Beijing 11 May 2015

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May 11th 2015
Published: June 7th 2015
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Beijing 11 to 15 May 2015

The train trip to Beijing took about 2 ½ hours. It’s such an efficient way to travel. We arrived in this city of 22 million people and our bus was waiting for us. We took about 45 minutes to drive to our hotel (the Hilton), but the approach to the hotel was interesting. We seemed to drive around in circles because of the one way streets. We ended up driving across a canal 3 times to get to the other side of the road which was where our hotel was.

We were welcomed with a warm chocolate cookie and a presentation by the hotel manager who was from England but could speak fluent Chinese. It was a big hotel where we had a buffet breakfast each day, featuring a large selection of Asian and Western cuisine. The hotel was centrally placed, with plenty of shops and restaurants and other facilities surrounding it.

We went to several different restaurants in the evening, over the 4 nights we were in Beijing. The first night was to Papa Joes for a pizza. We felt like something different to Chinese food. The second night we went with a great couple from Gosford, to a BBQ restaurant where we were the only non-Chinese. There was entertainment by some local singers. The waiters spoke no English so we ordered our food by using my and their translation app on our phones as well as pointing to food on other people’s table. It was a lot of fun and the results were excellent. Chinese are not big wine drinkers, mainly beer and rice wine. We ended up having a red wine from Chile. It was a great night. We went back to the hotel and joined several other people at the bar for a bit more conversation. They are a fantastic group to travel with, even though there are several very over-weight men who are very loud and have to make a comment on many things!!!!

Throughout our time in Beijing, we used the same tourist bus. We soon learned that the city is marked by its flatness and arid climate. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of Forbidden City) and mountains surround the capital on three sides. Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolitan area and serve as good reference points as we move about the city. It seems a good road system...thank goodness.

There is a restriction on the number of cars that can drive in the CBD. This is controlled by the last numeral on cars number plates. For example cars with number plates ending in 2 & 9 can only go into the CBD on certain days. Other numbers go on other days.

Also, there are about a million people waiting to get their licenses. They restrict the number of licensed drivers as well. They also restrict the number of cars that can be registered in Beijing.

The weather at this time of the year was very pleasant. All 4 days were between 14-32 degrees and clear skies. The pollution was not too bad. We found it was worse in Luoyang than in Beijing.

On our 1st full day in Beijing, we discovered the Imperial treasures in and around Tienanmen Square. It is a massive area, being able to take comfortably, a million people at any one time. It is one of the largest and grandest public plazas in the world. We had a good walk around Tienanmen Square which is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Qianmen Gate and the Forbidden City. It is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People's Martyrs and was also the site of the infamous massacre of student activists by the Peoples Liberation Army in 1989. Mao’s photo was on the wall.

We then had an extensive tour through the Forbidden City, entering through the imposing walls. The City was once the exclusive domain of the Ming Dynasty. This vast complex is on 72 ha of land. We also saw some of the many court yards, including the concubine areas. There used to be 3-5000 people live in the city, back in the Ming Dynasty times.

We also walked through the Great Garden which had many very old trees and lots of rocks. The rocks are one of the past symbols of the level of wealth of the Dynasty. The Forbidden City was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Fortunately, unlike many other historical sites, the Forbidden City was relatively untouched during the Cultural Revolution due to the timely intervention of Premier Zhou Enlai, who sent a battalion of his troops to guard the palace from the over-zealous Red Guards.

After several hours there, we drove to a building where we experience a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony while sampling China’s locally-favoured brews at a Tea House. The most expensive tea was the Pu,erh (this is not a typo) tea which is the best and the Chinese believe it cures many ailments!! One of the very unusual things they showed us was how they test the correct temperature of the water – by pouring the water through this wet-clay ‘peepee doll’. If the water is hot enough, the little doll actually pees. If it is not hot enough, it doesn’t. How funny is that?

After sampling 3 different teas we return to your hotel in the evening. After about an hour to relax and refresh drove by bus to see a performance – the Acrobatic Show. This was another incredible show. The acrobatic skill of the performers was stunning. There was also an event where there was a big metal cage where 6 motorbikes ended up riding inside of....yes 6!!! We watched one cyclist enter the sphere, then another and another. One mistake from one of the riders would have been a tragedy. When all 6 were riding inside, they switched off the lights of the Theatre and all we could see was the lights of the 6 motorbikes going around and around. Incredible!!

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