I am back from my final tour of Asia...this year! Beijing was awesome! I am not sure really what I expected, but I was a little caught off guard by the presence of the government. Hints of Communism lined the streets, parks and subways. To gain entry to any tourist site you had to go through security, a x - ray bag scan and a metal detector pat down. The whole 9 yards. We learned that these measures were not for show as some people were asked to open their bags for further investigation, then given the green light or for the not so fortunate ones, toted off somewhere else.
not sure if that is your colour Obama?
eyes on Tienanmen Square
We (sort of) lucked out with weather. Saturday we walked around the city for 7 hours...a poor choice in hindsight as I returned to the hostel with shredded feet and a crispy face. We stopped at the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the Peoples Labour Museum and the Olympic Village. The Forbidden City was built throughout the Ming Dynasty (1300s-1600s) to house the Emperors, the Empress (+ a multitude of concubines) and a full staff. No one was allowed to enter the city without formal invitation and once inside, you were forbidden to leave. With architecture and colouring indicative of traditional Asian design, I could not get over its seemingly endless walled expanse. I think it is a true testament to China's nationalism that they have preserved this site within a metropolis where space is limited.
outside the wall of the Forbidden City
Just opposite the FC, Tienanmen Square stands strong. Like the FC, it is massive and can hold 1,000,000 people at once. It is hard to describe how I felt here. Aside from several statues, the square is empty. Thinking back, this seems most appropriate, a solemn memorial, silently acknowledging the message of the 1989 protests.
Sunday we rented bikes and bombed around the cities parks, most notably the Imperial Gardens and Bei Hai Park. Beijing puts Busan to shame when it comes to its greenery. Mid afternoon the heavens opened. Kym and I were keen to hit the infamous markets. You can see for yourself...we looked absolutely ridiculous haggling prices with various shop keepers.
but can you rock a poncho?
Monday we visited the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. Stretching as far as the eye could see, over the sharpest peaks and valleys, the view was as magnificent as promised. As with all of the worlds wonders, there are so many unanswered questions pertaining to its integrity and construction. That said, I was more than happy to bounce around at my own pace while concocting the 'Jennifer Savory' version of how the wall came to be. We had two more 'ah ha' moments here. First, as made our way through one of the towers, we bumped into the Waymann's, a fellow Kingsway family. I went to LKS with Kim back in the day and Kym went to Queens with three of the Waymann sisters. What are the odds!? Second, you don't have to walk up or down the wall to get a stellar view. A gondola/chairlift and/or toboggan option have been installed. Because time was limited (ahaha) we opted for the chairlift ride up and the sled ride down. Terrified of heights, the chairlift was no fun for me. However, I cannot remember a time when I have laughed harder than I did speeding down the Great Wall.
After the wall, the Ming Tombs were a little underwhelming, unfortunately our visit landed right in the middle of widespread reconstruction and a lot was closed off to the public.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
Its been quite a trip visiting four countries on this side of the world. With many commonalities (especially in relation to Canada) I have taken something different away from each. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to explore these places to the extent that I have, especially as the world continues to globalize.
As Asia becomes an even more competitive player in the international arena, I feel like I can move forward with an enlightened understanding of its history and its role in the twenty-first century.