from the train. It’s really hazy weather this morning though so we don’t see much of anything. The landscape is much more interesting than yesterday and I spend a fair amount of time hanging out the window. It’s mostly farmland with antiquated equipment such as donkey-pulled plows.

Before reaching the outskirts of Beijing we travel alongside a beautiful river valley where we all just gawk at the scenery. At about half past two we reach Beijing station and get bussed to the hotel. Observation: Beijing has certain lanes dedicated to u-turns (as well as stop lights), really neat!

We get asked if we want to go to an acrobatics show this evening and most of us sign up (tickets are 280 yuan, approx 300 sek). At the hotel we’re met by Karina, the Pink Caravan guide who will accompany us to North Korea. We’re assigned rooms and meet up to get briefed about Beijing, those of us going to North Korea are held for an additional briefing about that part. This means I miss the dinner train and have to find something to eat on my own withing the hour that’s left until the show. I find a nice back alley not far from the hotel, which is at Xuanwumen subway station. It’s the kind of alley where they sell carps out of a bucket and I find a guy selling some sort of fried bread filled with vegetables and lots of chili out of a window. I buy a piece for just over two yuan and continue on, munching happily. I also find a pomelo the size of a bowling ball for 11 yuan.

Back at the hotel we gather to go to the show. We’re led by a Chinese guide and take the subway right at rush hour, it’s just as hectic as you’d imagine. The Beijing subway system is excellent though, especially after the olympics, with signs in both English and Chinese. It’s also a steal at 2 yuan, with as many changes as you like. It’s a good idea, just as in the Moscow metro, to carry your backpack on your chest. You might look like a retard, but at least you get to keep your stuff.

The show is good, but not great (seeing Cirque de Soleil in Vegas has ruined me for life). They do some really cool stuff, mainly jumping very high (and very high flip-flops as well) through very small hoops. After the show Matilda, Johnny, Henrik and me break off from the rest to find a bite to eat before going back to the hotel. We wander aimlessly and finally find ourselves in what seems to be a Japanese restaurant. Johnny and Matilda go for the Chinese speciality Hotpot (Matilda explains that she’s made a list of local foods that she wants to try in each country we pass through and Hotpot is one of them), I go for a simple fried rice. The food is excellent and we end up paying 60 yuan each including beer, a bit on the steep side to be Beijing really.

We decide to do some additional wandering after dinner just to get a feel for the city. So we look up a subway station on the map and start walking towards it. Turns out it’s a bit farther than we expected since a lot of little streets (as in only 4 lanes) are omitted on the map, and we probably walk for an hour before getting there.

We see a bunch of interesting things along the way though, such as an outdoor exercise yard (just a bunch of workout equipment along the sidewalk really), lots of funny signs like “meat patty make your stomach explode” and generally a lot of neat little shops and restaurants. It’s weird how few people are out on the town though, considering that we’re out at about eleven in the evening on a Friday night, but maybe we’re just in the wrong part of town.

Bogie Woogie

Everyone get up in time and we’re treated to a breakfast buffet likely consisting of everything that’s left in the stores since the Mongols close up shop tomorrow. A bus ride later we’re on the train to Beijing. The view is anything but inspiring; desert and the odd shantytown every now and then. After catching up on lost sleep we head for the lunch cart which seems like it was plucked right out of the Transsiberian golden age and hooked onto our train. The service though is below even Russian standards the heat is turned up to eleven, so we’re left there waiting half an hour in the sweltering heat for our orders to be taken and another half hour for our food to arrive (which is, to be fair, very good).

The afternoon passes much in the same manner. We reach the Mongolian border at sixish and move on without much fuzz. At the Chinese border it’s time to change the undercarriage though since China has a different track width. Why they don’t have adjustable bogies is beyond me, but the process is really cool so I don’t really mind. =P

The carts are wheeled into an assembly hall with several hydraulic lifts in it. Then the carts are separated and hoisted 1.5 meters up into the air, leaving the bogies on the track. Then the new bogies are rolled in all at the same time, pushing the old ones out of the way. The train is then lowered again and put back together. The whole process takes about 45 minutes, the other 3 hours we’re stuck here is spent moving the train back and forth.

Afterwards we get an entire hour to indulge in the taxfree border shop on the station. I go nuts over the pistachios and buy an entire kilo for 35 yuan (~40 sek), 60 cl beer for 3 yuan, some chips, what I hope is dried mango and some other assorted goodies. At the register there’s a girl packing all the stuff and a guy just standing about doing next to nothing. Neither of them are using the cash register and when done packing the girl just quotes me the total. I realize that she’s been summing it all up in her head, and consequently remembers what every item in the store costs since there are no price tags, impressive! A bit less impressive is the guy next to her whos’ job seems to be to accept payment and give us change. He doesn’t even get the amount of change right…

The station itself is kind of fun as they play classical music in large loudspeakers. Imagine our delight when we suddenly realize that they’re playing a classical rendition of “Punschen kommer” (I’m probably showing my ignorance here not knowing that “Punschen kommer” is a classical piece to begin with or something). We pull out of the the station at 1 am and are scheduled to reach Beijing around 14.30 tomorrow.