Day two in Beijing was awesome. We spent half of it in the heart of the city experiencing old China and the other half exploring modern China.
Supposedly the world’s largest public square, this giant swath of concrete is a must see for anyone visiting China and it doesn’t take long to visit unless you want to visit the Chairman. The square known by many Americans because of events over the last 70 years could be considered similar to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It has national landmarks such as the Monument to the People’s Heroes, a large stele in the middle of the square, and General Mao’s Memorial Hall.
The square is flanked on either side by important national buildings like the China National Museum and the Great Hall of the People, their capitol building, and at the north end lies the Forbidden City. To get to the square, you go under any of the surrounding streets and through security check points where they x-ray your bags. We wandered amongst the thousands of Chinese tourists where were taking pictures or waiting in line to see Chairman Mao’s wax-like body. The line stretched on and on and on.
At the south end of the square is the third gate. It was the third gate out from the center of ancient Beijing leading to the Forbidden City where the emperor lived. It is a beautiful Chinese structure worth a walk around and many pictures.
As I meandered around the square I saw hundreds of tour groups huddling together, standing erect and practically emotionless as their picture was taken in front of the Forbidden City where the large portrait of Chairman Mao overlooks the square. Many of the the tour groups wear matching hats making it covered in colored polka dots. I also noticed people taking pictures of me and watching me through binoculars. I only got a little attention unlike the girls in our group with blonde hair who were practically mobbed for pictures.
Next I checked off an item on my bucket list as I walked over the moat, under the portrait of Mao and into the Forbidden City, the magnificent palace of Chinese emperors of yesteryear once off limits to us commoners. Now it’s a bustling sea of people. There is a big outer area with lots of vendors and stuff, but it’s not until you go through another massive “gate” or tunnel that you’re in the Forbidden City. That’s also where you have to pay to get in.
I was greeted by a magnificent view with the giant courtyard at the bottom of steps leading up to a grand hall painted with brilliant colors and beautiful dragons. I wandered with my friend Aaron through as many places as we could. We went on side paths and explored smaller, less magnificent but still beautiful and surprisingly quiet and calm areas of the palace.
The gardens were beautiful and the buildings amazing. One item off the bucket list making me excited for the next day and another item, the Great Wall, but first there was still half a day to explore Beijing a little more.
Where Records were Made
After the Forbidden City and a short lunch break, a group of us took a journey to see some other magnificent buildings of recent import at the Beijing Olympic park. When the 2008 Summer Olympic Games opened with the pomp and circumstance of amazing opening ceremonies, I think everyone watching was hoping to one day see the Bird’s Nest or National Stadium in person.
The magic created by the iconic images of Beijing’s Olympic venues stayed with me and did not disappoint. After a 40 minute bus ride on a jam-packed public bus, we reached the park. It was awesome! I couldn’t believe that I was standing in the shadow of this amazing building.
And just across a large plaza is the Water Cube where Michael Phelps beat record after record after record. It is an amazing building, even in the day when it isn’t all lit up. We couldn’t really figure out how to go in the venues or where to buy tickets to go in and the only supposed English tourist information center didn’t have anybody who spoke English.
We still walked around and enjoyed the architecture of the two jewel venues, the torch, Olympic tower and other scenery. Maybe before I leave Beijing, I’ll get back out there at night with it all lit up.
(pictures taking too long to upload on this connection so they’ll come later)
(pictures added 2 Sept 2011)