Monday, 24 September 2012

#29 Visit a place starting with each letter of the alphabet. X to Z.

X is for Xindong Lu in Beijing

I was on my way to see an Irish priest in Beijing (and no, this isn't the prelude to a bad joke) when I came across Xindong Lu. I was really happy to see it actually, as I was already late for the meeting I'd arranged to speak to Father Joseph about Kaifeng Ya Ge deaf school and I was a bit lost. As we all know, despite somehow managing to make it around the world, my sense of direction is not the best. So when the subway station exit I was supposed to get out at was closed it threw me a bit. The subways in Beijing are huge so when you come out of the wrong exit it's not like the right one is just across the street, it feels like it's in a whole other town. Add to my poor map reading skills the ridiculous heat (check out the sweaty face below) and the lack of phone to at least apologise for my lateness (were we all just more organised before mobiles?) I was starting to get a bit flustered.

So it was with a big sigh of relief that I came across Xindong Lu which meant I was on the right track and after lunch with Father Joseph and the other staff members from Bricks The Great Wall Appeal (during which he agreed to host a donation page for Kaifeng Ya Ge - shameless plug - http://www.greatwallappeal.org/projects/b11-07-kaifeng-deaf-school) I made my way back to the sign to snap a pic. Then it was just the small matter of finding my way back to the subway station...

Perfecting the sweaty pose!

Y is for Yashow Clothing Market in Beijing

Now, unsurprisingly for me, I've already written at length about the shopping in Beijing (http://em30b430.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/27-shop-till-you-drop-in-beijing-china.html). But obviously I still needed to tick off Y and in the name of completing a challenge (no other reason, honest!) I headed to Yashow market. What I love about this place, which is five floors of shoes, handbags, jackets, skirts, t-shirts and every sort of Chinese-themed souvenir you could possibly think of, is that it is just down the road from all of the fancy shops and is probably more popular than all of them put together. The other brilliant thing is that there is a beauty floor at the top of the building, so after a hard day's shopping you can always treat yourself to a foot massage.

A little bit of retail therapy, all in the name of completing a challenge. Obviously.

Z is for Zhangzizhonglu subway station in Beijing

I'm not going to lie, the alphabet challenge was probably one of the most difficult to complete of the entire trip. It sounded really easy when I added it to the list - 26 places beginning with letters of the alphabet in nine months. Not a problem. Except it is a problem when you have to do them in order and in South America you realise that getting to the next town, which begins with the letter you need, is an eight hour bus ride away and that in Burma and China they use a totally different alphabet to us and when translated some of our letters don't even exist!

So it really was cutting it fine when on my last day I set out on the subway to find Zhangzizhonglu. But it felt like a nice way to end the challenge. I really loved the subway in Beijing. It's so easy to use and is, surprisingly, often far less congested than our own lovely Underground.

It was also something fun to do on the final day of my trip. Even though it hasn't always been easy, this was a good challenge to do as it often forced me to go to places I hadn't been planning to visit. Looking back on it now, every letter has a memory attached to it: walking miles across Yangon in the blazing heat to get a photo of Kandawgi Lake; getting ridiculously excited when I found Emily Creek in New Zealand and getting lost in Dolavon in Argentina. And, as is often the way with travelling, I ended up having many adventures along the way that I hadn't been expecting.

Z is for Zhangzizhonglu - #28 completed, just in time!

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