Happy Valley

Today has been a vile day and started badly with a huge family row. I think we are all getting a bit travel weary and it shows. We discuss our plans for the next few months and even talk about going home after China. In the end I don’t feel like things have been properly resolved but we reach an uneasy truce. It leaves us all upset and I worry that this isn’t the end of it but we try and get on with the day and set off for “Happy Valley” in the hope of brightening the day.

We had planned to visit Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City but that’s not really an option today and Happy Valley Amusement Park, Beijing’s answer to Disney seems to be a better choice. It’s about half an hour taxi ride from the centre of town and we arrive mid afternoon. Its quite expensive, it costs us 11 quid each and despite the fact that we try and convince the ticket seller that Maisie is under 1.4m ( she isn’t) we have to pay full price for her also.

There are so many people here it is amazing, many people seem to be part of school or college groups and are wearing matching tracksuits. It seems to be the trend for young couples to wear matching clothes also and that makes us laugh. I can’t imagine that ever catching on at home. At first there seems to be an extraordinary amount of people on mobility scooters but we realise when we see kids jumping off them and running around that they are in fact little golf carts for getting around on. How lazy is that!

We check out some of the rides, we like the look of giant plastic bubbles which float across the lake with you scrabbling around inside and queue up for the Disco, a kind of spinning version of the pirate ship. Maisie is scared but we persuade her to go on and it turns out to be much faster than we thought, she likes it though.

Ali and Simon then queue for “Nemisis”, Maisie just won’t go on it and as she became hysterical when we tried to get her to go on during a trip to Alton Towers last year I stay with her. We have a lovely time wandering around, posing with the giant ants in Antworld, having a go on the teacups ride which makes me feel sick and chatting about her friends at school.

According to Ali the ride was really good, faster than Nemesis and as everything is starting to close we head for the gates. (Two rides each- 11 quid – not bad we feel, excellent budgeting). I look up at the sky and I’m not pleased to see it has suddenly become black. There are around 3 million people outside the gates waiting for a cab and we realise we aren’t going to get one.

We walk along the road and suddenly China starts to feel very inhospitable. Its very ugly here, massive roads, with absolutely nothing to shelter under and it becomes really cold and windy and starts to throw it down. We are surrounded by huge blocks of flats and little else and Maisie says it’s so cold she can see Russia.

We get soaked, we’re freezing, it’s getting dark and we are nowhere nearer getting a taxi. A few have gone past but they won’t stop and I am feeling a bit panicky. We walk the 2 miles back to “Happy Valley” gates (Simon says it’s a spelling mistake and it’s actually called Crappy Valley) and huddle together under a motorway bridge trying to think what to do. Suddenly we remember passing a Tesco on the way and decide that is our best option, at least we may be able to buy an umbrella, coffee, waterproof jacket etc there. We dodge the traffic to the other side (A little like trying to cross the M1 in the dark while it’s pissing down) and trudge off up the road.

Silly us for thinking we might get any of the above it’s not to be and instead we are forced to wander around looking at stuff in an attempt to dry out. After half an hour we decide to venture out again and we shelter in the doorway while Simon braves the wet. I don’t know how he managed it amongst all these people desperate for a cab but he soon appears and we run after him to the waiting taxi.

What a relief. At last we get back to the hotel and we shower and change into warm stuff. The kids don’t want to eat and we leave them snuggled up in bed. I decide to change into trousers and it’s at this point that my misery of today is complete. My baggy trousers that used to hang off me are so tight I can hardly breathe. Oh my god how can I have put on so much weight and not even noticed. That’s it, diet tomorrow.