Well it is the end of our journey on the Diamond Princess.
We are docked and in another world, are we in an airport or a seaport? The disembark is exactly like getting off a big jumbo jet into a huge see through domed tunnel into a spacious large concourse, the likes of an airport, complete with multi levels and escalators .
I am not really sure what the out side of the seaport looks like because it is so foggy. This building is really huge, modern and very chic. We are herded onto big new buses to take us to Beijing an hour and a half away.
Well I just don’t know where to begin to describe Beijing . Twenty million people live here, but wait, this is not the biggest city uh uh.. Shanghai has thirty one million population! All of Canada has only 36 million people. Our first stop is Tiananmen Square.
Have you ever tried to describe Vegas to someone? Well this is how I feel about Beijing, it is everything I didn’t expect, esp. after the last two cities we visited in China. The South Korean skyscrapers are peanuts compared to here, it is stunning! It is clean (we won’t get into the smog because it is ever present and I don’t want to detract from what this city has to offer). I don’t see any visable poverty.. capitalism is ALIVE and well and thriving in Beijing (who knew?) .
There are so many cars that they have a system of sorts to keep 20% of them off the roads on any given day (and it is policed!) Two hundred and seventy thousand people are waiting for license plates. A lottery has been set up, they pick only twenty thousand names to receive a license (which they need to buy a car). The ‘made in china’ labels may turn out to be ‘made in Taiwan’ or Indonesia because the wages here are on the rise (this is from our tour guide).
This is not the China of ten years ago, or even five years ago, so says our guide. This is a modern day city with such diverse architecture, they have one skyscraper they call the ‘Boxer Short’s, see picture. Green spaces, flowers and interesting works of sculpture abound on all the major intersections. Ten years ago they had ten hotels (including motels) and now they have a hundred and sixty. Our hotel the Marriot ‘five wall’ is a five star and has 800 rooms.
Amazingly there are not as many streetlights and traffic controlled stops as you might expect, but traffic seems to flow.. even in the rush hour. On the other hand don’t be crossing a street and expect a car.. or bus or motorcycle to stop for you, because they won’t.. pedestrians do NOT have any rights here.
We arrive at Teinnimen Square and it is BIG, Mao is laid to rest here and can be viewed in the mornings only (he has been dead since 1976 so don’t expect any speeches from him). Our tour guide says you can fit one million Chinese people into this square.. then says ‘we are not fond of the Japanese, so we say, you can fit two million Japanese!’ This is a historic place but Sharon and I get bad vibes from the massacre that happened here.
Our next stop is a lunch, we get a taste of Peking Duck and it is deliciou, tastes just like turkey (not chicken..lol). We have many dishes and appetizers to choose from and it is all good.
After lunch we go to the Forbidden City and it is on what is called the Dragon line. It was originally the exact center of Beijing. Our guide is determined to get the geography and lay of the land into our brains. (she doesn’t know that I am geographically challenged). She is also determined to teach us some Chinese and Mandarin and I learn alot about Beijing thanks to her.
This is the largest palace in the world. There is so much symbolism here and the number 9 is very important. This place has nine thousand ninety nine and a half rooms..wow! I wouldn’t want to be the maid there!
Someone said you really need two and a half days to explore here and we only have two and a half hours. I am in awe, do you know that everything is made of wood and they didn’t use any nails?
There are huge urns everywhere that were encased in goldleaf but most has worn off (it’s not easy scraping that off, ok just kidding), they were kept filled with water in case of fire. Also there are no trees or shrubs in the main courtyards, this is so no one could hide and try to assassinate the emperor.
Forty two emperors ruled China from this place. The last emperor was evicted in 1924 after being confined there for 11 years (after the peoples revolution ).The emperors had many concubines and once one concealed a knife and tried to kill him. Some were treated with much cruelty and even killed. All had their own households with-in this city. While south facing buildings and courtyards were the norm the rejected concubines quarters all faced north!
The empress also had her own digs that were not too shabby and some had to rule behind a screen in the main palace because women were not allowed to be seen. One empress was involved with poisoning another empress, ah… the plot thickens..
Virile men were not allowed to live in this city, only castrated ones (eunuchs) were allowed that privilege? That must have been boring for all those women .. not even a chance at seduction or sinning..ah well. If those walls could talk, I bet we would hear some juicy stories!
Poisonings and killings were a fact (including a few emperors by the empress .. rumors..). I want to know more about the women that lived here. After one tried to kill him, the emperor would write the concubines name on a piece of paper, she would be deposited to the end of his bed rolled up in a rug and naked! No wonder he had to watch his back .. and his food, apparently…lol.