Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tour de Beijing

Some people are tour kind of people. And I can understand that – it’s nice not to have to plan much and to be confident that you’re seeing what’s important in the places you visit. We’re not really tour people, though. Part of this is due to the fact that we have two young boys. We can never be sure what kind of mood they’re going to be in on any given day, and while we could force them to do things, we’ve found that life is much easier if we only force the really important things. Having the option to bail is critical then. But, even if we didn’t have the boys, I don’t think Doug and I would be tour kind of people anyway. I don't really have the patience to follow someone with a little flag around all day, and I think there’s something to be said about going at your own pace, having the ability to divert from the plan when something interesting pops up, and yes, even getting lost sometimes. In the planning and executing of the plan, Doug and I feel like you learn something about a place.

And all of this, for better or worse, was on display during our time in Beijing. We saw most of the things we wanted to see (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, and the Summer Palace – we only missed the Temple of Heaven, but you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all - or that’s what we’re telling ourselves to make up for missing it!). We also saw a few things we hadn’t planned on seeing – the National Art Museum of China, the Military Museum of the People’s Revolution, an unrestored hutong neighborhood, Sanlitun bar street. We had a bit of planes, trains and automobiles experience in seeing the Great Wall. We got lost a few times and trudged long distances in looking for things that we thought were nearby. But in doing so, we feel like we got to see Beijing, the parts that most tourists see and the parts that most tourists don’t see.

All in all then, we really liked our time in the capital city. Confirming Quin’s observation in X’ian about Chinese cities all having different feels, Beijing did feel different than the other cities we've visited so far. In our wanderings, we came upon many broad, impressive boulevards, flanked by grand, impressive concrete buildings. It felt as if it was a testament to the importance of the CCP, or perhaps their attempt to go toe to toe with the relics of the past empires. Despite this sometimes austere feeling, it really was an enjoyable experience, although we’re now starting to feel like we’ve had our fill of Chinese cities. Doug and I have a few lectures in various cities planned over the next month or so (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing), but we’re not traveling with the boys (aside from maybe a day trip out of Shanghai) until the end of May when we head out of the cities (hard to do these days as China has ~160 cities with more than 1 million people; to put that in perspective, the U.S. has 9.  The rate of growth here is staggering; scroll down in this link and read the incredible growth that analysts predict before 2025) to explore a more rural side of China at the Yangshou Mountain Retreat.

We’ve got more to say about our time in Beijing (once again, it was photo overload as we took almost 600 pictures!) – Doug’s going to post about our adventure to/at the Great Wall, and I’m going to write about our last day in the city. But for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of our first and second days in the capital.

Day 1 kicks off in Tiananmen Square.


Quin and Berkley were popular with the Chinese at all the tourist sites - we couldn't stop for a break as their entire break time was typically spent taking pictures.


Twice a day, Chairman Mao rises out of his fridge for viewing by the faithful.  Alas, he was not available when we visited (much to the relief of the boys), but when he is on viewing, the lines are apparently very long, as you can see from the fences they have set up.

No body of Mao, but pictures of Mao everywhere.  This one is on the way in to the Forbidden City.

 Making a break for it.

Quin was up for posing in Tiananmen; Berkley was more game at the Forbidden City.



A little snuggling in the garden of the Forbidden City, one of the rare breaks we actually got to enjoy.


And a pose in front trees with intertwining branches.  The last emperor posed here with his wife, proclaiming the branches symbolized their eternal love.  I think he said that before he killed her and then himself.

One last glance at the Forbidden City; this is one of the Arrow Towers that protected the corners.

A last break for some art at the National Museum, then it's a day.

 Day two was more low key.  Morning at the Military Museum.

Followed by swimming (for the boys) and napping for a sick mom in the afternoon.  With a bit less illness and a bit more ambition, we might have tried to squeeze in the Temple of Heaven, but instead we made the call to bail (possible as we weren't tied to a tour schedule) and decided to save it up for our trip to the Great Wall the next day, which turned out to be a good call.  More on that to follow.

1 comment:

  1. If you have a chance, do tell us more about the Military Museum of the People's Revolution!!! - Daniela