18th June 2015:
Over the last few days we have done a lot … But that is the nature of this tour.
I sit here in sun filled hotel room in Erenhot …long daylight hours… We are at the border of China and Mongolia (China side) . Pete and Barry are checking the cars over. We cross tomorrow .. !!!
China has been all about madness and grandness … Not bad madness …just a little crazy from time to time …some of the roads, the contrasts, the swarms of domestic tourists at popular spots and the mixtures of people and us driving two old cars … We attract a paparazzi almost every-time we stop ….and the Grandness … Well this is everything from grand places of reverence to Buddha and earlier civilisations to the amazing engineering of today’s toll roads, tunnels , bridges , railways and buildings.
I am writing this the Next day ….15 June 2015 … Siting waiting for paper work about the cars to happen .!!! On the Mongolian side of the boarder.
Getting out of China required all sorts of steps. Including a hiccup we had not noticed. All the documentation for the cars had actually been mixed up. Our China car registrations had Mollies’ engine number for Pete’s car and viscera versa… That took a little while to resolve. But eventually we passed through. Now we are waiting for magic to happen on the Mongolian side.
Anyway …. Before I loose the thread of last few days in China , let me provide a quick run down of activities.
We arrived in Beijing after lots more kms on toll ways. Down through a few tunnels to emerge in low lands that are Beijing …. And some how found or destination …the Olympic park and a visit to the Birds Nest etc. It was quite funny because after a fare few U-Turns we actually drove straight into the underground car park below the stadium. And the car park was virtually empty. And emerge from the carpal a 100 m or so from the much lauded structure … It’s very impressive. We wondered around the Olympic Park with lots domestic tourists and visited the Ice Cube …the swimming pool complex etc.
Then find the hotel …I think I have mentioned before we have been using one hotel chain a lot in China ..Jinjaing …. A modest business hotel chain …. But finding it in the maze that is Beijing outer suburbs was not a lot fun. Jerry’s GPS set us a stray a few times and it was peak hour. Finally arrived after 7pm… And quick dinner and bed before the next day’s subway trip into the centre … A quick visit Teinaman Square … Which we could not enter because some international dignitary was arriving …. A massive convoy of cars and motor bikes etc.
Then into the Forbidden City … The heart of the old empires of China … Which was closed to common folks for 500 years until 1949.
Another step on the way through the border … The cars got their paper work sorted or partly. A process of typing lots info into a computer … But stamping the Carneis just yet. … But it allowed me to walk through immigration etc and get into Mongolia. As drivers Barry and Pete need to sort out the cars , then get immigrations sorted then drive to the next step … What ever it is. I am sitting in the shade typing and keeping an eye on the cars that are parked up with lots of Mongolian vehicles whose drivers and passengers need to do the same. Already about a 2.5 to 3 hours process getting from China into Mongolia.
We eventually all make it through a quite bizarre set of processes. The most important possession Barry and Pete had obtained was small slip of paper with 4 stamps …. They thought it was Christmas … But then allis one more check point and the nice man wanted it that nice little bit of paper.
Then it’s finding our way out town … We head of down the route that Pocket Earth was pointing …. But it shit track. ( the old road) ..so we stop for lunch where we can see the odd truck and car speeding of into the distance. We had heard the road to Ulaanbaatar (everyone calls it UB) was bitumen now, so after a quick bit of lunch we backtrack and find the new road. But even that is not straightforward . We run into a compound full of trucks … We think a railway siding and need to get on track again to find the road on the other side … And onto the highway and we are now in full swing and into the Gobi Desert. Rolling tree less plain, with vast visitors and after an how we need to stop just to take it in… And to celebrate the achievement of making it through China and now Mongolia. We stop on high point with Stupa and pray flags and pay our respect and walk and drive around it in a clock wise fashion and have “chat” to a few other travellers.
Anyway, back to the last few days in China. …. The Forbidden City is huge, plaza after plaza and quite austere, with ceremonial pavilion structures. And thousands and thousands of tourists. An amazing spectacle. The various sections of the palace. Jerry suggested that the austere nature of free squares or plazas wishing the palace was all about creating the physiological intimidation if anyone was visiting the emperor or other officials. You could just imagine the ceremonial process of entering into the various plazas .
Then it was of into the commercial part of town … We found a Starbucks for the caffeine addicts ( Pete and I) and then it was time to find Peking Duck …after all it was my birthday. If good too. Thanks guys for helping me celebrate turning 57 … A birthday in Beijing … !!! One to remember. And thanks Pete for the model Porsche ( just in case we have any serous issues with Mollie).
Then the next day we venture north again …via the tourist part of the Great Wall …and on this Saturday morning in June it felt like half of Beijing was trying to visit as well. The traffic was think and finding the parking area turned into micro nightmare until Jerry did a deal with a local who was touting for business at local restaurant just of the road . We can park at their place , walk a little further and then have lunch at there place. The funny thing was the little lady riding her motorised push bike …guiding us to the parking spot.
So it’s up a short cable car ride and onto the Wall and along with masses we take a few photos, amazed at this section of the wall which was rebuilt as tourist facility some 20 or 30 years back.
We have lunch and get some more signatures on the cars and we head east and then north and finally after a couple of days driving we make it to Erenhot the boarder town in China, before the boarder.
The drive was through some very scenic landscapes, initially through a valley alongside a significant mountain range which apparently is the home of some sky fields and then to the town of Jeining in the southern edge of Inner Mongolia and find our favourite hotel chain Jinjiang … After we are told at the first hotel would not take internationals. And we have one the best and cheapest meals off noddles etc.
Our last full day in China ..the 14 June 2015 was Jerry’s birthday … So it’s happy birthday at breakfast and we are off . Now into the rolling pasture of Inner Mongolia … We have nice little detour to find petrol because the service centres on the toll way, while built are not selling petrol or are not open. So we head for the state highway and figure out that most of the traffic and petrol stations are on this parallel road. (!!!!) We stop for lunch at little grotty town and get swamped by the local paparazzi and nice little lady ( down syndrome or similar ) who wanted to be our friend.
Then eventually Erenhot. And the place was miles bigger than I expected; about 100,000 people and again a lot of empty buildings and we stayed at The Pacific International hotel (?) … Which once was the best hotel in town … Now tired and not so special. Two big highlights …the first …the entry statements …. Two massive dinosaurs and at least 40 or so smaller ones . And they seemed to be dancing and grazing in among wind turbines. (One of my photos has been named Tony Abbott inspecting Wind turbines at Erenhot on the China / Mongolian border on Facebook). The dinosaur entry statement is all about fact that Dinosaur relics have been found in significant numbers in this area. Imagine the Gobi desert as a jurassic park, tropical type wonder land is hard.
The second was it was Jerry’s birthday so we celebrated with some very nice Lamb and and beer or two.
Then it was morning ….and the border …. Which I have told you about above.