Another offline entry today. Yesterday was a long day in central Beijing. We took the subway to Tienanmen Square. It was thrilling to me to think that this famous area so long closed to Westerners was now a sort of gigantic tourist attraction.
The scale of the places we visited yesterday was mind boggling. It struck me in retrospect that the Tienanmen Square functioned as a sort of Communist Forbidden City serving as the place Mao announced the beginning of the Communist Republic to routine huge displays of military might to the world and other spectacles.
There were young military garbed men everywhwere. Many were standing at attention and staring straight ahead like Beefeaters from England. But their attention seemed to be easily distracted by a pretty girl asking a question or just exchanging glances as groups of tourists both Chinese and foreign passed by them.
We spent most of the day walking in the maze of the Forbidden City. Sarah’s sense of direction and interest led us. She did get confused at points and finally broke out a compass app on her phone to help her figure out where we were in the massive structure of buildings and courtyards.
It rained gently the entire day. This led to many charming parts of the tour for us. The presence of so many tourists armed with multi-colored umbrellas in vast spaces lent a surreal beauty to an already impressive background. More than once I found myself listening to the quiet echo on the stone ground and walls as we moved from place to place.
We managed to arrive at the building which housed an incredible number of mechanical clocks in time to see three of them demonstrated. That was cool.
The Forbidden City closed around five and we joined throngs of people trying to get out of the place. We ended up on the outside of the wall walking and walking trying to find Beijing again to hail a cab.
We walked several blocks away from the Forbidden City to avoid taxis that charged exorbitant rates. When we finally managed to get a cab driver’s attention two young men came out of nowhere and attempted to take the cab from us. The driver locked his door on them and yelled at them through the window.
Sarah was still appalled at the cab driver’s price and hesitated. He wanted 100 RMB which is about 18 dollars US but much more than our cab ride from the airport to our hotel room (30 RMB). We quickly decided it was worth it and jumped in.
One of the reasons the driver gave for his price was that we were moving in rush hour traffic in the rain. Funny how he could communicate this with very little English. Of course we only had a few words from a Mandarin book of phrases to help us, but Sarah did well and we arrived back near our hotel.
Due to the rain, the hutong was flooded at its entrance. Sarah volunteered to go back to our rooms and grab what we needed before going on to Elizabeth’s and Jeremy’s apartment.. This was mostly dirty laundry to wash.
We had a take out meal with Elizabeth and Jeremy and then managed to get lost on the way home trying to find another way to our rooms through the endless hutong alleys in the night. I was surprised that my GPS App worked on my phone.
We finally arrived at the same flooded area to find that the water had significantly receded and trudged home after a long satisfying day.