Friday, June 30, 2006


Soon there will be no girls left in Beijing. It seems there are tour busses filled with foreigners adopting babies every where we turn
Today we walked the sacred rd. guarded on both sides by stone statues. Ancient emperors walked this rd. on the way to hold memorial ceremonies for their ancestors.
Stopped at the Ming Tomb then headed to the Great Wall. It was completely packed with tourists, mostly Chinese, and although the climb is not easy elderly people were doing it. Guess that tai chi in the park really works.
Along the climb there were many people selling post cards, statues, and loads of other crap. There were pit stops with camels and horses where many children were putting on Mongolian costumes and sitting on the camel for a photo op. We got to a plaque with a picture of Mao. Vendors were taking pictures of tourists here and selling certificates of achievement. When Raf asked Mona about it she said that according to Mao if you can make it to this point you are a true soldier. She also told us that this one was a fake and the real one was 3 towers up. The funny part is that President Bush didn’t even make it this far when he visited Beijing!
Note: next time hit the section that may be more difficult climb but does not have so many tourists

Tian’anmen Square: Really much bigger than what it looks like on TV. The Forbiden City is right across the street and also so huge it would take weeks to see it all. There are so many great stories and beautiful buildings. Much of it is being renovated to be ready for the 2008 Olympics. The number 9 and multiples of 9 appear everywhere and is a very lucky number in China. There is a long corridor for the concubines which makes for a very beautiful prison. How many rooms do you think are in the Forbidden City. (9,999 of course)

One of the most interesting things so far was a visit to the Hutongs.

The streets are so narrow we had to take a rickshaw through the area. It really showed what life must have been like before all the high-rises took over. Many families share an area of four small building put together with a communal shower and toilet. We stopped to visit a typical family, an older couple living in a small room. For more on hutongs

The Summer Palace was next and it the most beautiful we’ve been so far.

It is the largest royal garden in China, 800 yrs old. What a summer retreat! Puts the Hamptons to shame.
Dinner consisted of the famous Peking Duck. What a feast. There were so many courses and way too much food. It was quite delicious, but I couldn’t imagine doing this on a regular basis. Even with Raf, it looked like we didn’t make a dent in the mound.

Our last day in Beijing, before heading to the airport, we visited the Temple of Heaven where ancient emperors prayed for their ancestors. The grounds are kept better than the best golf course and once again filled with older people singing, playing musical instruments, playing Chinese chess, etc. There were many beautiful trees and sacrificial alters. A quick visit to a silk factory then the long drive to the airport. The security line would have moved very quickly had it not been for people carrying water bottles. Each water bottle was opened by security personnel perhaps checking for the local wine which is a clear alcohol made from rice, not really wine and about 54 proof. Talk about a party!

Pros and cons of tours
A word on tours. We don’t usually like them. Restaurants are selected because they have western toilets and forks. There are many stops thrown in to entice visitors to spend money, although some have been interesting mini lessons ex. silk factory, jade factory, etc. However, it has been quite convenient to have a private driver and not have to deal with making arrangements, especially for a first time visit to China. It is also important to know the right questions to ask as I am sure the guides have been trained to only give us specific information.
Where’s Miami???
It seems that everyone asks where we are from and no one know where Miami is. lol Couldn’t figure that one out until I realized that people in China are not able to travel freely and I guess not many people from Miami come here to visit.