Yesterday’s post was late because the Internet connection last night at the hotel was especially incorrigible. So I woke up at 4:30 to compose and post it. Yes you can jump to the conclusion that I’m still trying to get used to the timezone difference.
Today started with a trip to Tiananmen Square. It was another hot, overcast day in Beijing and the square was quite crowded. Quite a contrast from when we adopted Claire 8 years ago and the place was frigid and deserted. The revisionist history has clearly taken hold, as our guide, Mr. Woo, expressed sadness about the soldiers who died there. He was only eight at the time so goes by what he was told.
Mr. Woo does, however, know the dimensions of every historical landmark in Beijing. The square is a 500 meters by 800 meter rectangle as we were told twice. Since July 1st was the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, there was a large temporary statue commemorating it. One of our fellow touring couples brought along their birth sons with their daughter. The eldest son is a very tall (6’2″+), good looking blonde lad and a handful of Chinese teenage girls wanted to have their picture taken with him as we walked from one end of the square to the other.
The 600 year old Forbidden City sits at the north end of Tiananmen Square, so we did a two-fer. As we walked through the ancient city, our guide rattled off more measurements from memory (he’s been doing this for five years), but we didn’t lead us into any of the buildings. I wouldn’t have minded some of the latter to go with the former.
The common folk were not allowed in the Forbidden City, but the story goes that one could hope to contact the emperor by writing grievances on a kite and flying it near the walled city. When an opportune wind arose, one would then cut the string and the kite would land within the walls and, perhaps, be redressed. Because of this, one should not pick up a kite for fear of acquiring the bad luck of the original owner. So perhaps “go fly a kite” isn’t a brush off in China.
We visited the Temple of Heaven in the afternoon. More dimensions and explanations of the significance of the number of pillars in the main temple ensued. Still, the guide didn’t take us into any of the buildings.
Our last stop was at a beautiful public park with gardens, ponds with lilies and lotus flowers, and a pagoda. Various shirtless, middle-aged men were playing cards and wagering or fishing next to the “no fishing” sign. At the edge of the park was a tacky little corner with carny rides for toddlers which held the girls interest for a half hour.
At dinner, we were split again into an adults table and a kids table. There was a debate at the adults table as to whether anyone should eat the uncooked cabbage for fear of being exposed to the local tap water. Paranoia won out and the word went out to the kids table that they should avoid the salad.
As of tonight, we are the only ones still in the Beijing hotel. Shortly after dinner we took a van back to the hotel while the others took the larger tour bus to the train station overnight to visit the terracotta warriors in Shaanxi province. Meanwhile our family is checking out early tomorrow morning and flying to Chongqing to visit Claire’s orphanage the following day. Stay tuned.