Monday, 15 January 2018

Beijing... better late than never? Part 2

Just 3 days before we left home for our tour we got a final itinerary, well they sent us one but it still wasn't accurate.
We should have been forewarned when the first paragraph read like this!

During this tour almost everything will be different to what you may be used to. We have found that our customers who embark with a sense of humour and adventure, and who accept that things can and do go wrong are those who find their experience the most rewarding. Do not be surprised if you experience odd sights and smells. Travelling in India and China requires patience with crowds and potential delays. "
I can accept delays due to the unforeseen but not to the avoidable.
There wasn't ever a flight that we could have taken the previous day that would have given us the expected time at leisure in Beijing.
Picked up from the airport we arrived at our hotel at around 8.00am. The days tour had been re-arranged and instead of setting off early it was put back to a 10.30am start. Great! 
A full restful sleep I think not and the tour was a walking tour of the Forbidden City too. This is what the online brochure advertised too
Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 18.04.15

Ignore the delicious looking Peking Duck, we'll come to that later. Look at the entry on the left, "you need a whole day to explore the Forbidden City".
All aboard our coach we had our first surprise of the day. We had acquired two guides it appeared, a National Guide and a City Guide. Both provided by Wendy Wu, the ground agents.
An entry on the letter that accompanied our final itinerary written by Wendy Wu and received just before we left was as follows
Tipping - Tipping is a necessary part of the tourism industry worldwide. For your tour, we recommend the following tipping amounts to the local guides and drivers: 
China: RMB80 per person per day 
Southeast Asia: US$7-9 per person per day 
India: US$9 per person per day 
Singapore: SGD3 per person per day 

Our National Guide who was to accompany us through the Chinese section of the tour announced that she would be collecting the said amount from each of us the following morning .
It didn't go down too well, in fact she was told in no uncertain terms that tipping was at our discretion and certainly wasn't paid in advance for service not yet received.
We all have our views on tipping. Personally I think it's outdated and it's time people were paid a decent wage that reflected what they do for a living. Others no doubt disagree but I think it's ridiculous that some people get tipped when others don't, all might be giving you a service of some description. Anyway, tipping has always been alien to China, in fact many places will refuse your tip so why are Wendy Wu trying to bring it in as part of their wage structure. Pay your people properly and pass on your costs in the prices you charge for your services. 
Had everyone given the expected amount the guide would have received over £1000 in cash how much of which would be passed on to others who knows!

Anyway off we set on the bus but by the time we arrived at The Forbidden City it was past midday.
First we were dropped off at Tiananmen Square which was for the second time we have visited was closed to the general public. 
Last time it was because of a visit by President Obama, this time President Trump was in the congress hall, a huge motorcade was preparing to leave as we arrived.
Crossing over the main road we were gathered for a group photo. I decided I'd take my own!
When you are on guided tours you have to get used to regular requests for group photos, visits to cultural gift shops etc etc. Part of the tourist trail and no doubt there are commissions the guides get for setting it all up.
Anyway, Bus 2 were jelling together well despite one or two unhappy faces on this shot. We were all knackered after all!
Forbidden City, Beijing
Fortunately Claire and I have been to the Forbidden City before.
Forbidden City, Beijing
Impressive though it is, once seen, well, for me once is probably enough so the fact that the tour was not nearly as comprehensive as it should have been didn't matter quite as much.
Our guide didn't give us nearly as much information as last time, nor did we see as much either but of course if you didn't know what might have been you were none the wiser.
The sun was going down so as some of us had agreed to buying tickets to see a theatre show due to take place before our Peking Duck dinner, (an optional extra arranged by our guide) they were anxious to make sure we got back in time to go there.
The theatre was just across the road from our hotel, the majority of the tour of which we were now 67 seemed to be going.
We had we were told the best tickets and they weren't cheap either. ( We later discovered that the guides had added on quite a big commission too!) The theatre was very scruffy but mainly packed with locals.
We endured twenty minutes of Chinese commentary while something was happening on stage.
Beijing stage show
We tourists hadn't a clue what it was all about until we were later told that the man painting was in fact one of China's leading letter writers.
Very nice work indeed and fortunately we didn't have to spend another 20 minutes waiting for the paint to dry!
Beijing stage show
No, it was on with the show.
Beijing stage show
The outfits and stunts might have been a bit more glamorous than the Phare Circus in Cambodia but Claire and I didn't think it was nearly as good.
Beijing stage show
The girls did most of the juggling bits, the boys did the dare devil stunts.
Beijing stage show
This contraption span around with one person walking inside a wheel while the other was outside.
Beijing stage show
In fairness it took nerve, one false move and a nasty accident, possibly fatality was on the cards.
Similar could be said about the motorbikes.
Beijing stage show
One by one another went through an open hatch until there were four driving round and round inside a giant mesh ball. As with all the acts it went on too long and it was with great to see them all come out to take their bow. 
Beijing stage show
By now the theatre was thick with toxic exhaust fumes.
The show over we headed back across the road for our Peking Duck dinner at a local restaurant. 
Remember the brochure  picture?
This was what we got!
Peking Duck
A minor deception, it was duck after all.
Still everyone was too tired to bother saying anything. The meal over most headed off to an early bed.
Oh that was the other thing, the hotel wasn't the standard described either. It too was scruffy with stained carpets and the stale smell of nicotine lingering everywhere.
Yes, those mutterings of discontent were not getting any quieter!

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