Thursday, September 10, 2009

China Girl 5 - Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven

The trip to Beijing was a wake up call in more ways than one. If you had told me a year ago that I would go to another communist country on a plane out of Shanghai with Jayne, I would have said you were nuts. But it just seemed right to go when the opportunity arouse. Now that I think about it, when Susie (daughter of Jayne) suggested it while we were still in the states, I said that I was game but to ask Jayne, because I didn’t think she would do it. Then, when I talked to Jayne, she said that she was hoping that Susie could somehow come with. That didn’t happen (two toddlers and a travelin’ man for a hubby) but when in Rome……
We got on the plane with no problem and let me tell you this was a mega plane; they don’t do anything small here. When we were making the plans I said, I don’t like those small prop jets and they all looked at me like I was a bit loopy. After mounting the deck of this plane that was the mother of all airbuses, I realized that my fear of a little plane was so remote, I may as well said, ‘are we stopping off on the Moon?’ There were hundreds of blackheaded people for what seemed like blocks in front of us and we were only in row 12!!! Thankfully, we were once again (oh, that’s another story) the movie stars, being the only natural blondes on the flight. Okay, stop the incessant laughter. Now we are in our seats. And then come the noises.
Have you ever traveled to Asia? If you have you are familiar with the unbelievably guttural sounds that immediately came from 80% of passengers. It was new to me. I gave Jayne the ‘look’ and wished that we had invested in the 144 pack of riot gear oxygen respirators. Oh, it was unbelievable. I have never heard such hacking, retching, scrocking sounds in my life. (I have since heard from locals that they think this is very normal –like public farting and peeing- and I need to get over it; it’s purifying their bodies but I say, ‘WHAT ABOUT MY BODY!!!!!’ It was good for a laugh or two since. If I come back with anything less than a COPD (you can barely see the hand in front of you in Beijing) or Swine Flu (we went through a temp thing at the airport to let us in or not, depending on our body temp) I will be a happy traveler.
Chinese airlines know how to take care of you. They give each person on the plane a complete meal (we took a pass) and offered beverages (soft only) at least twice in the less than two hour flight. They must have had 10 flight attendants minimum for the flight as compared to our airlines, that you barely see anyone to ask a question.
Some facts we learned from our guide about Beijing were interesting.

Here we are with our Beijing guide, Gloria. She has a college degree majoring in English and has also taken an extensive guide program. She was a cutie but you could tell she was bored to tears most of the time. She was constantly checking her phone. She spent most of the time we were in the car talking frantic Chinese with the driver. It gets annoying after a while.
There are 30 million people residing in the city with 3 million that travel in and out. During and around the time of the Olympics drivers could only drive their car on even and odd days. If your license plate ended with an even number you could drive one day and the next you couldn’t because it was left to those plate numbers ending in an odd number. Now, one day a week you can’t drive your car (Monday through Friday). If your plate number is 0 or 5 you can’t drive on Monday; 1 or 6 you can’t drive on Tuesday, etc. You are left to car pool, walk, take public transportation, or ride a bike. There are 9 million bikes in Beijing.
If you marry and both you and your husband are only children, then you can have 2 children. If one of you has a sibling, you can only have one kid. There are ways around this; you have to pay for any more children than what the law allows.
Most high rise buildings, either for business or for residence have windows that can open. Gloria was quick to point out that their country is much less wasteful that the Westerners. All the high rises turn off the lights during the night, which Gloria pointed out is much more energy conscious than our country, after having visited and seen all the lights on in New York.

First off, Tienanmen Square . Hey, I'm no authority, but isn't it just a mass of concrete blocks with a couple of communist buildings and the Forbidden City entrance? Why does it get such notoriety? It has a couple monuments but they were all full of scaffolds for refurbishment (since the last time they were refurbished; the 2008 Olympics). There were tons of visitors (mostly Chinese) but I don't know. It's like Disneyland on a tarmac with no rides.

Tienanmen Square will be filled to capacity on October 1st. They expect over one million to the celebration of China being The Peoples Republic of China for 60 years. So many people that they cannot supply enough port a potties to handle the crowd. To circumvent this problem the powers that be have decided to pass out diapers; children and adults alike, at the entrance. Can you imagine that happening here in the states? I would just take a pass on the whole thing and have a toast to old Mao in the privacy of my own bathroom.
Wouldn't you wait in line for six hours to stand here in a diaper? Are they saying, 'I can't wait; I can't wait!!!!'
The entrance to the Forbidden City at least was something to look at. And yes, it too is being renewed for the celebration; hence the green construction fabric.
There is a guard or two at the entrance and a much larger than life giclee of Mao Tse Tung.
Gloria definitely knew her stuff about the dynasties whose emperors (I think she said Ming and Qing Dynasties). There were lots and lots of buildings that all looked similar to each other, both in colors and shape of architecture. I am a very poor tourist. I get bored very easily. What I should have done is MY HOMEWORK on these places.
Then I may have appreciated them more. Mostly I got a kick out of the Chinese and all the posing in front of monuments that they do. It is amazing to watch.
What I did take a fancy to were these rows of small figures on the corners of the roofs. At the tail of this roof procession is an imperial dragon, representing the authority of the state. At the head of the procession will be a man riding a Phoenix, followed by various beasts. So, in between the dragon and the Phoenix will be mythical beasts, usually an odd number of them,
the number of beasts indicating the importance of duties done in the building or courtyard. The maximum number of beasts is nine, including a bull, goat, fish, lion ,seahorse, and a horse.
From Forbidden City we went to Heavenly Temple. Again, I am a poor tourist. It was just okay. The gardens around the temple were another story tho'. They were filled with all sorts of characters. There was dancing the hula, mahjong games, card games,
and even karaoke in Chinese. It was very fun to watch. I think that these people actually are members of the gardens (kinda like being a member of the Arboretum) and they go there to socialize and relax. I couldn't get enough of people watching.


Anonymous said...

Nice pictures and interesting post. I think though, that you made a mistake in your first sentences. When you go to Beijing, you are STILL in China, not travelling to another communist country. Maybe that was an oversight on your part.

The nasty hacking and spitting sounds are typical of Asia. It is forbidden in Singapore. It is very prevalent in Japan too, mind boggling that they will spit on steps inside railway stations. You really have to watch your feet! They are probably convinced it is acceptable behaviour.
Culture Shock!

You really grip the concept of 'overpopulation' on this planet earth when you visit Asia!

Irene said...

I actually knew there were 9 million bicycles in Beiing - only because I like that song by Katie Melura.

To be honest, Bella's party sounds like more fun than China!