October 3rd 2009
Beijing. Oct. 3, 2009.
Flying into Beijing, we looked down at three beautiful structures which turned out to be the three terminals of Beijing airport. An architectural wonder (and if not mistaken, the largest covered structure in the world). The whole disembarkation process was so organized….LAX take note! What a super city Beijing is, and yes, it is enormous. BC would be a considered a mere suburb in this city. Such a busy city with very little traffic rules. Traffic lanes are just guide lines, we were taken down one-way streets going the opposite direction and survived the ordeal.
We opted to stay in the Chinese section instead of the more European part of the city. The Holiday Inn Central Plaza, in the Xuanwu District (www.holiday-in.com/hicentralplz) came highly recommended and lived up to it’s reputation. It’s a beautiful hotel with impeccable service, beautiful rooms with bells & whistles we never expected. A full sized swimming pool, extensive gym and saunas. The change rooms have just about everything one needs, e.g. towels, slippers, lotions, hairdryers, you name it, they’ve got it! We took a little stroll around the district in the evening, taking in the culture of this area. Ducked into a tiny restaurant along the way and pointed our way through the menu. Don’t quite know what we had but it was delicious…..they really like their chillies here! Breakfast at the hotel was another culinary adventure. An buffet with a huge array of both Western and Asian items on the menu….so much to pick from and all so delicious!
Jack ([email protected]), our guide met us in the lobby of our hotel and planned our first sightseeing day. Along with his sidekick (driver) they maneuvered us through the streets of Beijing. We are also in the middle of the 60th anniversary of the Communist Republic celebrations, which runs for 8 days, therefore many nationals make the trek to Beijing to celebrate this day. Tiananmen Square was a sea of people. Being part of this celebration has it’s advantages as one would never normally see an array of magnificently constructed floats, each depicting a province of China, lined up on Tiananmen Square, huge topiaries with monstrous plasma screens replaying the celebrations. The Forbidden City was unbelievable. We stood in awe at this collection of ancient architecture (home of 14 Ming & 10 Qing emperors), the number of courtyards, which seemed to go on forever and the size of this wonder of the world. It’s size is mind boggling, it covers an area of 720,000 sq meters and is surrounded by a moat. It would take days to delve into every nook & cranny.
Our next stop was a “Hutong”.Jack commandeered two rickshaws and we traveled through the “Hutong” taking in the city’s traditional alleyways. A lot of these alleyways and homes are being demolished but 25 sectors are being preserved and protected as tourist attractions. The homes in these alleyways are built on a north-south axis with living quarters wrapped around a small courtyard, which then becomes an individual private world. We visited one of these home and spoke with the owner, a lovely, fascinating lady.
Lunch was another adventure with Jack leading us through the menu of a “noodle house” Extensive variety (they eat all the animal here) and very good taste with meals from $1.50 to $4. Our final stop was the Summer Palace, the former summer playground of the royals, where they came to escape the heat. Now we know how the really rich and famous lived! A stunning complex of pavilions surrounding Kunming lake. It also has the longest corridor, a 728 m pavilion decorated with 4000 different mythical scenes. We took a boat ride across the lake to the Dragon King Temple, then walked across the 17 arch bridge back to the Summer Palace grounds.
We called it quits at about 3:30 pm, returning to our hotel and crashing on our king sized bed, falling asleep virtually right away and waking up about 1:00 am!
Looking forward to our next adventure tomorrow with Jack. Stay tuned to our trek to the Great Wall.
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