Homeward Bound

Well I’m on my way home – eventually!

I checked in and it took me ages because I was getting the third degree over the number of bags I had. I explained that BA had said I could have an extra bag in the hold flying out, but not coming back. I had therefore taken my feed over in a small case and was bringing it back in the cabin. 

The hand bag that I had taken on the way out was in that case. I therefore had the bag with my feed running, a bag with my liquid supplies for the journey, the small case and a small handbag. This was exactly the same number of items as I had taken out with me. I showed them the email from BA saying that my feed supplies for the journey wouldn’t count as my cabin baggage, but they weren’t accepting this. 

Eventually they agreed to put my little case in the hold again, which suited me, but I must write to BA and talk to them about consistency of approach!

Security Beijing side was fun! At one point I felt as though I was being undressed in full view of the whole airport.

I can’t go through the metal detectors, so I always expect a frisking.

Anyway, I was stood there, arms aloft getting a patting down. Suddenly I had one person patting me down, one had lifted my shirt and was poking my stoma (I shudder to think where her hands might have been) and two other security guards had their hands down my jeans, poking my various bits of metalwork! 

At this point I was feeling rather violated and had they spoken English, I would have asked to be taken somewhere more private! There was lots of head shaking and ‘nos’ and I was starting to seriously think that they might not let me fly!

At this point I was wondering who would be best to ring if I had a problem – S’s Chinese family or the Embassy! How does one ring ‘The Embassy’?

After what seemed like an age one of the security staff took my passport and gesticulated for me to follow her! 

I stood by another security desk for what seemed like an age while people babbled about me and swabbed all my possessions. Another British lady was getting the third degree over the little torch on her keyring😃

Eventually they just told me that I was fine and I could fly.  Phew! I went straight through to my gate and only had 20 minutes to spare before boarding! Good job I got there early!

I think this plane hapd also landed on the Mongolian border as we had a long bus journey to board; they really don’t do health and safety In Beijing, but I  wasn’t expecting an icy concourse and icy steps up to the plane!

The flight was uneventful and luckily I had three seats to muself, so I could spread out. The couple in front of me were extremely irritating. Of course the first thing they did was recline their seats back. This always makes me feel awkward as I feel that it greatly encroaches on my space, to an extent that I feel that I can’t possibly do that to the person behind me!

Anyway, their irritating habits:

  • Constant reclined seats (and they had extra room anyway as they were at the front)
  • Frequent inappropriately noisy/slurpy snogging!
  • Constant eating and drinking
  1. Airline meals
  2. Crisps
  3. Nuts
  4. Pot noodles
  5. Sandwiches

The crew must have been getting heartily sick of them constantly upping and downing, asking for stuff!

Oh and the piece de resistance – the woman kept on stretching her arm over the back of her seat and letting her hand drape over my TV screen!  As you can imagine I was finding this heartily irritating and I was almost tempted to ask for a tray of food, just in order to get a defensive fork! In the end I settled for putting my arm across the top of my screen every time she started to stretch, so that when her hand crept over it jet mine and she quickly retreated! Far simpler than just asking her not to do it of course😃

A long but uneventful flight, although once we had landed I was in need of a Cosra before driving home!

On I forgot to tell you, on the way to the airport I saw my first glimpse in blue sky in 10 days! 



Day 10 – Sunday

Well, my last day here. I woke up to snow on the ground.i decided to plough on ahead with my plans regardless and trotted off the Temple of Heaven. I am doing very well on my Unesco World Heritage Sights this week!

From the window first thing



The Temple of Heaven is surrounded by vast parkland. It was really very pretty but absolutely freezing cold and very treacherous underfoot. I climbed up a couple of flights of stairs to get to various buildings, in the hope that I might be able to go inside them to warm u a bit, but to no avail!


I just ended up rising life and limb coming down the steps again; no hand rails of course! I will count today as a good day if I don’t end up going A over T in the snow and ice! I am always a bit paranoid about slippery surfaces, perhaps worrying that I could break a rod in my back or something daft! It would be such a shame to break a limb on my last day here!

The parkland was full of clusters of random people doing random things; singing, dancing and playing a game that looked quite fun – a bit like kicking a shuttlecock around! I Bing’d it (no Google here!) and it is actually called Kick Shuttlecock!



Random dancing
Put some clothes on mate!

After a couple of hours of not being able to feel my fingers or toes I decided that enough was enough and retired back to the Pearl Market and Starbucks for a warm up! Did a tiny bit more shopping. The price of the cashmere Burberry scarves goes down every time I buy one😃

It is 3.30pm and it is still snowing quite heavily so I have decided against going to the Summer Palace. It seemed a bit mad to go because it is a 45 minute tube ride away, it is further north, where the snow is worse, and I was freezing cold here!

Instead I am going to have another wander around the malls and the supermarket – see what bizarre treats I can buy that I will be allowed to take home! I have discovered that I can actually get quite far without going outside, because I can go from The 5th floor of my hotel, directly into the New World Mall and then I can use the underpass from that mall to go to the mall opposite.


Cant see me wearing this!

Just got back from an evening with Sian’s Chinese family, and now have repack with their kind gifts.

Day 9 – Saturday

Well it turns out Lily had arranged for a driver to take us shopping and I was under instruction to buy S a new coat! I had already offered! The trouble is, women are tiny here; the largest size in New Look for example is a 10!

I bought myself a North Face jacket this morning, but ended up getting an XXXL! They sure know how to make someone feel good about themselves!

Needless to say the coat search for Sian proved fruitless. I must admit that some of the styles that seem to be in fashion here are quite distinctive😃 and I appreciate that S is not a ‘Pom Pom dangling all around the bottom of your coat’ kinda gal😝


fairly moderate fashion for BJ
We stocked up on other stuff and got Sian’s phone mended; a pretty uneventful day to be honest. Not even many pictures!

I had survived 9 days without too many mishaps, which is amazing when crossing the road here is a real lottery with traffic and silent electric bikes coming from all directions when you try and cross the road on a green man! The streets are also full of trip hazards. I finally got my comeuppance this evening though while being led through a dark back alley from a shopping centre and I didn’t realise there was a step! I was stopped from falling  by the people behind, but did kind of jar my back and neck😁

Tonight we are going to the Irish bar to watch at least the first half of the Swansea Bournemouth match. We’ll have to get a cab back as it doesn’t start until 11pm, but the taxis here are very cheap; 13 yen (around £1.30) seems to take you an awfully long way!

On my penultimate day I have taken it upon myself to read the hotel lift rules. I’m not sure That I’ve been adhering to not maintaining good mannerisms at ALL times whilst in the lift. Oops!


I’m really short of pictures today, so how about my funky fruit ice cube drink


The other funky thing from today is Sian’s bling screen cover which she is very pleased with!

Tomorrow is my last day so I am planning to go to the Temple of Heaven first thing (I have been meaning to go for ages as it it within walking distance of the hotel) followed by the Summer Palace in the afternoon. I’ll then pop over to Sian’s to say goodbye and to thank the family for their hospitality. My flight is at 12 10 on Monday and I get to Heathrow around 15.30, which feels a bit mad!

Day 8 – Friday

Sian introduced me to Chinese steamed buns yesterday. I have to say that they are scrummy the first time around……

Today saw a visit to the zoo. I wasn’t expecting an awful lot as I had read bad reviews, but I wanted to see the giant pandas. I bought us combo tickets (the pandas were extra) for less than £3 for the pair of us!

Enjoying the sunshine

True to form the signs in the zoo were awful and at times it seemed as though we were walking around in circles – in the freezing cold! The animals looked as though they felt the same – a bit cold and fed up!

We found the pandas eventually; they seem to have drawn the long straw in terms of quality of enclosure, with plenty of space. They seemed pretty dozy though – they do apparently sleep for most of the day, when they’re not eating! 


The monkeys were also pretty quiet, although I was astonished to see one couple who seemed to be encouraging their toddler to feed the monkeys Mc Donalds chips!

We stopped for coffee and lunch for S (in the Australian speciality restaurant!)  She ordered spag bol, which I can quite honestly say I have never seen served with half an egg! They do love eggs here! It made us laugh that the menu in this Australian speciality  restaurant consisted of the bolognese and a load of Chinese dishes!


We liked the look of the pig, panda and duck steamed buns. I read that the zoo got into trouble a few years ago for serving endangered species in their eateries, so hopefully the braised lion dish wasn’t!


I was so shocked at this! I came across this Chinese man who was making the brown bears do tricks for him and lobbing apples into the enclosure for them as a reward! I felt most uncomfortable.


Sian hopped off home around 2 – it was so cold! I decided to brave the aquarium; at £15 it was very expensive for China so I was expecting big things. Oh dear. It wasn’t great. They had a whale/dolphin/sea lion show which was ok, but not Seaworld! They had a pet stall which seemed really odd – selling fish, jellyfish and turtles! I nearly got Sian a jellyfish but then decided it was a bit cruel!

Anyone for a pet jellyfish?


I made the  mistake of using a ‘squat job’ with the inevitable consequences! It was just such a juggling act, trying to not pull tubes etc! On the plus side, no tube movement and I didn’t manage to tread in the pan😳 I must admit all this subway travel is very convenient and cheap (around 30p for most journeys) but I do get a bit paranoid about getting my tube accidentally pulled or caught on something or someone.

These are the height of fashion here! I’m not sure that I can see having a leaf stuck out of your head catching on at home!

L I was going to head off to the Summer Palace tomorrow but I have been informed that Lily has arranged for a driver to take us somewhere unknown. I do hope it’s somewhere South, and not North! By Tuesday the temperatures here are now meant to be between -8 and -17 degrees! I think I am coming home just in time!

Back to Wangfujing again tonight to get some supper for Sian. Now this is  the child who when we went to France one year wouldn’t try Brie!



Day 7 -Thursday

The Beeb informs me that it’s International Toilet Day today. Perhaps they should do something about the loos in China so that you can flush paper down the loo and so that hotel rooms don’t smell of drains!

S was at Chinese lessons this morning so I took some time out for some R & R; some Chinese reflexology at a spa near the tube station that I fondly refer to as ‘dingy shithole’.

I gave this salon a miss, not wanting to be made into an angle.


I’m no angle
The spa was lovely. I had to change into some kind of cotton PJ bottoms and soaked my feet while I had a bit of a neck and shoulder massage. This was followed by a foot and lower leg scrub. Then lower legs plastered in some kind of cream and wrapped in cling film, while I had the reflexology. It was mostly nice although I did start getting abdo pains at times- tweaking the crocodile’s tail I suspect!

Legs then unwrapped and feet and legs massaged with steaming hot towels. A very pleasant 100 minutes.

By the time I came out, the weather and become markedly colder and more drizzly. I met S at the tube and took her along to the cat cafe, Meow, from the other day – I had promised her.

When we came out the weather was even more drizzly and cold and quite frankly horrible! We popped across the road to the mall and S had a bite to eat. I considered buying a really nice funky umbrella but it was a designer type mall and I was not about to part with over £80 for a brolly! Who on earth buys this stuff!?

The loos in this mall were amazing! Heated seats, self cleaning, self flushing, although still no loo roll! How can the same people that use these be satisfied with all of these dodgy looking squat jobs?

It’s all high tech here – even the doors are self repairing.

High tech stuff

These shop pictures are for Steph – she’ll get it!

 Heavy snow is forecast tonight, but I am planning on going to the zoo tomorrow. I then have e Temple of Heaven to do and then perhaps the pearl market again to stock up on cables and power banks and the like.

The forecast isn’t at all great over the next few days and by Monday the predicted temperature range is between -12 and -4!

I have been hunting for reasonably priced gloves this evening. I am surrounded by malls full of hats and scarves, but no gloves – apart from leather ones, which aren’t a great deal good in the wet!  I did find one of the mall ice rinks though!

Shame they were playing the first 2 lines of Twinkle Twinkle on repeat!

Day 6 – Wednesday

Up early this morning because Lily has arranged for a driver to take us to the Great Wall. Hope it’s not too cold, although it has felt milder over the last few days, only getting colder towards the end of the afternoon. I hope S is not too grumpy this morning at having got up too early!

Back now……

Well the wall was cold at first but we soon warmed up as we walked. We went to the nearest part of the wall to Beijing. We had been headed further afield but apparently there was snow on the ground further north, so we erred on the side of caution. It was still overcast and drizzly, which affected the views. I’m not sure how often the views are that great – one of Sian’s friends was saying that he can’t remember he last time he saw stars! I think we kind of take blue sky for granted at home!


So steep! But I behaved consciously and I resisted. the temptation to sprint up!


We were ok – no thunder
We had our photos taken again on the wall; one old couple and then a party of three twenty someings who all wanted a turn at having their picture taken with us! I felt like offerring an autograph too😃

 I can’t imagine having photos of me with random strangers in my collection! Thank goodness I no longer have a tube up my nose – now that would have been too good a photo opportunity to miss!

We had quite a hike along our section of the wall – for about 2 hours in total. They really do Not do health and safety in China and Sian and I were finding some of the I incredibly steep steps a bit deep for our little legs!

Beijing is absolutely huge and we had been in the car for about an hour and we were still on one of the Beijing ring Roads!

After the wall the driver brought us back to Chongwenmen, where ‘we’ met Lily for a noodle lunch. I tried a tiny spoonful and they are still coming back up now, at 9.38pm!

Post noodles Sian needed a nap 😃 so I headed off to Qianmen. It’s a really nice shopping area with a good mix of new and old hutong type affairs. Lots of really interesting things for sale and people to see!

Duck heads and necks?

Sugar creations


Surely more than a little inappropriate outside the duck restaurant?

Maccie D. hotdog burger?
This made me chuckle to myself
Wonder if i could park this in the bike park at work?

On my way back I popped into a local salon and had a really nice pedicure; it involved a little bit of reflexology, which felt really good, so I might try and have a proper reflexology session tomorrow.

Day 5 – Tuesday

i was starting to feel a bit dehydrated yesterday so I have run a litre of water through overnight.

This morning I am off the Dongzhemin with Sian and going in search of the Cat Cafe, Meow.

Well I found it, eventually and it was ruddy shut! I figured it must open at someone though, as I could see there were cats in there!
It opened at 11.30 and I whiled away a couple of hours playing with cheeky cats. I must admit though, that if you don’t like cats, this place would freak you out!



This concept could be a career move for me and some other mad cat people I know?

Cat fetish sated I moved on to the Forbidden City. I’m not sure that it looked as colourful as In The Last Emporer but was pretty impressive nonetheless. I was going to take in Tiananmen Square in the daylight afterwards but sneakily the exit takes you out a different way, past 15 minutes worth of tacky souvenirs stalls!


I almost got knocked off my feet by a very solid Chinese lady who bulldozed past me! At least it made the very serious security guards crack a grin!

Back on the subway. I must admit to getting a bit bored of explaining that my back pack isn’t going to come off and go through the metal detector, and today’s stations had the added bonus of walk through detectors that I can’t go through either!

When I got back I told Sian via web chat that I was going for some R & R at Maan, but this gory auto corrected to Man and I got a message back demanding to know which man I was meeting! Luckily I was just going to Maan, my favourite coffee shop 

Earlier In the week when we went shopping, the stall holder held a flam to the genuine Burberry bag I was looking at, to prove that it was leather. I do hope they don’t do the same to the numerous shell suits that I have seen around😈

Toilet talk……

Running so much water through I am needing to pee. Many of the toilets here are squat jobs and you soon learn to have your own tissues in your bag. (Strangely some of the loos have a loo roll holder outside the cubicles, so if it has anything in it, you need to know how much you’re going to need before the act!)

The good news is that there is often Ali true on the cubicle, depicting the type of loo!

In a scene reminiscent of the Atomiu. In Brussels, I found myself needing to pee at the Forbidden City. I walked down the rows of squat jobs until I got to the very end where ther was one ‘proper’ loo, but it was showing as locked. I waited patiently for about 5 minutes; it was very quiet in there! Suddenly a toilet attendant appeared at my side and proceeded to unlock the cubicle for me! I entered with cautio ,not wanting to catch anyone in the act!

I had my wee, flushed and came out, only to find the attendant standing outside waiting for me to finish, so that she could lock up again! Really!!?? Thank goodness I only needed a wee!

Out and about today……..

Why are the bottoms of the trees painted the same colour as the ‘you’ll cross where we want you to cross’ railings?

Why is there a Lotus garage here?

Off to the Great Wall tomorrow. Mental note to self to wrap up warm!

Day 4 – Monday

6am and a sleepless night. Shouldn’t have had that Costa! Damn you for staying open until 10pm!

Interestingly the festive drink drinks in both Costa and Starbucks are pretty similar to home,  (although not sure if I have seen a panettone latte at home or not) but I did notice the ‘English fish and chips panini’ in Costa; presumably served hot if you wish! It was almost tempting to order one just to see how it came out but I’m not fond of soggy lukewarm chips at the best of times, and it wouldn’t stay down, so a total waste!

The 60 hour non stop shopping mall opening is over today; I’m not quite sure how one city can have so many malls within such a small area!

I am pleased to report that I’ve not yet witnessed anyone defecating in the street, although I have seen some possible evidence. I will however give people the benefit of the doubt and attribute that to dogs – not that I’ve seen many dogs, and definitely no stray ones – strange that!

Donkey meat is apparently popular here and Sian has confessed that she has eaten it once without realising – her friends only translated for her half way through the meal! Presumably this means there are donkey farms somewhere? She assures me that it doesn’t taste like chicken😃

Some time later……….

I have been out all day. Couldn’t sleep last night but then ended up sleeping between 7 and 10 and getting up late. Oops!

A visit to show Sian the butcher kitten and puppy shop, followed by Morning coffee at the bear place and then a taxi to meet Sian’s au pair friends to go to KTV. 


Its amazing how very few people speak any English at all, even taxi drivers and policemen – really public facing people. The blank look I got yesterday when asking a policeman for directions to the nearest tube station was unbelievable! I suppose I am just too used to Europe!

KTV is a kind of private karaoke roomaffair. Quite good fun but every time I started to try and sing I got scathing ‘stop being embarrassing ‘ looks! We had some odd sweet tea to drink but it reeked and I could only manage it if I held my nose!

After KTV Sian had to get to work for 4 and the tube was right by the Galaxy Soho mall so I decided to try and find the cat cafe:


But of course it was the wrong Soho mall! How many Soho Malls can one city have? The lack of signs (any signs, not just useful ones) is really doing my head in! I am going to give Sian’s Chinese class tomorrow a miss and try again.

I spoke too soon earlier! On the way home I saw a man holding a child’s arse to the bin on the subway platform! Think I’ve seen it all now – in fact I’ve seen more than I wanted to! Needless to say, I didn’t take a picture for you all!

Spent a while wandering around the supermarket on the way home. I spent too long in there because I was following the exit signs on the floor, but I think they were actually pointing me towards the emergency exit!

Took some fish pictures. I found it quite astonishing – and cruel? that the crabs seemed to be security tagged! All very fresh though.,


Oh and I saw this shop today – it made me think of Andy and Alejandro!


Day 3

Oh I forgot this one – it will amuse some of you (You know who you are!) the very first advert I saw at the airport in disembarkation was……..an ad for SAP HANA! Didn’t take a picture of it though – I know some countries are twitchy about photos in airports!

I think the smog is better today – I can almost see the sky!

Sian’s Chinese family are very kind. Their driver is taking us to the Great Wall later in the week and to see old Beijing tonight. I am on my way to the Forbidden City via Pacific Coffe and Wangfujing. It really is quite mild today compared to how it has been. Maybe in a touristy area I won’t be the only white kid on the block and I won’t stand out so much?

I changed hotel rooms this morning because I didn’t sleep last night due to the unbearable heat! If I was hot, imagine how ‘normal’ folk would have found it – you know how I feel the cold! Reception said that the municipal heating was on and they couldn’t co troll it, but the new room seems to have some kind of A/C as it is a lot better.

I have really noticed how noisy the shops are. Many of them seem to have n assistant with a microphone yelling into it to tout their wares presumably? 

I have left my feed off this morning due to my Forbifdden City destination. It is such a hassle trying to explain to security guards / Police etc, why I don’t want to take my bag off to put it through their metal detector!

Sat in my coffee house in the centre of town, it doesn’t feel like. Sunday; it seems like another day to be honest. I do hope Sisn and P are performing to standard t their speaking competition. Poor Asian was up in arms last night after the whole family invaded her room to try and get some more practice in! It clearly means a lot to them, but I think Sian struggles with the extreme pushiness!

There are times in one’s life when being tube fed is a good thing. One example is when some vile medicine such as Movicol is being administered. Another time was lunchtime today at Wangfujing.

I took a stroll there and had a wonder through the street food lane. Eugh! Fried creature central! Locusts, scorpions, starfish and even seahorses! Really!!?? The next t yet cooked scorpions were on skewers but still wriggling and people were walking along eat something with tentacles on skewers and some of the tentacles were still wriggling!

Aren’t seahorses protected? And surely there must be some kind of law against still wriggling kebabs?

Quite touristy here with lots of poor souls dressed up!

Still I fit right in here. Maybe I should have been born Chinese; no one bats an eyelid at the odd chunder in the gutter. Well. I am a lot more discrete than the noisy spitters! 

Lily packed us off to Nanluoguxiang this evening; an old Beijing street again with lots of stalls but not all foodie ones this time and not a fried insect in sight! The sculptured candyfloss was quite impressive looking! They also seemed a bit taken with Christmas here!


Day 2

I have awoken this morning to the BBC news awash with the terrible events in Paris. It immediately makes me think of my friend Jo who lives there. I hope you’re out of town for the weekend Jo.

Sian stayed last night and we have discovered that if you turn the lights off in the room, you get no power, so nothing has charged overnight😃 Very odd!

Off to the pearl market this morning and then this afternoon I will get a map and go off by myself as Sian is coaching P for her big competition, which is tomorrow. Apparently the prize is an all expenses paid scholarship to an English or American school. I will also try and take some pictures in the amazing food halls around here.

The atmosphere is still smoggy – air index quality today 291 – very unhealthy!

Some time later…..

So we have been to the Pearl Market and led each other astray.


Lots of shopping opportunities for electricals etc and got myself some genuine ‘Chuggs’ and some Beats. It’s shame that the shoe sizing is a bit unpredictable, so no point taking anything home for H.
Went wandering after Sian left for work and found a pet shop with cats kittens and puppies wandering around the shop floor! Also found a crab shop; I will sleep well tonight now I know where to get my crabs.  


I’m beginning to wonder if things need to be bolted down here; I asked for a teaspoon in the hotel, to make my decaf with and was told I’d need to give a £5 deposit for it! I asked the woman if she was joking and she gave me a plastic one😆

Oh, you know the 9 billion bicycles in Beijing song? Well, I suspect they are all parked outside my hotel!  

I survived my first trip on the subway with Sian and I’m pleased to say they didn’t make me put my back pack through the metal detector; I’m not really sure  what they gain by scanning bags, but not people?

I am however reassured that my fellow travellers should not be carrying either revolvers or axes.


It seems to me that when you have to change subway lines, it involves an awful lot of walking and it might even be quicker to walk to your ultimate destination, but there are no signs anywhere to give you any indication as to where to go! I asked the hotel reception for a map and they laughed at me! 

I went to Tiananmen  Square this evening; it is a huge square and I couldn’t quite imagine the atrocity that took place there. They have a flag lowering/raising thing going on twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. It was  pretty eerie because they stopped the traffic and a troop of soldiers march across the road as part of the ceremony. 


After the ceremony a random family came up to me. The man informed me that his young Son was learning English but wasn’t very enthusiastic, so could I say something English to him in order to encourage him!!! He then proceeded to take a picture of me and said Child! Weird or what!!

I was very glad I stopped my feed before went to the square though, because there were 2 lots of metal detectors to put your bags through – one on the subway and one to actually get onto the square.

Ended up in Starbucks today. It’s quite odd because both Costa and Starbucks are serving their Cbristmas menus in Christmas cups and are playing carols, yet they don’t celebrate Christmas here! 

There seem to be a awful lot of cake and pudding stalls in the malls – maybe because they don’t have ovens to make their own? Also lots of ice cream outlets.


It’s been quite warm during the days but at night it seems to get quite cold. They have hung these weird curtains at the doors of the malls – must be to do with the cold? Lily assures us that there is snow forecast next week – I hope not, but at least I have my genuine cashmere Burberry scarf to keep me warm now😃


They seem to like their coffee shops here, so I am sorted. I was a bit bemused to be handed his bear though! Turns out they are instead of table numbers! Personally I think it’s easier to find table number one than pink bear with blue shirt!

I think I have concluded that manners are a bit lacking here; no one smiles at you or holds doors for you and when I made space for a small child at the flag lowering do this evening, so that he could see, the whole ruddy family pushed their way in front of me!

You’ll be pleased to know that I have got the hang of crossing the main roads though. It’s a bit like a game of chicken and you just kind of have to go and hope they don’t hit you! So far so good……