Oh… did we have the plans to conquer Beijing on this day. (yes, sarcasm) We thought we had it all handled. Ha! What a joke! Quickly, in less than two hours, we discovered there was no way we would even see half of what we originally planned on this whole trip. There’s no getting around easily in Beijing. The traffic is atrocious, the buses have you fighting to find a place (forget fighting for seats, just plan on packing the walkways) and the mass people in Beijing for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year–the number one holiday of the year for China), our day that had plans on seeing Beijing’s Walking Street “Qianmen”, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, turned into much less. Plus, the sear amount of stuff to see at each location is overwhelming. For example, one can easily spend three to four days going through the Forbidden City. The Qianmen walking street alone took us over three hours to walk only a few blocks.
Funny Note: I actually got my butt felt up by an old China man. I thought it was one of the kids, so did not turn around right away. It didn’t stop, so I turned around. And that little creep fled forward up the walkway and out the door. I was shocked. If I would have had not been so surprised, I would have belted him. But he was quick and I was speechless.
As you can tell in the photos, the weather was very cold out. We saw, for the first time, lakes so frozen over that people were skating and playing on them. It was pretty neat. Our first stop of the day was to walk Qianmen Street, also called the Five Archways Street. It has been the most prosperous street and market for hundreds of years in Beijing. I found a photo in the Zhengyangmen Museum of the street some years prior. It is included in the photos. Neat difference. Our next stop was to cross the street and head into the south gate which used to be part of the wall that used to surround old Beijing. No single portion of the wall, except for this gate exists today. It has all be torn down. In place of the walls are streets. Kinda sad after seeing Xi’an’s perfectly in place. These walls are so impressive.
Beijing is laid out perfectly North to South. You enter all the parks from the South and exit to the North. There are exits on the West and East and you can enter the North entrance. But it is a rough to view entering backwards. If you do ever make it here, take the time to enter from the South. It will pay off with the time loss always having to turn around to look where you have been. We discovered this on another day at the Temple of Heaven. After getting through the gate, we had to go through security to entering into Tiananmen. After nine-eleven in the US, China has fenced off the square and now you have to go through security. It is like TSA on steroids. As Americans, our entry was easy. We found out later, certain religious types are the ones they are concerned about. The kids witnessed one of the people causing the buzzer to go off and getting slammed into the wall and frisked.
Tiananmen Square has Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. Zhengyangmen–a museum, the square, statues and a marker placed in the middle of the square in honor of the people that is heavily guarded. Our friend told us he used to go with friends and play cards on the steps before nine-eleven. No more. Also, Mao’s outrageously huge mausoleum is heavily guarded. No access was allowed during the festival. As we were standing on the south-side of the mausoleum, we were approached by a man who told us Zhengyangmen was opened to foreigners today only. He told us there are few days where it is open to anybody that is not Chinese. So we took him up on helping us gain entry and we went in. I found a gold mine of art that was for sale. Mike did a fabulous job, as usual, at negotiating for four pieces of art that represent the four seasons of the year. They started at 6000RMB and he got them for 1000RMB. They are beautiful. Can’t wait to hang them when I get home. In this building we found some neat old photos which I have included a few in the gallery below. Otherwise, the building was nice but nothing super impressive. The art was the winner though.
Once done here, we left and headed to the north-side of the mausoleum to see the infamous Tiananmen Square. It wasn’t as big as I thought it was going to be. I was told it was a sea of brick. Nope. I guess too many darn people to feel that. I do see why it was once used for demonstrations. It’s in the center of everything. All the major sites in Beijing surround it. From the north-side you can see the gate that leads into the Forbidden City, or as they call it the Palace Museum. We had not time left to enter, so we took a photo of the south entry and walked the street to the west up to the north exit of Forbidden City with the hopes of entering the Jingshan Park. Interesting walk. We were told on the left of the street is where all the important people of China live. We didn’t see anybody per se. But it was still fun trying to see past the gates and try to catch a glimpse. By the time we reached the north exit of Forbidden City, the park we’re heading to closed for the night. So we headed back to the Orchid for a good dinner and a full night of sleep. Enjoy the photos.
…Click on any image to enlarge. Or better yet… click on the first photo and scroll through them all