From Dalian to Xi’an and Beijing (Day 3)
Everyone talks about Beijing being dirty. Personally, I thought it was a very clean city. Granted, the sky is a little hazy, but that isn’t any different than Dalian. There wasn’t any bad or smoky smells and the ground was almost entirely free of litter. Much of the city and subway are modern and well maintained as well. Beijing has definitely been move favorite city in China so far.
The hotel where my group stayed was filled almost entirely with foreigners. There was lots of blonde hair and blue eyes, so my guess is that most travelers were from Scandinavian countries. Even better, by the time we checked in the night before, the hotel had run out of standard rooms, so I got a free upgrade to a suite.
The first sightseeing stop on this day was a quick walk through of Tiananmen Square on the way to the Forbidden City. Basically, the square is just a big open area with long lines of Chinese tourists waiting to see Chairman Mao’s body in state. It was, however, still worth seeing since it’s something I’ve always heard about (mostly for negative reasons though).
By the time I reached the Forbidden City, my group got separated which left me and two others standing outside the city walls waiting for the others. This rather lengthy stop led to a couple more random photos with Chinese tourists. One girl was so nervous to have her picture taken with me and my boss that she was trembling badly. I’d be very surprised if the picture she took of her friend turned out since the camera was shaking so badly.
Inside of the Forbidden City, it’s very easy to get lost. The area is absolutely huge, and the middle is packed with buildings so that it’s almost maze-like. Sculptures of phoenixes and dragons are everywhere and with representations of the number nine. Nine is a very lucky number that only the emperor was allowed to use.
After the Forbidden City, we went to the Summer Palace. It was also very large and unique. However, only one building (which was actually made of bronze) was original. Everything else had been rebuilt after the palace had been burnt down in the 1800s during the Opium Wars. That seems to have been the fate for most of China’s cultural landmarks. If things weren’t burnt down by the Chinese people themselves during some random uprising, then other countries like England, France, etc. were more than happy to help out.
The palace grounds did boast some very beautiful views as we worked our way up the hill/mountain that the palace sat next to. There was even a small secluded area where the emperor would go and pretend to shop. Here the eunuchs and concubines would pretend to be store workers and other regular city people.
After a long hot day of sightseeing, we had dinner at Hooters, because it’s a Hooters….in China!