(Warm Prompt (hot tip): tap/click on photos to enlarge)
Oh grooooaaaann! I feel like we only got in to our hotel, the Ramada Beijing NOrth, after 1:30am - oh yeah, that's right, we did - and here we are, all bright eyed and bushy-tailed (and if you believe that.........!) ready to go touristing again. Our group was on two different flights from Chongqing to Beijing last night and, unfortunately, our flight was the one that left Chongqing a little later so it was getting pretty late by the time we got squared away and into our rooms at the Ramada Beijing North. It seemed like it was a long drive from the airport to get there and, on researching since we got home I can now say that the majority of travellers' reviews said it was a good hotel (it was) but in the middle of no-where (an industrial area) and a long way from everything.
So, anyway, up and at 'em - after breakfast our bus took us on the long drive to Tiananmen Square. En route we pulled up for a quick stop to view the "Bird's Nest" Arena (a.k.a. the Beijing National Stadium) that was built for the 2008 Olympics. Following our soggy day out in Chongqing at the Zoo and Old Town Ciqikou, we were thrilled to be warm and dry again in Beijing.
We had to first line up to go through a security check-point to enter Tiananmen Square, then we were able to wander for a bit. The Square is actually not very attractive at all - it's just a massive (2nd largest Square in the world) wide-open, paved over (concreted?) empty expanse. On one side there is some very pretty landscaping but the focal point is to go to the far end of the Square, where a huge portrait of Mao Tse Tung hangs over an entrance to the Forbidden City. Someone tried to ask our local guide about the incident where a protester stopped a tank in the Square, but the Guide didn't answer the question and quickly changed the subject.
We then went on through the gate and entered the Forbidden City. Wow! It was fascinating - the place reeks of its long history. I don't have the words to describe it so I have posted quite a lot of photos. It really was getting incredibly hot and the heat was rising from the paved surface that we walked miles on. Three of the women in Maggie's Group rented wheelchairs with guys to push them. We gave them a hard time about being lazy but, to tell the truth, I would have quite liked one of those chairs myself by the time we had walked several miles in the heat. It may seem that I'm giving the Forbidden City short-shrift, but really there is SO MUCH there that anything I can say will only dust the top of the table. There are a zillion good sites on-line that I have been looking at since our return to Canada and I have learned much more but can now apply what I read to the images in my mind's eye.
From the Forbidden City we went for a late lunch/early supper at a restaurant whose specialty is the Beijing favorite - Peking Roast Duck. We were given generous servings of duck to share and I do think this was one of the better meals we have had on this trip. The duck was certainly delicious.
Back on our bus and we took a fairly long drive (it may not have been as far as it seemed but the city traffic was horrendous) to a Theatre to see a live performance called the 'Golden Mask Dynasty'. To say it was a "large-scale production" is to seriously short-change it. Think of a Vegas performance on steroids. Come to that, think of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics, because the show was created following the Olympics to replicate that splendour. The show, which has a cast of seemingly hundreds, features Chinese dances, acrobatics, a love story running through it and fabulous costumes, lighting, and an amazing, lengthy water scene in which a waterfall DELUGE rushes over the stage and the sides of the theatre. We could actually feel the coolness and mist from the water in our seats. Try this website to see the water scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvIU5haWfrE or, if that doesn't work, just go to www.youtube.com and type in 'Golden Mask Dynasty' and there are all kinds of videos. I'm still blown away by this Show - it should not be missed when in Beijing. (It's been running for years now.)