Edit Blog Post
Published: September 24th 2005
Sunday, September 4, 2005 Weather: Clear Temperature: HOT! 90+ and high humidity.
Our morning began with the included breakfast in the hotel. Since we had gone to bed early and our body clock was still fighting the 12 hour time zone difference we were up and walking around well before 6 a.m. and were among the first customers. Breakfast was presented in buffet style with full western offerings. There were generous selections of fruits and breads, selections of breakfast meats and an omelet station where cooked to order items were prepared. There were numerous other areas offering eastern menu items for guests from Asia. Others from our group began to arrive so we had the opportunity to meet.
Our tour guide stressed in her letter of introduction that punctuality was requested so we made sure that we were on time for our initial meeting in the lobby. That is where we first met Ping Wang who is to be our group leader, den mother and head counter for the entire trip. We were distributed the obligatory name badges that we were asked to wear not only to become acquainted with our fellow travelers but also to assist her in
The Gate of Heavenly Peace
Entrance to the Forbidden City
counting the sheep! This departure of Viking Cruise Lines "Roof of the World" itinerary consists of about 50 people more or less (I have not counted them). We have been divided into two groups with separate guides. Our group consists of 11 couples and 2 single ladies traveling together. In our group there is one couple in their 30's, two couples in their 40's, and the remainder mostly in the 60's and up. All are well traveled and pleasant to be with.
Our group of 24 has its own bus so there is not a feeling of being crowded. It is established on the first day that there will be daily seat rotation so that everyone gets the opportunity to ride in the front seat. More about that later. Throughout the trip our bus drivers will have available for purchase bottles of mineral water at the reasonable cost of two for $1 US. Prior to arriving the materials made it clear that it was strongly recommended that we consume only bottled water. The tap water appears to be fine but it was pointed out that even though it was probably fine for us to drink that it may be
The Summer Palace
The Marble Boat of Empress Cixi
different than what we are accustomed to at home and that the safe method was to not take a chance when ample bottled water was available. It was suggested that local tap water was perfectly safe for brushing teeth and other washing needs.
So we set out on our first journey. In this series of journals I am not going to attempt to provide a guided tour of each attraction. The purpose of the journal is to point out generally where we went, what we did and any logistical information that might be of interest to someone considering this trip. Sorry, but if you want to take the trip you will have to buy the ticket!
Our hotel was conveniently located within a few blocks of Tiananmen Square. We departed the bus with our guide who gave us some background information on the size of the square and its history, the buildings surrounding the square and some brief comments about the activities that took place there in 1989 during the student rebellion. We were then given some time to walk about the area and then meet at a pre-arranged point to continue to the Forbidden City, the entrance to which is directly below Chairman Mao's portrait opposite the north end of the square. Since it was Sunday the square was crowded with Chinese people, some of whom were likely tourists in their own country. On the south side of the square sits Mao's tomb where his embalmed body is on display. The line of those wishing to pass by his body was quite lengthy and a visit there was not an option.
On the east side of the square is a count down clock for the 2008 Olympics. There is much activity in Beijing in preparation for these events.
Our next stop is the Forbidden City where it appears that the entire population of Beijing is trying to enter! Our guide has secured the entrance tickets and we attempt to go through the Gate of Heavenly Peace as a group and somehow we made it. Apparently the Chinese are accustomed to "push and shove" and do not consider it impolite but simply the way of life in a crowded city. We are shown some of the more important of the 800 buildings and courtyards containing 9,999 rooms with commentary on the history. It quickly becomes information overload. Fortunately, our guide has repositioned our bus to the rear exit of the Forbidden City so we are not required to retrace our steps to leave.
We leave the Forbidden City for one of many Chinese meals at both lunch and dinner. The lunch today was at a Chinese Buffet. This note is being written only one week later yet I am unable to recall any of the details about that lunch as so many others have occurred since.
Following lunch our bus takes us to the Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing. The visit there is confined to a walk through the gardens of the 700 acre gardens surrounding the lake culminating in seeing the famous Marble Boat built for Cixi, the Empress. Since the only way back was to retrace our steps, our guide provided us with tickets for a scenic boat ride across the lake and back to our bus. We then returned to our hotel in Beijing for a short rest before heading our to our dinner of Peking Duck — yes, two nights in a row for us! We proceeded on foot from our hotel past an Outback Steakhouse on to WangFuJing Rd. for a short walk to a local restaurant. Of course, we had been spoiled the previous evening but, like good soldiers, did not draw comparisons for our fellow travelers. Following dinner we were free to stroll the shopping street and return to our hotel at our pleasure. Our pleasure was early to bed as our schedule required us to arise early for the next day's program.
Next: The Great Wall of China at Badaling and The Sacred Way.
Tot: 0.081s; Tpl: 0.048s; cc: 7; qc: 23; dbt: 0.0118s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb