As always, we were up early the first day — Asia jetlag just means you get up early and fall asleep early, which I much prefer to the sleeping-in Europe jetlag. We met up with our super nice guide Annie and headed off to Tiananmen Square. We don’t always hire guides but it seemed like a good idea since we don’t speak any Mandarin and the cost of a guide was only around $50 for an entire eight-hour day.
In the back of the cab. Cabs in Beijing are very cheap — a couple dollars at the most to go pretty much anywhere. But cab drivers do NOT speak English, and they can be notoriously picky. You may have to try several cabs before you find one that’s willing to take you where you want to go. (This cab was playing Justin Bieber!)
Pink car parade! Apparently a wedding.
The Great Hall of the People, political hub of Beijing and head of the government — the Communist Party of China.
I loathe these kind of touristy photos, but our guide wanted to take them. She later commented on the fact that we never wanted photos of ourselves in front of buildings, pointing out all the Chinese tourists posing themselves everywhere. “I guess we take photos of ourselves in front of places because we don’t travel very much,” she said. I don’t know if that’s true, because Japanese tourists do it too. I just don’t think I need a photo of myself in front of a building — I know I was there!
The sculpture outside Mao’s Mausoleum.
The very epic lineup of people waiting to see Mao’s body.
Like everything in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is almost unfathomably big. There is purposely nowhere to sit, nowhere to gather, nowhere to hide. You have to go through security to stand in the square, and there are cameras and police everywhere. Although I’m too young to really remember the protests in 1989, it’s still really weird to think about. Beijing seems pretty much, well, normal, but China is still a communist country and its citizens do not have the freedom that we have.
The shining face of Mao Zedong.
After Tiananmen Square, we crossed the street to go to the Forbidden City. On the way, we stopped at a serene little park that was mostly empty except for some old people doing tai chi. Very relaxing after the crowds at Tiananmen Square and totally worth the 2 yuan ($0.32!!) to get into the park.
It was nice because it was almost completely devoid of people.
No tourists! (Except for us.)
The number of animals on the roof indicates how important a building is. The Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City has the most animals out of any building. But this building, the Imperial Ancestral Temple, has a lot of animals too, so it’s obviously important. The Emperor would hang out here for some ancestor worship.
Leaving the peaceful tourist-free zone and heading toward the Forbidden City.
I have a lot of photos so I decided to split up some of my entries. In the next entry: the Forbidden City and Peking duck! Mmmm, Peking duck.