On the morning of Thursday, May 20th, Max and I flew from Xi'an to Beijing. Have I told you about Chinese domestic flights? The flight must have only been about an hour and a half, yet they gave us full meals. Obviously, the food is nothing to rave about, but they don't give that food out on American flights unless it's at least 4 hours long and that's only if it's a more expensive airline. The first thing we did when we got to Beijing was go to Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City.
Here I am, standing in Tiananmen Square, with The Forbidden City and Chairman Mao's big face behind me. The other pictures are building that surround the square. I don't really know what they are though. In the square, there would be these random people selling water because it was so hot. It wasn't anything official. They would just have a flat of bottled water. The bottles were clearly cold because I could see the precipitation on them, but I couldn't figure out where they got cold water from. We were headed down into the subway when about 5 of them came running through with their water to hide because the police showed up and apparently it's illegal to pedal water the way they were doing. I thought it was pretty funny.
The Forbidden City is absolutely huge! I understand why they call it a city now. It was building after courtyard after building and so on. The picture above shows a detail on one of the buildings. This has obviously been restored. A lot of the buildings near the entrance were restored like this, but mostly it wasn't restored, which I think I liked best because it made it seem more historical and real. There were some rooms we were able to look into that had everything in place, supposedly as it was when it was in use. We were only allowed to look in the windows. Every room had a big elaborate dais and throne for the emperor and I thought the rooms all looked kind of alike, but each room had a different use.
Here's a portion that hasn't been restored.
This is some natural rock formed by rainwater in the garden portion of the palace. After visiting The Forbidden City, Max and I went to the silk market. This place doesn't just sell silk, it sells EVERYTHING. I mean, anything you ever wanted probably exists in this 5-story + basement building. There was stall after stall of clothing, toys, jewelry, shoes, electronic, fabric, etc. As you walk through, the salespeople are fairly aggressive and yell out to you as you walk by. Since I was wearing a pink shirt that day, they were calling me "pink lady" in order to get my attention. It was an experience, but I didn't get to browse as much as I would have liked because if you even glance at anything in interest, they pounce on you. I did, however, look at the pearls because I knew I wanted to buy some. I've always really liked those little seed pearls, but none of the pre-made jewelry incorporated these pearls in their designs. Max told me I could just design something and they'd make it for me. So I had them twist several stands of the seed pearls with one strand of slightly larger pearls. I really love it and I'll post a picture later. Once again, Max helped me get a good price.
The day before I had to leave China, Max and I went with a group from our hostel to the Great Wall. We went to an old part of the wall so we didn't have to pay and entrance fee (unless you count the old lady in the middle of the path with a sickle that forced our guide to pay her some money) and there weren't very many people around. We were an eclectic group; 2 Americans, 2 Dutch, 2 French, 1 Norwegian and 1 Chinese, but we made quick friends and it was quite enjoyable.
This wasn't just a nice little stroll, this was a hike. In the picture above, you can see the tower at the top were ultimately ended up at. It doesn't look very steep in this picture, but that stretch of wall you see started with stairs and then a slope. I think the angle of the incline was steeper than 45 degrees. It was a workout, but a lot of fun because it was scenic.
All in all, I had a very fun trip. I don't know if I'd ever plan another trip to China, but I'm glad I got to experience it once. If I went back, I'd probably go to Hong Kong again. That place merits more exploration. Max was lucky he was able to live there for a couple of months and I'm happy he invited me over for a little adventure. Now I've been thinking about where I want to travel to next. Italy and Australia are top on my list.