We had a more relaxed start to the day as our starting point was 8.45 am, with no need to pack bags and leave our rooms as we had one last night in our final hotel.
Breakfast was an improvement on our previous two, with some donut type pastries, more eggs and sliced bread for toast.
We all met in the hotel foyer before being briefed for our day ahead, which was to be jam packed with activities. First port of call was the world renowned Tiananmen Square, scene of various historical events since it's inception in the early 1950's. Surrounding the square was the Chinese equivalent of the Houses of Parliament and the National Chinese Museum. It was so, so busy with tens of thousands of visitors, many of them nationals. The square itself can hold up to 1 million people due to its vastness.
We then moved on to the Forbidden City, an intricate and colourful walled city formerly resided by Emperor's. The team were given time to explore the beautiful surroundings before moving on to our next activity. When visiting the toilets, I turned to be greeted by approximately 10 men in black suits and white shirts surrounding an elderly gentleman and was asked to swiftly vacate the facility. On exiting the toilets there were a further 15+ gentleman. It turned out they were body guards for the Mauritius Prime Minister. We were now rubbing shoulders with the major movers if the Far East.
The Forbidden City was so, so busy and a complete contrast to our starting point of our journey in a little village in the mountains, far away from tourist mayhem.
Our next port of call was a local Hutong, a complete contrast to the hussle and bussle of the major tourist areas. A Hutong was where the original Mongolian settlers lived when they first moved to Beijing. The area up until recently was under risk of demolition due to its dilapidated state. It is now under protection and being gentrified and is a hugely popular place to live. Even though we were only 500 m from the main arterial routes it was an area of peace and tranquility. We were taken by Rickshaws to a local house where we ate lunch.
After a brief history of the area by a local humorous guide, we jumped back on the Rickshaws to visit another two historical landmarks. The first was the Mongolian Bell Tower which was located in close proximity to the Chinese Drum Tower.
Our next stop was the world famous Pearl Market where shopping and bartering go hand in hand. Everyone spread to cover all 5 floors in the hour we were allocated. With gifts in hand, we jumped on a local bus to return to our hotel.
We had a 20 minute turnaround before our next entertainment. I managed to squeeze in a shower and a change of clothes. We then marched on to a local acrobatic performance in a show hall a 30 minute walk away. Not sure what to expect, we were enthralled by a variety of performances, with the grand finale being a sphere with first one motorbike flying around it at all angles, quickly followed by two, three, four, five and finally six motorbikes deftying gravity and really zooming around the sphere at amazing speed. We stood to our feet to give our applause and were amazed when the locals just stood up and walked off without showing their appreciation at the grand finale.
We jumped on another local bus to return to our hotel. Another quick turnaround ensued before leaving for our final meal. We set off to a Mongolian meat restaurant called Kaorouliu, a real favourite with locals.
We couldn't do this without saying goodbye to two of our team. Our Rosemere Big Brother announcer Gillian and her friend Chrissie. They are extending their stay and off on the night train to see the Terracotta Warriors.
The restaurant had open coal grills where we cooked our own food. Let's hope we've done a good job as we've got a long journey home tomorrow....
We're all gutted our journey is nearly over, but we can't wait to see our nearest and dearest to tell them all about our amazing adventure. There's been sweat and tears, but the main thing is, is that thousands have been raised to support local cancer patients in Lancashire & South Cumbria.
There'll be at least one more installment to the blog once we arrive home. We're due in to Manchester at 11pm on Thursday.