Muggy and hot.
Humid and hot.
Everything and hot.
That’s what was going through my mind as I sweltered beneath my sunnies and hat and guzzling down ice water (shui) at every opportune moment…
The day began navigating the crowds at Tiannemen Square where Chairman Mao watches over majestically; the Chinese national flag flying tall and proud across the square from the National Museum.
Lots of people.
Thanks to some creative techniques displayed by our private tour guide Sarah we were able to skip the sea of tourists snaking the squares perimeter and bask in the morning sun…
Note: Pedestrian crossings – in Western countries a zebra crossing is where a car slows to give way to pedestrians; Beijing is different. People here don’t look left and right; they tend to do a 360* twirl!
From the Square we ventured forth to the Forbidden City – a series of walls and palaces that were once only eyes for the elite. Sarah explained to us the roles each dynasty played in the city and how only the emporer used the central palace; his sons occupying the smaller ones to the left and right.
Dotted around the walls are giant pots that are usually filled with water and in winter have their own blankets to prevent from freezing. The purpose of the pots comes from a disaster in the city where the palace burnt down within 100 days of being moved to. The water is a precaution in case fire occurs again.
From the forbidden city we came upon Jinshang Park – the highest point in the city. From the top of the pavilion we could see over Beijing and the hutongs.
in the park we attended a tea ceremony. When drinking tea we held the pot with three fingers and the first tasting is done in three sips. It is custom for ladies to extend their fingers whereas men do not. we tried five different teas – a vast arrangement of flavours and textures. jasmine will always be my favourite 🙂
We were also witness to some locals practising Tai Chi amongst the bamboo – it was very tranquil and the perfect oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We paid a visit to a family in the hutongs where they explained the history of where they lived. This particular family explained how they had lived there for three generations. It had been originally bigger but during the Cultural Revolution it was taken by the government and then sold back to them. They could only afford half of what they had before. Imagine a cluster of shoebox rooms circling a small courtyard. Although the little birds bouncing about there bird cages that were hung from the tree gave the impression of hope and faith.
Rickshaws are fun! After all that walking it was nice to put my feet up and watch someone else do all the work. We had a rickshaw guide of the hutongs where we could see the poverty and simple living of its residents. Almost at every corner there would be a circle of sun-baked locals sitting on upturned boxes and crates playing a game of cards or a sea of little ones running along the narrow road with rainbow umbrellas and ice creams.
The day ended with an acrobatic show that included a series of sparkling motor bikes whizzing about a giant globe upon the stage…
Tomorrow…. Great Wall & Summer Palace.