A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11 (PM) - Gifts for the most honourable Chairman Mao

Beijing = 26 December 2013

sunny 2 °C
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We walked the short distance to the National Museum, furious that we had been conned again.

The building is absolutely massive and totally imposing, and faces onto Tiananmen Square. Because we had foreign passports we were able to enter for free. After a thorough security scan and pat down, we walked into the foyer of the massive building, then headed downstairs to the Ancient China exhibition, which was pretty amazing.
An opium pipe:
A letter home:
A bell:
A life-size doll used for acupuncture:
A fish carving used on the edge of a roof:
A horse sculpture:
A carved door handle:
Statues from the terracotta army:
We then headed upstairs to a special exhibition which was a collection of all the gifts to the Chinese Communist Party from various world leaders.
This was a fascinating exhibition - there were hundreds and hundreds of incredible gifts from leaders and statesmen from all over the world:
We found the three from Australia - Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard:
But these were not as impressive as some of the gifts from the Middle East or South America, many of which looked like real gold and silver:
There was also gifts from some (in)famous names:
After the Museum, we walked back to the hotel, and debated what to do for dinner – we couldn’t handle being ripped off again! We ended up walking to a nearby restaurant, and made it back without being scammed.

Posted by MealsEeles 05:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 11 (AM) - Taken for another ride

Beijing = 26 December 2013

sunny 2 °C
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We woke up still feeling a bit disgruntled about being ‘taken for a ride’, but dressed in about four layers of warm clothing before heading outside. It was so cold we could see our breath in the air, but it was a clear day with blue skies.
We found a McDonalds and stopped for some lunch – the menu included rice dishes:
After lunch we went on walking to the National Museum, and after about 15 minutes we were about to cross a road when a rickshaw driver pulled up and offered us a ride. With the previous night in mind, we asked how much before getting in, and he held up three fingers, and said ‘three’. I said ‘three yuan?’ and he said ‘yes’ so we jumped in saying that we wanted to go to the National Museum.

The bike was extremely old and it must have been hard pedaling with our combined weight in the back but he made it look easy pulling us over cobblestones. We turned down a back street, which made me worry, but he said he was showing us ‘old Beijing’. There were beautifully painted doors and stonework that we hadn’t seen on the main streets. He showed us (using miming actions because his English wasn’t very good) where horses used to be tied up and the stones that people used to mount the horses. He also took this lovely picture of us:
However, after about ten minutes (and not taking us back to the main street, or to the Museum) he stopped the bike and got off, indicating that this was the end of the trip. Justin pulled a wad of yuan out of his pocket, and went to peel off three yuan. The driver got angry and said ‘300, 300’. I was furious and just walked off, and Justin ended up handing over the equivalent of $55 Australian dollars for a ten minute rickshaw ride!

Posted by MealsEeles 01:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 10 - The Hot Zone

Penang - Kuala Lumpur - Beijing = 25 December 2013

sunny 33 °C
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We caught a cab to Penang airport and flew to Kuala Lumpur airport, where we had a few hours to wait around. There was this cute little area with couches and TVs called the ‘movie lounge’ where we managed to nab a couch for Justin but he promptly fell asleep, while I wrote a few more blog entries.

We also enjoyed a few drinks at a bar (it was Christmas!), and then we boarded our flight. It was another Malaysia Airlines flight, but unlike our last two (Phuket to Penang/Penang to Malaysia) this was terrible. When I was a teenager, I read the non-fiction book ‘The Hot Zone’ which is about the origins and incidents involving viral hemorrhagic fevers, including the ebola virus. The book includes a detailed scene that explains ebola is contracted by a man travelling on a plane, then his internal organs fail and he bleeds out. I was having flashbacks of this book while I was on this flight.

There was a cacophony of coughing and sneezing from the people in the seats around us – NONE of them covered their mouths. About half way through the flight, the woman in the row ahead, and to the right of us threw up – she didn’t bother reaching for a bag and instead threw up on the ground, herself and the woman next to her.

About half an hour later, another boy one row back from us starting throwing up, but this time he managed to get it into a bag. And this was just the seats around us – I have no idea what the rest of the plane was like.

We walked out of the airport at about 2am on Boxing Day. We hadn’t even cleared the gate to enter the departure hall, and there was a man saying ‘taxi, taxi’. I have seen men like this in Bangkok airport before, who come right up to the gate and grab tourists before they make it to the registered taxi area, so I said ‘no’, but he was extremely persistent (another warning sign) and took one of our pieces of luggage to carry and walked with us.

Justin suggested we just go with him, because we were tired and keen to get to the hotel. I stupidly didn’t ask how much the trip would cost or how far it was. Justin ducked off to change some Australian dollars into Chinese yuan. While he was gone, the driver pulled out a little card, showing that he was a ‘VIP Driver’.

Once Justin returned, the driver then practically ran to a car (not a taxi) parked around the corner and threw our luggage in, then took off. After about
twenty minutes, he turned his head and said ‘highway, twenty dollars’. We guessed he was talking about the tollgate we had just gone under, and hesitated – twenty dollars seemed like an extremely high toll fee.

He then pulled over to the side of the highway, and pulled out the little card again, but this time showed us the other side – our trip would cost 800 yuan and he wanted payment now. Because I hadn’t converted the Australian dollars, or done any research into what the conversion rate was, I wasn’t sure how much this was, but Justin knew it was about $150 and hesitated, unsure what to do. The driver became extremely aggressive, and kept jabbing his finger at the little card, until we handed over the money.

A very short time later he dumped us at the Crowne Plaza Beijing and then left without saying another word.

Posted by MealsEeles 01:31 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Day 9 - Mandals on Christmas Eve

Penang = 24 December 2013

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After the previous evening, I wasn’t very interested in walking the streets of Penang again, so I just went down to the pool, while Justin went for a walk.
After some time (long enough for me to start to worry) he came back with some shopping bags, extremely excited about his purchases, including new man sandals (ie mandals):
He convinced me to come for a walk to the shopping mall, so we headed out:
In the evening, we headed back to the Eastern and Oriental for our fancy Christmas Eve dinner. Dean had set us up a table overlooking the ocean and was our personal waiter for the evening:

Posted by MealsEeles 02:00 Comments (0)

Day 8 (PM) - Uneasy in Penang

Penang = 23 December 2013

sunny 33 °C
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We had a great flight into Penang - Justin was very happy with the plane. We arrived at the hotel, which is a boutique hotel called Noordin Mews, on the edge of Georgetown as the sun was going down. We went for a swim and then went for a walk in town. As we were leaving, the receptionist told us to be careful, and that I should watch my handbag. That threw us a little bit, because everywhere else we have travelled we have felt totally safe – even cruising through Siem Reap at 4am in total darkness.

As we started walking along the streets of old Georgetown, this feeling intensified. We saw no Malaysian women, and hardly any foreigners. But there were Malaysian men on every street corner, and the way they looked at me made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I should note that I was dressed very plainly, and my legs and arms were fully covered. They gave an intense stare that didn’t stop even if I stared back at them. Justin also felt very uneasy.

As we walked further into the centre of town, we saw the lights of the Eastern and Oriental Hotel – a classic colonial-style hotel built in the early 19th century. We wandered in and up the hallways to the fine dining restaurant called 1884. I had already seen online there was a special Christmas Eve dinner being held at 1884 and suggested to Justin that we book for the next evening.
We found a waiter and he looked at us in our scrappy clothes, and when he found out we weren’t even staying at the hotel, said there was no possible way he could give us a table, as they were fully booked.

I was very disappointed, but on the way to the bar, we ran into another waiter called Dean (who must have been head waiter), and who had overhead Justin. He said that 1884 was indeed booked out, that actual guests of the hotel (ie not peasants like us) were not even able to get a table and asked if we wanted to reserve a table for their buffet at their café. Turning on that classic Justin charm to high voltage, Justin charmed the man, saying that he wanted a special table to celebrate with his girlfriend, then tipped Dean for any help he could provide.

We headed to the bar, and about ten minutes later, Dean came to our table saying that he would sort something out – classic Eeles charm wins again. The hotel was also kind enough to drive us back to our hotel in one of their Mercedes limousines – trés fancy.

Posted by MealsEeles 01:56 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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