Beijing, China

Beijing Video

Great Wall

We arrived in Beijing. The airport looked like one you’d find in any major city across the world. English everywhere. Of course, it was also colored in Olympic banners throughout.  We showed our cabbie the Chinese address of our, and we were off.  He did not take us to our hostel. Rather he dropped us off on the main road and pointed down an alley, grunting.  It was the wrong alley, and we spent the better part of 40 minutes, carrying all our bags, staggering down dark alleys.  Though dark the alleys were full of children running around, food carts being pushed, and men sitting at tables playing cards or Majong.  We stopped several people who all pointed.  Finally, an old man said, “follow me” and brought us to the doorstep.  As we learned in weeks to come, English was even harder to find out here than in Thailand. 


The streets were clean; no garbage, no homeless.  We presume it was from the recent Olympics.  Hundreds of buildings looked rehabbed. Famous walking streets still had empty storefronts due to the newness of everything.  I’m sure thousands of people were displaced from their homes being torn down and filled with new buildings to make room for the Olympics. Where they were moved to, we had yet to see.   One tour guide told us that he hated the Olympics.  People lost their homes.  Factories were temporarily shut down for months to clean the air, and no pay was given to the workers.  Visas were made more difficult to obtain and hence tourism went down. 


The only filth that filled the streets was caused by, I daresay, the people.  All adults chain-smoke cigarettes, and spit with great hacking sounds at all times.  You know Disney’s Aladdin movie? Picture the spitting donkeys to get the true picture.  Little toddlers potty training wear pants that have slits open in the front and back.  When it’s bathroom time they just go.  Their parents help them adjust themselves so they don’t get wet.  Parents feel this is more sanitary for the children.  I feel this was disgustingly unsanitary for the public.  The streets often reeked of sewage, both from the toddlers, as well as the sewers.  The toilets are holes in the ground, and the people often don’t close the doors.  Bathrooms, needless to say, were one of our greatest problems out here.  Even in big city malls that were filled with sophisticated and wealthy shoppers the bathrooms still were holes of foul stench.. but that’s enough about that.


In Beijing the weather was cold and rainy.  Our tour guide was coughing and congested.  Needless to say we all were feeling under the weather.  Vince caught a wicked cold combined with allergies, and Elise “thought she was going to catch a cold” and hence spent and evening burrowed in her bed, and I had swollen glands.   Western medicine is quite expensive out here where they use herbal teas to bring them to a speedy recovery.  We visited several teahouses.  Chrysanthemum tea is used to cure colds. We bought much of it and spent the evenings drinking it in bed. 


China has some of the oldest history in the world and saw many extraordinarily old and fascinating sites:


Dazhong Si- This is the Great Bell Temple. It has the biggest and oldest surviving bell in the world.  The bell is two stories tall and has over 250,000 Chinese characters on its surface. They still ring the bell today, but only once a year on New Years. 


Forbidden City- The Forbidden City was built for the emperors and royalty. No one of lower stature ever entered the city.  This city contains 999 ½ temples.   One thousand is the number for God, and while the emperor didn’t consider himself a God, he did consider himself the next best thing.  Those that lived inside the city lived a life of absolute luxury.  It is estimated that a single meal for an emperor could have fed several thousand of the peasants.  In fact, one empress would commonly have 108 dishes prepared for a single meal.  The temples are covered in phoenix and dragons symbolizing the ying and yang balance of life.


The Temple of Heaven – The Temple of Heaven actually was a large park grounds.  Locals leisurely strolled about snacking on foods or playing games such as chess, hackey sack, musical instruments or singing.  There was a man painting in water Chinese characters of peace. The actual temple was built to be the meeting grounds of Heaven and Earth and not one single nail was used in its creation. 


Sacred Way & Ming Tombs- The Sacred Way is a street lined with larger than life statues of animals and warriors meant to guard the Ming Tombs where the emperor of the Ming Dynasty was laid to rest.  The tomb of the emperor is buried in huge chamber deep underground. It was said that it took 18 years to complete, and once completed the emperor threw a grand celebration down below.  


The Great Wall of China- The next day was our most breathtaking one; we visited the Great Wall of China. They say that you have not experienced China until you have climbed the Great Wall. Construction began in the 5th century and was not completed until the 16th century.  It’s estimated that over a million people helped to construct the 4,000-mile wall. Thousands of men died during construction; so many, in fact, that they say the Wall is the largest cemetery in China.  When a man died while building his body was buried within it.


~ by The Piersas on October 13, 2008.

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