Myung and I are taking it pretty easy in Beijing. We’re staying a half hour bus ride away from city center at one of China’s answers to Motel 6. It’s called 99 Inn because the standard, clean room with bathoom/shower, TV and hot water pot is 99 yuan, a good deal compared to in the city center near Tiananmen Square/The Forbidden City where rooms are at least double. The grub and everything is cheaper out here, too, not to mention it’s way less hectic during this May Day holiday weekend. She, especially, doesn’t need to gallivant around Beijing. She’s been here several times. I didn’t even know it till yesterday, but she spent a couple of years in nearby Tianjin. I’m up for doing the usual stuff tourists do in Beijing, and she’s accompanying me most of the time, whenever it doesn’t entail an admission.
I had to post the obligatory pictures of Tiananmen Square and the front of the first gate into the Forbidden City. I know, you’ve seen it. The last picture is taken back down the square. The poster is of Sun Yat Sen, who is much revered here. He is honored for establishing modern China. The big building to the right is Mao Zedong’s mausoleum. You can walk by rather briskly and view his preserved body. (Well, you can view his head. The rest is covered with a red hammer and sickle flag. I guess showing everything would be considered disrespectful.) You know how formaldehyde makes a body look red? Well, he’s a red red. Maybe it was the light. Anyway, his face sags like the bods in anatomy class. But I saw it.
A block over to the right from that last one is the Theater of the Performing Arts. I think it’s a really attractive building. It changes with the slightest change in light.
The Forbidden City is quite big. I walked around in there for about 3 hours, and could have spent more time but it closed at 5 PM. There are lots of people in there because of the holiday. Chinese workers get few days off, and hit the tourist places hard when they get a chance. You’ve also seen many pictures like these, I’m sure.
That marble slab going up to the hall is one piece. It was transported to Beijing by covering the road from where it was hewn to Beijing with water during the winter, letting the water freeze, then sliding it all the way. I don’t know how far.
There are lots of gargoyles and dragons, which were believed in the 15th century to protect the buldings and inhabitants. They must have been asleep on duty because right after the original Forbidden City was built during the heyday of the Ming dynasty in 1420, it burned down in 1422, I think. That was a momentous event, as after that, China closed itself off to the outside world and remained isolated until dragged out of it’s isolationism by the western imperialists. Until then, China had the highest level of advancement in the world.
The place goes on and on like in the pictures below.
Another good place is the Temple of Heaven, another Ming dynasty site.
Yesterday evening we went to the antiques area, looked around in an antique furniture “mall” and the antiques flea market. I wonder how much of this stuff is really valuable? I wonder if there are undercover police looking for items which really shouldn’t be sold. I was quite interesting. I had one of those days where I imagined having a house again so I could fill it with so many things I’ve seen over the years. There are also lots of new things there under the roof.
That brings us up to today. It’s Sunday, the last day of the long weekend tourist crush. Tomorrow should be mellower. I’m doing this and Myung is off walking around the University of Beijing area, which should be pretty deserted, and getting a haircut.
We may be nearly decided about our next move. Pakistan is just too dangerous, or at least that would be on our mids if we went. We went to the Iranian embassy here and got a somewhat different answer to our inquiry about how to obtain visas to Iran. Instead of dealing with all that, without known light at the end of the tunnel, we are strongly considering going to South Africa. With Pakistan and Iran off the table, we have to go somewhere. I brought up going to Africa, as I’ve wanted to go there for a long time. To my surprise, Myung has warmed up to the idea. She doesn’t like the difficulties we would face there but, if you ask me, she compared returning to Yangsan and watching it on TV with living it, and decided to live. She’s made it clear that she won’t stay or go on to other African countries if it’s no fun. Fair enough. I agree. One thing that helped us decide was that airfares are not too high to Johannesberg, only about $550 one way. It was $450 one way to Iran, if we had decided to fly over Pakistan. She still wants to go to Turkey and the Near East, so very tentatively, we may go up the east coast of Africa, figure a way through or around Sudan, and go through Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to Turkey. I’d love to go to Isreal, but I also want to go to countries which don’t want to see an Isreali visa stamp in my passport. If we go to South Africa, it will be this Saturday or next Tuesday. I’ll see the Summer Palace and the Great Wall between now and then, and probably something else. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, be well, all of you.
Speaking of Myung, I think she has such an expressive face.