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Undeniably one of my favorite aspects of traveling is the opportunity to meet some amazing people. People who provide endless hours of entertainment, add a little to your understanding of the world and yourself, and fundamentally challenge what you thought might be possible.
The three Norwegians we met at our place in Beijing, getting ready to embark on a four-month motorcycle journey from there back to Norway, fulfilled all of the above. An engineer, a nurse, and a photographer on two motorcycles with two sidecars plan to ride half way across the globe.
They’re calling their adventure from “From East to West on the Iron Horse.” You can follow along at jernhesten.blogspot.com or on Facebook (click here). For those of our friends who don’t speak Norwegian, Google Translate does the trick. Just cut and paste the URL right into Google Translate and you can read the entire blog at one time in English.
They’re planning to travel through some areas that most of us will never see (Kazakhstan, the Gobi desert). Their goal: “meet people and ask for opinions, thoughts and relationships with the West, our society and values.” If these guys are half as captivating on this trip as they were at our hostel, this adventure will certainly be a thrill to watch. Oh and the top-notch photography is pretty easy on the eyes.
The sky’s the limit…
(And I could be in more than a billion family photos)
I really don’t mean to get in other people’s photos. In fact, when I do get in the way, I am actually trying to get out of the way because Beijing is the busiest city we’ve seen so far. Yes, we are going to see the major tourist sites – the Forbidden Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall – but we’ve done some touristy things in other countries and have never encountered this many people.
(Editors’s Update: Nellu got his first request to pose for a picture with a random Chinese person outside the Bird’s Nest today ((he was looking exceptionally cute in his navy blue rain slicker)). We had only heard this happening with our blonde-haired, blue-eyed traveling friends.)
And the sites themselves are huge. It took us nearly all day to do the Forbidden Palace and yesterday we walked around the entire Summer Palace. (And by Summer Palace, they really mean huge park with a lake and a couple of gorgeous buildings.) I need to do some more research but in my imagination, it’s like walking around the perimeter of Central Park. I never fully appreciated how wimpy my feet were until we got to Beijing.
People watching is just as interesting as taking in the sights.
(More pictures to come!) And the one funny thing we noticed is when there are signs asking people not to take pictures, not to climb on the rocks, not to touch the culturally relics, they are unanimously ignored. So we joke now that these signs are just suggested courses of action: “Don’t climb on the cultural relic – unless you really want to – and then you’re free to go at it.”
The one respite we got was our trip to the Great Wall. You can visit the Great Wall at a few locations close to Beijing. We chose the furthest away (3 hours plus by bus) where a significant portion of the wall was unrenovated and you need to do a serious amount of strenuous hiking. It was definitely a work out, but great to get out of the crowds. (Video to follow!)
Oh, and by the way, many of kids here are already learning English. On the train from Beijing to Hong Kong, we slept on the top bunks of a six bunk hard sleeper compartment (not bad at all). Below us were two girls around eight and ten years old.
They must have heard us speaking English because at one point they started ticking off all the English words they knew – water, mother, dad, school, kindergarten, pencil box – between flirting with and giggling at Nellu of course. At one point, the younger of the two looked up at me and said, “American.” It was quite impressive.