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China

From Shanghai we caught the super-nice Olympic train up to Beijing, which was 75 days away from hosting the greatest sporting event of 2008. The city is in full swing getting ready for the games. Pavements have been replaced, new subways lines built, new grass laid, TV in the trains explaining the intricacies of various sports that the Chinese don't traditionally participate in like rowing or cycling. They even have plans for the awful air pollution. A month before the games start all factories around Beijing will be shut down and cars will be drastically reduced. Periodically there would be loud explosions as cloud-bursting rockets were fired into the air in the hope of getting more rain. I hope they do manage to clear the air as visibility on many days was less than 1km, and as the world's most air-polluted city is the equivalent of smoking more than 3 packets of cigarettes a day!

Beijing has an ancient and fascinating history through many dynasties to the current Communist regime. The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square (minimum of 3 security cameras on each lamp post, hundreds of police and army and bag searches for all Chinese approaching the square) and the Great Wall are all in the or close to the city and history buffs could spend months seeing things without repetition. We spent an incredible day walking along a remote part of the Great Wall. It surpassed expectation and was a definite highlight of the trip.

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Overlooking the Forbidden City - the former residence of the last emperor of China

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The Temple of Heaven

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The Summer Palace

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The 'Lama Temple' - a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Beijing where police outnumber the monks

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