CHINA: Exploring Beijing/Pekin

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April 1st 2006
Published: April 6th 2006
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In front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace
Ni Hao again.

(Pequena versao em portugues no final)
Amanda and I are having a blast exploring Beijing. We have estimated that 98% of the thousands of tourists here are orientals and 2% Westerners. Of these 2%, 99% are Europeans. Thus, it feels like we are the only ones from the US or Brazil.
It's interesting walking on grounds that have be "civilized" for more than 3,000 years and with a population of 1.3 billion people.
Beijing is huge, busy, smoggy, and very modernized, for the most part. This is truly a land of opposites, where the ancient and the modern collide. We have explored the popular sites but also some off the bitten path ones.
We have been brave enough to venture pedicab rides, from hutongs (ancient courtyards houses on small alleys, rich neighborhoods of the past, and slam/favela of the present) to crossing busy avenues. At times, we closed our eyes and thought we were going to be hit by cars/buses and die, right in the middle of Beijing, as the crazy "drivers" pedaled the old bikes like maniacs.

The Forbidden City, with the huge portrait of Mao Zedong on it's entrance and guards marching in all directions, as to remind us who is in control here, was interesting. Nearly 200 acres at the heart of the city. The yellow roofs of the palaces mean royalty.
We met 2 Argentinians and 1 Peruvian being guided by a young Chinese tour guide who spoke perfect Spanish. We got a free tour guide and Amanda got to practice some Spanish. It took us over 3 hours to visit some of the most important sites of the F. City. It's enormous! It would take a person 27 years to sleep one night in each of the rooms within the walls of the F. city. There are 999 rooms. So many gates, steps to block the entrance of "demons", and stories about the emperors and their cumcubines (more than 360 cumcubines per emperor).

Tianmen Square, the world's largest square, where hundreds of students demonstrators were killed in 1989 while dearing to challenge the communist party and request democracy, seemed "empty in spirit". Sabe-se que entre os turistas estao agentes da policia secreta, prontos a entrar em acao, caso haja alguma indicacao de protesto politico.

We visited parks, where locals and tourists mixed, a silk factory, market, and lots more. At the end of the day, we had magnificent foot and head massages, for $8 per hour, including jasmin and lemon tea.

Zaijian (bye) for now.

Portugues: Pekin e uma terra de contrastes, onde o super antigo e super novo co-existem, ou colidem. Mao ainda eh vunerado por muitos. A cidade proibida eh imensa, e os quardas tentam intimidar em pequenos batalhoes sempre em movimento.


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