Day 4: A Grand Tour of Beijing

I feel like today’s events can best be captured through the photographs that were taken, so todays blog might feel more like one long caption. Joe, our tour guide, seemed intent on getting us into Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as quickly as possible. Apparently, he had gotten a tip that they would be shutting down the area later in the afternoon for  “political reasons” (This might have been in preparation of President Xi’s huge foreign policy forum this weekend). In any case, we eventually cleared all the checkpoints and came into one of the largest, man-made, open spaces I have ever seen. From the center we could see Mao’s burial site, the National Museum, National Congress, and the Forbidden City entrance. The forbidden city itself was amazing, we wove through gate after gate, with each revealing a more impressive courtyard than the last. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to see all 9,999 rooms, but at least we spent some time in the Imperial Garden. After lunch, we rode rickshaws through another historic section of downtown Beijing. Here, each building was essentially a compound, with a ring of rooms surrounding a courtyard. We were lucky enough to talk to a local, who had been in the area all his life, about what daily life was like. He said he could remember when Beijing was a city of just a few million people ( Still huge!), and watched as the streets became more crowded and narrow. Even though his family doesn’t technically own the property, Dr. Li said that they could sell their house (which appeared fairly old and in need of repair) for upwards of 10 million US dollars! After we got back to the hotel, a few of us traveled outside and wandered around the city for a while. We stopped at a random restaurant, and managed to order the meal with very little knowledge of the language. The shrimp in particular was excellent, and I went to bed extremely content.

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