Rain overnight cleared the atmosphere of smog and we woke to an emerging modern city. Our tour, yes we are officially on a tour ,(going on a tourist train and not the local train , so I hope you are not disappointed to not be getting the local viewpoint ) was not until the afternoon. Walking around the city is easy compared to Hanoi or Saigon. There are less people on the main streets near our hotel. Cars and bikes have their own separate lanes on the main road, side streets are shared places with vehicles ignoring one way signs.
Traditional houses were build in a compound type complex of a group of homes built around a courtyard area . This provided communal area for the homes surrounding it. There may be quite a number of these groups forming a “district ” and these would in turn be surrounded by a high wall. Families supported each other and built community respect for each other. These were evident from walking around the streets. Wealthier houses were marked by the doors or plants outside. These buildings were all built before modern plumbing so there were communal toilets and bathing areas. Because of this characteristic, public toilets are easily found in Beijing. Electricity and telecommunications have created more interesting issues. Imagine trying to find the fault in these wires!
So we are still venturing out as Travellers and not tourists.
Our guide told us how excited she was to move to a modern apartment with indoor plumbing. Feeling of community , knowing and supporting your neighbours was being lost in these buildings as each person lived behind their own doors as there was no shared communal area. No balance has been found yet in combining old and new ideas to provide a better way of life.
Tiananmen square is known in western countries for the death of students in the Student rebellion.For the Chinese , it is the site of Mao’s mausoleum, the Peoples’ statue, and the square marking the entrance to the former Imperial or Forbidden City. China’s history has been marked by power struggles and rebellions. The square itself is huge.
The Forbidden City was built in the 1400’s for the Emperor of the time. It is built in the traditional manner with huge gates on each corner and a wall surrounding the area. Within the wall was a moat, and then sections leading into the main living area of the Emperor. Each area was surrounded by a wall and entered by a series of gates. There is believed to be 9000 and a half rooms in the Forbidden city. The father had had 9000 and one rooms ao he didn’t want to compete. Only officials appointed by the Emperor could enter the city. It is an enormous complex. Understandably , it was daunting and lonely for the last Emperor who was only 3 when appointed. He relinquished the post when he was 6.
Dinner , following a period of foot soaking , was a traditional Chinese banquet showing the four styles of cooking in Beijing from spicy to sweet. We were not offered the boiled bullfrog or sea cucumber. As usual, presentation of some dishes is the key. Great Wall tomorrow.