We made it! We are officially in Asia – hard to believe. Our flights went well and we only had a slight delay out of Colorado Springs. The flight into Beijing was long – 14 hours stuck in a cattle car is a lot. I think the only way to survive a long hual flight not in first class (where you might actually get to sleep) is to watch movies. So, we did – four! They were mostly enjoyable, but ultimately they passed the time! We tried to sleep for a few hours, but gave up. You have to have super powers to sleep like that.
We arrived into Beijing and after immigration and customs, George, our CCAI guide, was there to meet us. He drove us the hour’s drive to our hotel, and we got to pick his brain on the way. It sure is nice to let him do the guiding and not have to worry about much! Once checked in, we took a hot shower, ordered some room service for dinner (that was a feat in itself – took 5 different people on the phone to finally take our order! Ah, the things we take for granted – ‘lost in translation’ takes on a whole new meaning here) and hit the sack to ‘sleep like a pig’ as they say here! Which we did – 7pm-7am.
This morning George guided us through Beijing where we got to tour the Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City.
Tiananmen Square is one of the largest city squares in the world – and sits at the entrance to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was originally built in 1420 – taking only 14 years to complete. The city housed the Royal Family, and was of course off limits to the general public.
George, our guide.
The entrance to the forbidden city is behind us.
The outer buildings of the Forbidden City. The city is on 200 acres and consists of 9,999 1/2 rooms. Apparently only 7,000 rooms still stand today, but we only saw a handful.
These huge pots hold water in case of fire.
The gold guilded throne. George explained how everything is centered around the ying-yang and feng shui – the 5 elements that should be balanced. The construction of the city was built with this in mind as well.
The royal gardens – trees over 400 years old.
It was really wild to hear George talk about ‘Chairman Mao’ and the communist party. From our persepctive, Mao was not a nice guy! Yes, he did some good things for China, but he’s also credited with up to 70 million deaths and was known as a dictator. Yet, to hear George talk – he’s a god! He was this amazing man that did so much good for China… and the communist party as well – they’re looking out for China and making life better for all the people. George went on to say how they tried capitalism, but it failed. Then they tried communism (I think he said socialism) and it just fit better in China. Isn’t that an interesting perspective? It just fit better.
After we finished up at the city, we took a rickshaw to a local family’s house where we had a traditionally prepared meal for lunch. They prepared sticky rice with a chicken dish, a pork and potato dish, dumplings, shrimp, dates, fried crisps, and a sweet cake. It was really tasty!
Beijing is a city of 21 million people. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around that number. However, when driving the roads, you start to get a feel for just how many people are here. I don’t know how to explain the drivers here – words escape me. But, it’s not just the drivers – it’s the bikes, scooters and pedestrians too! There are a few traffic lights and signs, but I think they are just suggestions. Two lane road? No problem, three can totally fit. Turning left? No problem, just weave in and out of the oncoming traffic and pedestrain traffic. Cars drive within inches of each other and people. I’m not sure who is supposed to yeild to who, but I guess they make it work. It looks like chaos to me.
Beijing is a lot greener than I expected! It’s really a beautiful city overall – we’ve even had blue skies both days. It almost feels like Miami for whatever reason – I half expect to see the ocean! It is hot, but we had a nice breeze today.
It’s nearing 7 pm…. time for bed! Whew, I’m tired.