Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Asia trip part 4 - Beijing

The excursion to Beijing involved a long bus ride to and from the city. Therefore, in order to make it back to the ship before the evening departure, we had a very early start time for the excursion. 6:30am. I felt bad for the Great Wall people who got back the night before at 9 and hadn't even eaten dinner yet. They looked wiped out.

So we got out through the immigration check to see the sunrise and board the bus for the long ride to Beijing. What is there to say about a bus ride? I guess the only notable thing was the potty break. I found one western toilet out of about 10 stalls. The only problem was, NO toilet paper. None. I checked every stall, the sink area and the entrance and not a paper item to be found. So no poop for me, lol.

First stop was Tienamen Square, the largest public square in the world. It was vast. And crawling with tourists and groups with tour guides. It was chilly, in the low 40's and the air was awful.

There was a HUGE line of people already to pass through the mausoleum and see the great leader Mao Tse Tung, whose image you see in the background there. Our guide said that everyday Chinese people line up to visit the beloved leader. At nine am, the line was already three hours long. It reminded me a bit of Cuba and the images of Castro everywhere.

Just check out their money. Whereas we have various people from our histories appearing on our money, there seems to be only one image worthy of commemorating there.

A look around the square.

Next stop was the forbidden city. It was another sea of people place. We want to watch The Last Emperor again because this is where the film takes place. Our tour guide was funny, he acted like we were in the military, ordering us around. "Okay, you have 10 minutes free time, 10 not 11, you must be back here at 10:40!" Yes sir.

Apparently, they had refurbished the place before they hosted the Olympics. The guide said it was pretty run down before that. There are supposedly 999 rooms in this palace.

Dang we took a lot of pictures here. Twice in China complete strangers approached us and asked to take a picture with me or Serge. I don't know why. Doesn't that seem strange? I mean we aren't movie stars or anything.

This is the largest stone sculpture in the Forbidden City. Sculpted originally in the Ming dynasty, it was re-sculpted in the Qing dynasty. During these dynasties, anyone who was caught touching this holy stone would receive the death penalty.  The huge stone was hauled into the palace all the way from Fangshan, 50 miles from Beijing. This difficult task took about a month employing twenty thousand men and thousands of mules and horses. It is said that a well was dug every 500 meters along the way and the well water was poured on the ground so as to form an icy road which could facilitate land boat transportation.

 Apparently this is where the last emperor learned to ride a bike and where the scene from the movie was filmed. There are probably a hundred pictures just from this place. The interiors were not what you would think of for royalty because it was inhabited before times with electricity and plumbing.

 Taxis. Beijing seemed much less modern than Shanghai or Tianjin. I expected more skyscrapers, but maybe it was just because the air was so murky that we could not see them.

Pretty much everything is out of the question at this park. Not sure what the third one down in the first column means.

Next we had lunch but we didn't take any pictures. It wasn't very memorable I guess. It was in a hotel so after lunch I was able to access the internet in the lobby and take my Words with Friends and Dice with Buddies turns. After lunch we went to the Temple of Heaven. This was part of the entrance area.

There it is. This is where the emperors used to come every year to pray for a good harvest.You can read more about it here. Then the guide gave us a few minutes in the souvenir shop. I had already bought some postcards but needed stamps so I asked in the shop if they sold them. Yes yes yes. Now I had already bought stamps and sent postcards from Shanghai so when she told me the stamps were 15 yuan each (about $2.43) I knew they were stealing from me. Oh well, we weren't going anywhere else. Then when she handed them to me in a little plastic pouch, she had turned them so I couldn't see the value on the front of the stamps. It irritated me, but when I heard someone say that the stamps were available on the cruiseship for $2.75, I didn't feel so bad.

Then the long busride home. We were within sight of our ship when POW, we had a blowout. Glad it didn't happen farther away. One of the other tour buses saw us, unloaded their passengers at the ship and then came back to get us. I felt bad for the guide and driver, their day had begun at 3am and they still had to go all the way back to Beijing. We tipped nicely.

That night we had reserved in the fancy dining room where you pay a small fee to eat there. We had a delicious meal and souflées for dessert. We weren't as impressed with the food and service as we were on Carnival, maybe they were having an off night.

We then hung out at my favorite place on the ship, the Ocean Club because of the great jazz trio.


Anonymous said...

"Don't grab the tree branches that fall onto the ground?" Could that be what the warning is?

Man, the air sure looks smoggy there. I bet an asthmatic would have a hell of a time.

Maybe the people who wanted your pics recognized you and Serge from the Tidal Bore video! LOL!!!!

Blobby said...

No Flugelhorn? The outrage. I'm NEVER going there!

anne marie in philly said...

"...asked to take a picture with me or Serge. I don't know why. Doesn't that seem strange? I mean we aren't movie stars or anything." - no, but you ARE western; they may have thought you were american! perhaps they have never seen a western guy before.

don't molest the trees (take cuttings and branches)?

interesting architecture in beijing!

you two always make a cute couple! :)

Anonymous said...

Does look like the trip of a lifetime :)

I think the image in the sign are Chinese firecrackers.
They sound like gunfire so I can imagine they don't want people setting them off...


Elizabeth McClung said...

Ah Sue beat me to it - the warning is against firecrackers.

Glad you are had a good trip.