Our first full day in Beijing took us to several of the historic sites that define this ancient country. Our first stop was the Summer Palace, which was the R&R destination for Chinese royals of the past. Today it is a massive park-like destination in the middle of Beijing. During our exploration of the Palace grounds we came across a group of locals who were singing and dancing. As soon as we walked up they swarmed us and wanted to have their pictures taken with us.
Who knew we were such celebrities?
Today we likely met our first communist. Our guide, and Michael, is very willing to share with us the Chinese perspective. We are learning a lot about what it’s like to be inside a place that has been closed off from the Western world for a long time. He told us about social relationships, family planning, and environmentalism, all of which are very different from what we’ve come to believe in the West.
After the Summer Palace we visited the oldest part of Beijing, the hutongs. This old, restored area dates back 700 years and is best explored by rickshaw. We felt sorry for the guys who had to pedal the two of us.
After a brief pedal through the neighborhood we had lunch with a local family. The food was tasty and the beer was cold!
We stopped at Tiananmen Square to see landmark where so many historic events have taken place. Presided over by a portrait of Chairman Mao, the largest public square in the world is stark.
A woman in our group asked the guide if there are street performers and vendors in the Square during the summer. The guide didn’t really tell her “no” but it was clear this is not a place for frivolous parties and celebrations. All business here.
After our visit to the Square we visited the Temple of Heaven, the place Emperor would go to pray for stuff. The preserved site is beautiful.
Surrounding the temple retired people relax, play cards and Chinese chess and do Tai Chi. We had fun taking pictures with a group of young Chinese girls who were keen on practicing heir English.
Our final stop was to see the elaborate show, The Golden Mask. By this time it was challengingly to stay awake but the live flood on the stage and real white peacocks kept our interest. By the time we’d got back to the hotel, more than 12 hours after we’d left, we were too tired to do anything but hit the sack.
Next up: The Great Wall