Beijing
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Wow, the historical sights in this city are amazing!  We wandered through palaces, temples and pagodas too numerous to mention.  Most of these fabulous structures were built before Columbus stumbled across San Salvador in the Caribbean. 

We spent 5 days in this city of 13 million people and could easily have spent 2 weeks.  The highlights?

  • Great Wall of China, actually a collection Chian Beijing Bob and Judi at Wall.jpg (18890 bytes)of walls along mountain tops designed to keep out the Mongols, and dating from 700 BC. (It failed  by the way, the Mongols were in charge when Marco Polo visited in the 14th century.)  We visited 2 sections of the wall, at Badaling and Huanghua and have wonderful memories of walking on a deserted section of the wall, looking to the North as the lookouts must have done centuries ago. 

  • Tiananmen Square - China Beijing Tianenmen Square.jpg (33135 bytes)site of many of Mao's incendiary speeches andChina Beijing Tianenmen Sq.jpg (22469 bytes) the student uprising of June '89.  As befitting the most populous country on earth, the square is HUGE!

  • Mao's Mausoleum - Mao is buried in a glass case, which is raised each morning so that the faithful and the tourists can file by for their 30-second glance at the founder of modern China.  We took our turn in the line, and found the queue was mostly Chinese, quiet and reverent (until one exits, when the hawkers try to sell all kind of tacky souvenirs).  At the end of the day, the case drops into a refrigerated area in the ground for another night of rest. 

  • The Forbidden City -China Beijing Forbidden city.jpg (24167 bytes) this is a complex of 20+ palaces and temples that served as home for the emperors of the Ming and Qin dynasties, now a fabulous tourist spot.  It was built around the 1400's, and restored several times over the years - it has wonderful architecture and worksmanship.  You need at least 1/2 day to see it all; not the 1 hour or less that you will get if you go with a tour group.

  • Beijing Opera - a China Beijing Opera singer.jpg (23080 bytes) perennial favorite, fabulous costumes and dancing accompanied by high, screechy singing. We spent an interesting evening drinking tea and nibbling on local delicacies as the actors sang and danced.  One of our favorites was a dance where 2 warriors pretend to fight in the dark, while we can see all of the action.  The acrobatic skill of the actors is amazing.

  • Ming Tombs - the Ming emperors spent their entire lives (and often longer than that) having huge tombs site built for them. One of the 13 known sites is open for visitors, and the visit to their chambers 100' below ground level is fascinating.

  • Summer Palace - another extravagance of the emperors, a sprawling set of palaces and temples arrayed around a cool lake.  We spent a couple of hours there while a driver waited, but we should have devoted an entire day to it.

  • Shopping - TheChina Beijing Panjiayvan market.jpg (29116 bytes) up-scale stores and malls on Wangfujing St. rival any major Western city, and the small markets peddle a bewildering array of 'antiques' and handicrafts from a very artistic country.  Our hotel was on Wangfujing, thus very convenient to everywhere.  A side trip was a walk to the Night Markets, a set of food stalls set up each night on Wangfujing with a fascinating array of exotic meals.

Overall - Beijing was a China Train stewardess.jpg (21503 bytes) very impressive city, sprawled over a large valley, reminiscent of LA.  We found the people to be very friendly and helpful; enough English was spoken to allow us to communicate at a basic level.  We decided to use local transport - so we hopped an overnight train to Xi'an.  Aboard, we hung out in the 'club car' most of the daylight hours and made friends with the friendly staff, as well as put away a couple of local beers.

 

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