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Published: July 26th 2019
Day 2 - May 5th - Beijing – Pearl Factory, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Downtown.
After a great buffet breakfast we headed for our first stop at a Pearl factory. Unbelievable! I have never seen so many pearls. Mostly fresh water but also some sea water pearly. The place was enormous! And there were stacks of tour buses in there, so plenty of people ready to snap up the specials on offer – which we ignored!
Then a bus ride to Tiananmen Square and we were most surprised how well the traffic flowed although it was a Sunday. There are no trucks on the road as most things are transported around the country and into Europe using the very fast trains (300 kph). There are a lot of scooters ( electric) and shared bicycles (no motor bikes are allowed because of pollution). These are separated off from the main traffic by barriers, so it is quite safe to ride (nobody was using helmets so we presume they are not compulsory). Pedestrians however – we’ll that is another thing! Zebra crossings don’t actually mean that cars will stop for you! We were very pleasantly surprised by the lack of pollution. Our guide told us that the Central Government had done a lot to tackle pollution by moving out all the factories as well as banning the use of coal burning heaters and cookers.
Tiananmen Square was huge! They are not allowed to talk about the massacre of the student protesters that happened there. There are a lot of soldiers guarding the Chinese flag. They stand perfectly still for the entirety of their 2 hour shifts. The gardens surrounding the square are really beautiful.
We then entered the Forbidden City which was built by numerous Emperors over many centuries. The city also housed the hundreds of Eunochs that guarded the Emperor and his hundred or so concubines. In the centre was a huge square for ceremonies where the people would bow to the Emperor.
We then returned to the hotel and after getting a map of the subway, decided to explore on our own for the rest of the afternoon. The subway was surprisingly easy to navigate. We found the station we wanted and the right platform and waited approx 1 minute for a train to come. We were the only foreigners so got lots of stares. The train was not too crowded but there were mostly only young people who (like in Melbourne) were all on there iPhones. We paid $2 each to travel roughly from Belgrave to Melbourne. Oh that’s one way, not return. If we had caught a bus it costs 20 cents to travel as far you want – in one direction.
We ignored an Optional evening show ‘Golden Mask Dynasty’ @ $70ea.
Our train destination was a shopping mall which was mostly full of designer shops and quite expensive. Apparently China has quite a lot of import duties on these goods so they are not cheap.
We were by now feeling quite hungry so went down a side street and found an authentic dumpling restaurant. Again we were the only foreigners. We had some vegetarian and pork steamed buns which were a little disappointing but, hey it’s all about the experience. Ah yes, well on the way back we did spot a Maccas so dropped in for a cappuccino. The Chinese are definitely not into coffee. We headed back to the hotel, quite proud of our efforts to get around independently.
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