This was the first real tour day, and if they all go like this I don't think I'll make it to the end!
Up at 6:30 and a nice buffet breakfast – both western and Chinese foods available and plenty of it!
After a meeting where the guide discussed the days events we went off to Tienanmen Square. Huge place and it was packed full of people. Wanted to visit Mao's tomb but there were literally 10,000 people in line! The whole square was packed to the brim – with two very evident features – umbrellas to keep off the sun (which was very hazy due to the pollution) and little flags – the rallying point for the 500 or so tour groups that were everywhere.
The square itself was quite amazing – large open areas, police on Segways, monuments to the communist party, plus relics of the old city wall... The guide said it could hold 1,000,000 people. It was pretty close to that today – so bumping was the dance of the day.
Right next to the square is the Forbidden City – 9.999 rooms occupied by the emperor up until the 1920s. Red walls for luck. Yellow for royalty. Brightly painted and quite intricate. There were squares inside the city that were huge in themselves. Most of the treasures are in Taiwan but the architecture was stunning. It seemed to go on forever – layer after layer after layer... ending up in the Emperor's Rock Garden – a place filled with natural boulders, but of fantastic shapes.
The only problem with the city was the people – it was as crowded as the square. It was hard to keep up with the group but the guide carried an umbrella that was shaped like a panda... “Follow the Panda...”
After a short bus ride we took rickshaws into the Hutang area of Beijing, an old settlement of ethnic Mongolians. We traveled through the bar district – plush chairs and sofas were in almost every one. We also stopped by the grand canal – that at one time connected northern and southern China.
Arriving at the house we sat at a table with a thin plastic table cloth and were served a traditional lunch – pork, chicken, bamboo, tomatoes, rice, dumplings, and much more. Dish after dish was brought in. Very friendly people and great food.
After rickshaws back to the bus we drove to the hotel for a bit of a rest. Alice went to the pool and I did some school work.
About 5:30 we drove off to a fancy restaurant where the chefs all wore plastic mouth guards (!). We sat at a table with a huge lazy Susan in the middle and were brought course after course – starting with spring rolls and then a new dish every five minutes – including Peking Duck, which wasn't that great. Besides, we were all still full from lunch!
Back to the hotel and did school work, and now to bed. This jet lag is a killer.