October 12th, 1999
(I have been a bit slack on the writing up and so may have forgotten some of the nuances I would have liked to report.)
Took forever to change my ticket from Shenyang to Xi’an (after the Danish guy confirmed it was the wrong one – my understanding of Chinese script wasn’t so bad after all.) How could they misunderstand my pronunciation anyway!? But I even had the place written down. Eventually got it sorted and took my bag to lockers at the West Station and paid 20Y for the deposit – the commission the porter charged for wheeling my bag 100 yards was massive and I only wanted him to point me in the right direction! I hadn’t eaten yet and so before going into the Lama Temple I stopped at the first restaurant around the corner which was a bit of a hole in the wall. I saw and ordered what the rest of the place was eating – unsure what it was exactly but found it to be VERY hot noodles. I was brave and hungry so ate them all amid constant onlookers without daring to ask for water! Thai Noodles and 16 hours on the train aren’t going to mix I feel! The Yonghegong Lama Temple has nice Buddha’s but the buildings are not so different from other Chinese Styles. It used not to be a Temple anyway, but an Emperors Home. The Lama Temple looked more authentic because it was a working Temple – they input door receipts back into renovation and there were monks reciting in each room, or are they there just to regulate the no photo rule?! The Summer Palace was impressive though, very Grandiose and had a Tibetan Priest wandering around the grounds. The lake was very photogenic but unfortunately the sky was a bit dull as usual and very smoggy. I found out this was the norm and I was just very lucky when I went out to the Great Wall because the Government has shut down all the factories around and about for the 1st October celebrations.