Tuesday, May 16, 2017

No-Longer-Forbidden Beijing

A breakfast buffet at the hotel is included in our tour. It has Asian as well as Western items. I tried some greens (very nice) and a couple dumplings. One turned out to be fish; Steve’s aversion to dumplings is not knowing what he’s getting.

Our guide, “John”, met us in the lobby at 9. Because of the extra security surrounding the One Belt, One Road Forum we were not able to walk in Tiananmen Square, but we drove around the perimeter. Then we were dropped off at the side of the Forbidden City, home of the emperors, and walked around to the entrance.

I “only” took about a hundred and thirty pictures today, so I can’t include all, but here are a few.

The crowds were enormous. The Forbidden City is no longer forbidden.) There was no traffic control at the main hall, so getting close enough for a picture was a challenge.

 But we were there!

It was less crowded and therefore easier to get a view at the queen’s office. Besides, it didn’t have obstructing pillars.

Some of the side corridors were less crowded.

The concubine’s quarters felt more like someone actually lived there.

My favorite part was the women’s gardens. The last emperor had a study there where his friend and English teacher, Mr. Johnson, taught him. I thought of volunteering to teach English so I could live here. After our visit to the Forbidden City, I'm anxious to watch The Last Emperor again. I'm pretty sure it was at least partially filmed on site.

Outside the Forbidden City is a favorite place for wedding photos. Here the photographer gives the couple instructions.

In Capetown a wine tasting is a popular thing to do; here it is tea tasting. We tried six varieties. I especially liked the litchi and roses variety, but resisted the $40+ per package price to buy.

Lunch was at a local place. John helped us to order, but then excused himself to eat with our driver. Steve had the sweet and sour pork. No vegies. I had shrimp in a similar sauce with little crunchy sesame wafers. We brought plastic knife/fork/spoon combos from a camping store, but managed just fine with chop sticks, although Steve ate the last of his sauce and rice with his spoon.

After lunch we explored the Taoist Temple of Heaven. Worship goes back before Christ although if I recall correctly this temple is fifteenth century. I wondered how the worshippers would have responded if an Old Testament prophet had showed up to preach the God of the Bible. The smell of roses was everywhere. That is Beijing’s city flower.

The grounds of the Temple of Heaven are a popular park. Local people sat in the covered walkway from the “kitchens” that prepared sacrifices and the temple. Some were picnicking. Others played cards or a game that looked like checkers.

As we left, hot and tired, John asked if we were interested in seeing Chinese acrobats. Steve has always loved that sort of thing when we have seen them at Disney World or on TV, so I wasn’t surprised when he perked up and said “sure.” I cringed at the price, but it was definitely worth it: a contortionist, tumblers, balancing acts, 7 girls on a bicycle, 6 motorcycles in a sphere, and 2 daredevils on one of those double Ferris Wheel contraptions where the acrobat walks inside, or leaps! Or even walks outside the turning wheel. The lighting effects were fabulous, giving the impression of entering the Forbidden City with the emperor ascending his throne, or an ancient battle with the city gates in flames. None of my pictures do it justice.

When we got back to the hotel, we went out walking again (as if we hadn’t gotten in enough steps…) Steve needed a hat to keep from sun burning his scalp. He actually wore my hat part of today, and I carried my umbrella. Parasols are popular here. It took a while to find a hat. When we did, it was in a plastic bag hanging in the back of an 8x8’ shop. If I hadn’t pantomimed what we were looking for, we never would have seen it. And it cost all of $2!

Stopped at KFC for supper. What Steve pointed to turned out to be a thigh and wing. Not his favorites, but they had ice cream, which tasted great after the long, hot day.

BTW, knowing Beijing’s reputation for world-class pollution, we had been marveling at the gorgeous weather. John told us the reason is the One Belt, One Road Forum. The government closed down all factories within 250km of Beijing! We are grateful!

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