Copied from the Harbin Blog:
"The next morning we walked over to the train station for our train to Beijing. Our train was not listed on the outside board, so we guessed and followed other people into this large departure lounge building. It was an absolute madhouse and we had to get into obnoxious shoving mode to get anywhere. There were hordes of millions in this station. We eventually found our train and got on. The train was different from the Russian trains: 6 per cabin (stacked 3 high), less privacy, but spotlessly clean and frequent food vendors going up and down the aisles. This was a 12 hour day trip to Beijing. The trip was uneventful and the landscape outside was farmland similar to scenes of Southern Ontario in the winter.
"The Beijing station was also a solid mass of humanity, but it was straightforward to shove through, exit, and grab a cab.
"Eric - from Beijing"
We stayed at the excellent Novotel Peace Hotel where Ming Ming and I had stayed last time. They have an amazing buffet of Western and Eastern food. We had been more or less hungry since London, so we pigged out! We sat and ate brunch for two solid hours! We then went out that night and ate Peking Duck at a specialty restaurant. We ate well in Beijing.
Will and I spent most of our time apart in Beijing, as I had been there before with Ming Ming and seen all the main sights already. I went down to the antique market (a neighbourhood, really, that I hadn't been to before) where I bought some paintings. I then walked back to Tien'am men Square through all the alleyways. This was very interesting in that it appeared to be the "real" old Beijing. They were normal roads with many cyclists and lined with regular non-tourist shops. They reminded me of South-East Asia, and I hadn't seen or felt this the last time I was there.
The first night we both went out to the Sanlitun area with its "Bar Street". As the name implies, it contains nothing but bars. The challenge, as always on this trip, was to find one that wasn't playing loud obnoxious karaoke, disco, or elevator music. We finally found one with a real band that was actually playing Rock 'n Roll, but they soon turned to the mellow love songs that the Chinese love. A fellow came by and sold us a few DVDs of modern movies for 70˘ each.
One project for me was to go out to the Friendship Store and get a few more English novels. We had exhausted our supply and I was facing an upcoming solitary train ride to Vietnam. $12 for each book plus cab fare both ways.
One afternoon it snowed, dumping over 2 cm in as many hours. We really enjoyed this as it was our first snowstorm in over 10 years. Unlike the locals, we were well fitted out with our Russian winter gear.
I found a nice Internet café that served a bottomless cup of jasmine tea.
Eric - from London