NOTE…sorry for three things – the inconsistency of updates, the lack of photos and the length of this update. This is NOT going as planned. Well, I should say the blog part is not going as planned. The trip is quite wonderful and I think it’s everything we were hoping for. Thanks for being along for the ride and don’t feel obligated to read all of this one (at least in one sitting!). Love to all.
Things are starting to feel more normal. Each day we start with a very hearty breakfast. Then it’s off to something else we’ve never seen.
Today we did what most would call the most obvious day in Beijing. We started in Tiananmen Square where we had a chance to stand where so many millions have stood before. They say it’s the largest square like it in the world – able to hold up to a million people for special events. New for us since the last time were some very large flatscreen TVs. They wereridiculously large – each was maybe 12 feet tall and at least 90 feetlong. Vivie, our guide, said they were used at the Olympics for the opening ceremonies and then were placed in Tiananmen Square after the Olympics.
We proceeded through the side gate (it was an extra 2 RMB each, but it was very quiet and peaceful which was nice since the rest of the day was a bit less that way). Once we entered the real fray we began to draw some attention. Young girls were drawn to get their picture taken with Kayla. This happened last night, too with Megan and Kayla. The funniest part was when people would act as if they were taking pictures of a family member that they has strategically put in front of us. When we were able we would join around the person and take a picture with them.
We followed a pretty standard path going from gate to gate to gate leading from the square to the Imperial City to the Forbidden City and eventually even to the emperors bedroom! We didn’t see that last time. Vivie taught us a LOT along the way. She had lots of little tidbits that I found very interesting. Being with her was a bit like reading USA Today – lots of interesting little bits of information.
After the Forbidden City we travelled not far to Beihai Park. We were the only foreigners in the park and was nice to be in a place where it felt a bit more “local” and less superficial.
We then dropped off some laundry which was probably the most embarrassing so far for me, since I was the one dropping off the laundry. As I stood there with our guide and the two women behind the counter, they emptied our large bag of laundry onto the counter and proceeded to sort all of our t-shirts, short, socks, and yes, underwear right there in front of us. Very nice!
We then had lunch across the street at one of Vivie’s favorite locales. It was very yummy. We were surprised at how much it tasted like Chinese food at home (a very pleasant surprise). We took some pictures of some very funny menu descriptions like “Beijing Meat with Special Flavor”.
After lunch we went for a pedicab ride in the Hutong area. Remarkably, it started to sprinkle just a bit and was actually kind of COLD. That was very hard to believe remembering how hot it was the last time we were in Beijing. After our ride, Vivie walked us through the Hutongs a bit and gave us some history and insights. She then took us to “Smoke Pipe Alley” where they had a lot of interesting shops. Kayla tried some blown candy. The candy maker blew it into an ox form since Kayla was born in the year of the ox. It was 20 RMB ($3). It was more of a work of art than a piece of candy. It tasted okay, but Kayla quickly yielded it to anyone who wanted it.
That walk led us to the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. We voted to go up the Bell Tower and see the largest bell in the world. There were 75 very, very steep steps but it was fun.
The walking was a good training for tomorrow’s trip to the Great Wall.
The group returned to the hotel for some downtime at the pool and some hors dorves and Tsingtao for the dads at the executive center(yes, we were executives when we were in Beijing!). We all then went to an acrobats show that was not far from the hotel. It was really good. There was interesting variety – juggling, tumbling, spinning umbrellas, contortionists, chines yoyos, and crazy “let’s get a hundred people on one bike” type of craziness. Megan and Mia had a tough time keeping their eyes open, and I admit there were moments when the music softened that my eyelids got droopy.
Then we headed back to the hotel to rest up for another big day.