Hit the road again to Beijing. Was expecting a city lacking personality, boring and grey. It is a really cool city. Wide streets, lots of outdoor space, 30 degrees during the day and 20 during the night. Lots of trendy and funky bars and shops and the people are pretty relaxed (except for the oldies, they are a bit pushy). Stayed next to Tiananman square, a huge concrete square. When I say huge, 90 football fields can fit in it. Its 900m long and 500m wide. Surrounded by Muscovite types of buildings on each side. It has Chairman Mao’s mausoleum in the middle which as huge lines of people waiting to pay their respects. However there are a lot of soldiers around the square and you have to go through metal detectors to enter.
Then did the Forbidden City, where the emperors use to live. Lots of temples and building. One of them houses hundreds of clocks made for the emperors. Then there was the quarters for the royal concubines. One of the Emperors housed 200 concubines here, and had a total of 40,000 around the country. Now that’s stamina. He eventually made one of them his “Imperial concubine”. He was in his 50’s and she was 22. She had over 700 dress makers for her. As in all good Royal love stories, there was a rebellion and he had to choose between her and his life. She was eventually killed.
Also did the temple of heaven park and Qianmen new shopping street. Was next to Wangfujing shopping street. And wandered through the nightmarkets. Was going to snack on a kebab but couldn’t choose between the scorpion kebab, the snake kebab or the “live skewed cockroach looking bug” kebab.
Next day I jumped a taxi to the great wall in Badaling. About 60 kms from the city and one of the most packed entries to the wall, but slept in and didn’t want to go to far. The guys that built it were crazy. “Hey Bob, let’s build a really really long wall, lets say 8800 kms long, and just for fun lets build on the side of really really steep mountains”. BTW, its not visible from the moon.
Cruised down to see the Drum and bell towers. These used to drum and ring to mark the time. Just behind them are the city lakes which are surrounded with trendy bar and restaurants.
Did the Silk Street shopping, a 5 story building which is your department store of copies. 1 and 2 are fake tshirt and jeans… $15 for “new” True religion jean… 3rd floor are tailors and silk. 4th is watches, iphones… Have to say, practically all the sales people are girls and they are very aggressive. Felt sorry for some of the “nice tourists” who were getting pushed and pulled around. Santilou shopping centre has similar stuff but the sales people are much more relaxed.
Have to say, for a communist country, it doesn’t seem very communist. The only thing that implied it was communist was the soldiers. You see a lot in Tiananmen Square and standing at the doors of official buildings. However other than that, not a lot. You see the kid with rollers blades cruising down the street, the old man on the tricycle bike collecting cardboard and plastic bottles and the Mercedes business men driving all next to each other.
Another funny thing I saw were little toddlers wandering around without nappies, they wear normal cotton pants with a split in the back where they can do their business. Quite bizarre.
Do like this city.