December 28, 2017


Our first stop in China was Beijing, October 4 through 8. While there, we toured the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Lama Temple, had a home visit, and had our introduction to Chinese food.

Olympic Village tower
Olympic Village tower
Buildings. The drive into Beijing took us, at first, through ranks of anonymous housing towers. As we got more into town, commercial buildings appeared more frequently and they were in no way duplicates. The variety of those buildings was amazing, an enormous variety of towers, in all shapes and configurations, reflecting an exciting energy and creativity.

Crowds. Our first venue was the Summer Palace, in the northwest, where we got our education in queues and moving in crowds in China. The weather was nice and the place was teeming. It was not possible to avoid bumps and it quickly became clear that bumps were part of the experience. There was no shock or withdrawal or apology, just bump and move on. I have to admit that it does save time and reduces the potential for conflict.

Tiananmen. It's a huge square, flanked by the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. There was even a large portrait of Sun Yat-sen, facing Mao's portrait across the square. Security was clearly present -- fencing, bag checks, cars, uniforms. In addition, it seemed to me that plainclothes guys were hanging around us from time to time, staring at nothing, but within earshot of our conversations. We'd been warned to be discreet.

The Great Wall
The Great Wall
The Great Wall. Seeing the wall and having the nearby home visit were the highlights for me. We visited a wilder part of the wall and had no crowds. It was very exciting to walk along those famous walls and see how they spanned the hills, very steeply in many places. I could have gone for miles. A few minutes away, we visited a family with a small house, garden, and apricot orchards in the hills. The woman of the house and her mother-in-law cooked us the freshest meal of the trip, with much of the food coming from their garden, which was still producing.

Pollution. The Summer Palace was under blue skies when we visited. Most of the rest of the time in Beijing, the sky was white, cloudy, and/or hazy. Even though the the skies were not sparkling, the vaunted air pollution was on vacation while we were there. There were still masks in use.

Flickr has an album of photos.

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