Thursday, August 13, 2009

Around City

August 8, 2009 Beijing -

So today is our first full day in Beijing. Our hostel is in a fascinating, traditional "Hutong" neighborhood full of street vendors, tea houses, and people walking their dogs.  Our room is off of an inner court yard, which is typical of the neighborhood.  A canopy of Zucchini vines hangs over a cafĂ© area were we can relax and have a tea or beer.

 Walking down the street we see shop after shop of Dim Sum vendors. Outside of each is a big water-filled wok over white hot coals.  Stacked on a plate over the wok are 3 or 4 feet of bamboo steamers filled with sticky, fluffy stuffed buns and tender gyoza. So yummy!!! We eat until we can't any more for $2.25. Then it is off to the clean, user-friendly subway for a day at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The Chinese are very proud of their country, and parents are eager to travel with their children during the July/August break. That means we are smack in the middle of high season for domestic tourism, and that couldn't be more real than the second Tiananmen Square comes into view. It's packed. I have never seen so many people, not at Disney World during Christmas, not in a Manhattan rush hour.  In a way it's helpful because the 100 acre square is so big that the throng is necessary to lend a sense of scale to the place. We briefly consider visiting Mao's mausoleum. We skip the four hour wait, but thousands of Chinese line-up reverently for the 1 minute glimpse of the waxy Chairman. As we get to the end of the square the crowd thins a little, but picks up with double the intensity as we cross the street into the Forbidden City. The architecture is magnificent; vast palaces in gold, red and vivid blue.  Every inch is covered in detailed carving and colorful vignettes.  Figurines of Confucius, dragons, griffins and other good luck charms line each corner of the roof of the 980 buildings, but the real show is the crowd.  I know there are a billion people in China, but today I got to feel the meaning of that number.

-          Cindy

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