We are alive and well in Beijing. Have just found out that I cannot access a USB stick at this internet place, so the pictures will have to wait. Grrr...
The smog here is amazing. Good luck to the athletes in 3mths time. It cleared a little after some very heavy rain but was back soon afterwards. At night you can see the beams of car headlights in the smog. Also the willows are in flower and the place is full of willow pollen/fluff. There is willow stuff drifting through the air inside the room I am in now.
The over-riding impression of everything here is BIG. The city has a population similar to Australia in total and has hundreds of 20 story apartment blocks, giving the city a flat and lumpy appearance. Accentuated and made all the more dour by grey smoggy skies. In contrast, there are areas of Beijing that have some quite adventurous architecture.
Tiamamen Square and the Forbidden City are also BIG. They defy the photographer to capture the full panarama.
Caught the metro out to the Olympic stadium, the Birdnest. Impressive but could not get too close to it due to landscaping crews.
Went to see some acrobats - good fun, complete with coconut popcorn. Walking home from the show we passed a big group of Chinese dancing (waltz?) on the side walk. In the dark. To music.
Food is amazing - is there nothing that they don't eat? Fancy some Pigeon gizzard and fava beans? I have just the restaurant for you, Mr Lector. I'm told scorpions on a stick await me at the night market tonight.
Out to the Great Wall of China today. Had to fight through the Great Wall of Chinese Souvenir Sellers. Impressive, none the less. A PA system in the parkland played gentle versions of the Titanic theme and Auld Lang Syne.
The Temple of Heaven, apart from a collection of impressive Chinese architecture, is a giant social club for retired Chinese. They pack to the place, playing cards, chess, dominoes, singing, dancing, playing various bat and ball games or just sitting around watching the passing parade.
Sorry about the lack of pictures - maybe from Mongolia...we catch the train to Mongolia early tomorrow morning.