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Published: July 25th 2011
Grabbing some Joe
Grabbing an expensive but oh so tasty cup of coffee in the Beijing airport.
Finally on the road again. Left home at 5:00pm Thursday night for a late night flight out of Vancouver. Flight was uneventful, Air China does a good job (although leg room was tight before I was finally able to shove my body in the right spot). We arrived in Beijing at 5:30am wired after a few hours rest on the plane. We cleared customs, checked one of our carry-on backpacks into left luggage and set out on the Airport Express to the city. Subway system is great. Easy to follow instructions in English and only costs 2 yuen (29 cents) although there's no room to be shy when jostling onto the train at rush hour.
Our first destination was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The first thing you notice is the white-orangish morning fog that envelopes the city. It turns out it's not just fog as it hasn't cleared all day and visibility has been slim to none. The city is hot and muggy even early in the morning. The crowds were there at 7:30 for an 8:30am opening of the Forbidden City. It was pretty hectic but we followed the many Chinese tour groups through the gates and
The vending machines sell beer!
to the right place to buy our entrance tickets. The Forbidden City is pretty cool. It's a sprawling site that has been beautifully restored in some parts while the rest is in constant restoration mode. It's hard to believe this whole place was solely for the Emperor's use along with his wives, concubines, eunochs, dignitaries, etc. Commoners were not allowed past the gates. They provide a nice english self-guided audio tour but we didn't have enough cash for the deposit on 2 units so Jay got to provide commentary for the tour. - short addition by Jay- The Forbidden City is a complex of palaces that lead from front to back so you just get deeper and deeper with no real way out other than to double back on yourself. In the Emperor's Garden near the back of the complex we became a novelty for some Chinese tourists who hadn't seen many white folks before. We thought some of them were asking us to take a photo of their family, but when Alex went to grab for their camera the father shooed his family away and instructed his wife to take a photo of him and Alex! I had a
The Forbidden City
Smog adds an aura of mystique eh!
hard time stiffiling m laughter, but that became impossible when the mom grabbed my arm and told the kids to take a photo of me which turned into several people taking a photo of this random Chinese Tourist and I. If my face wasn't already red from the heat is sure was now! -end of Jay's insert- We walked through the complex and called it quits after a couple hours as the heat was rising and lunch was needed. I noticed on the way out that hordes of people were still streaming in and NOBODY was leaving. There was no exit yet so we pushed through the streams of people coming in.
After leaving the City, we considered walking through Tiannemen Square, which was just across the road, but looking at the massive crowd and realising that there really isn't much to see in a huge open square, we walked on to find lunch. The humidity was hurting us by this point. I knew that the crappy summer we've been having at home was going to screw us over for acclimatizing to the heat. We spotted a mall which means food court and air conditioning. It turns out this
The gate of Peace and Tranquility
... or something along those lines.
is one of the major malls in Beijing and they had all sorts of proper restaurants to choose from. We settled on a place and had a delicious (and I mean the best chinese food we've ever had and this is only a cheesy restaurant in the basement of a mall) meal of beef chili hotpot, fried duck, rice and Yanjing beer. It turns out that I'm not very good at chopsticks in China either. My hand kept cramping up and the tablecloth was destroyed on my end but I got the hang of it by the end of the meal.
After lunch, we hopped back on the subway to head out to the Lama Temple which is the largest Buddhist temple in Beijing. The compound holds a number of buildings containing Buddha shrines of varying importance and stature. Each statue represents different aspects of the Buddhist beliefs. The craziest statue was a 90 foot tall Buddha carved out of a SINGLE sandalwood tree. This thing was huge and must have been 25 feet wide at the base. It was very ornately carved with tremendous detail. The whole experience was very cool as a number of the visitors were
Restoration seems to be constant. But with detailed work like this on every single building, I think the workers are secure in their jobs.
pilgrims and worshippers so we were able to see their traditional prayers. There were big cauldrons of burning incense everywhere and the visiting Buddhists would light their own incense in the fires and pray amongst the smoke.
After the temple it was time to head back out to the airport and relax for a bit. Our feet are not used to walking around all day in flip-flops in such humid weather so it was time get off them before blisters started to form. After a long but eventful day in Beijing we are waiting in the airport for our 8:40pm flight to Delhi. The adventure is just beginning.
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