Our last and most historic city on our Asian tour was to Beijing, China. Nineteen and a half million people call Beijing home. Again, lots of high rises.
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt which was just down the street from the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. Here is a view of The Forbidden City from our hotel window. It is the entire area with the terra cotta brownish roof. The Forbidden City was huge. More about it later...
Our first night, we decided to walk down to Tienanmen Square. On the way, we saw
this beautiful gate leading into The Grand Hotel Beijing. That was the first of many beautiful ornate Asian gates we saw in and around Beijing. We also saw a traditional Chinese taxi.
Just a bit small and in 95+ heat, we opted for the more modern, air conditioned 4 wheel model. ~smile~
Tienanmen Square was beautiful and much bigger than I had imagined. It's name means "Gate of Heavenly Peace". The far big building behind me is a large government building. The tall slender building is a war memorial dedicated to all of the Chinese fallen soldiers and the large round object is celebrating 90 th Anniversary. The Square is huge.
Across the street on one side is another huge government building.
And on the opposite side of a massive 10 lanes plus 2 bicycles lane road is the famous picture of Mao on the wall leading into the Forbidden City. See the flagpole behind me? Every night, soldiers march into the square and ceremonially take down the flag. I guess it is quite an event. Thousands of proud Chinese people were there every night to witness this event.
The next day, we were back at the markets!!! I loved interacting with the people and bartering. Even if they couldn't speak English, they understood numbers. All of the vendors were equipped with calculators. They would punch in a number, you'd counter back and so forth until you agreed on a price. It was hysterical!
This area was huge. I am not exaggerating when I say it was probably the size of at least 3 or 4 football fields. One section was more of a flea market. I bartered there with a lady for some old coins that I wanted to use in my art. The other area was more like little booths set up. Rows upon rows of everything from silk table runners to Indian silver to tables upon tables of beads. I bet someone had a kitchen sink to sell!
Here is China's money called "RMB". It's worth even less than the Hong Kong dollar so when you see all the hundreds and twenties fanned out, don't get too excited! I managed to keep a few different denominations of Chinese bills and coins as well but most of it was left at the markets.
The next day we hired an English speaking guide and took a tour of The Summer Palace and The Great Wall at Muntianyu. First stop...The Summer Palace.
Walking up to The Summer Palace, there were Chinese calligraphers writing on the sidewalks. This was a 61 year old gentleman we stopped to watch. Our interpreter told him we were from America so he wrote out in Chinese something to the effect, "America is a beautiful place and Welcome American Friends". He did this by sticking his long brush in a bag of water he was carrying and effortlessly drew this beautiful Chinese characters.
Our guide was Sally. As a girl, she used to play on the grounds of The Summer Palace before it became an public park. Sally was fascinating. She told us so many things about the historical sites we were seeing but also about the Chinese people and their customs. For instance, the three main industries in China are jade, pearls and silk. All three have special meanings. Many women are given rings when they marry but traditional women in China are given a bracelet made out of jade to show that they are married. They believe that there are healing powers in the minerals that come through the jade into the body when worn. They also believe that jade brings good luck when "invited" into a home. I bought a "happiness" ball made out of jade. Sally kept correcting me by saying, "you are not buying the jade...you are inviting the jade into your home".
The Lotus plants that grace inland sections of the huge lake shaped like a peach on The Summer Palace Grounds.
This is The Summer Palace and a Buddhist temple behind it as seen from the lake. The Emperor's mistress also known as "The Dragon Lady" lived here.
The Dragon Lady often visited the first two floors of the tower. The third floor was strictly used for celebrating her birthdays and the top floor was never used. It was built for Buddha and thought of as "heaven"; only Buddha was able to go there.
Running along the lake was a beautiful and very very long breezeway. There were four large towers symetrically placed between the long breezeway sections. Each tower's art depicted one of the four seasons. There were also oriental paintings everywhere in the breezeways. It was absolutely beautiful. This is one of the breezeway sections.
This is looking up into one of the towers.
Next we headed to The Great Wall of China; the Mutianyu section.
The final stop was to The Forbidden City. This was home to the Emperor of China. His trusted officials were only allowed in parts of the city.
There are only a few pictures of the Forbidden City because this was where I suffered heat stroke about a third of the way into the city.
Here is a picture of the ambulance that took me to the Emergency Room at a local hospital.
Here is a glimpse inside a Chinese hospital.
And this is a picture of my darling little nurse, Amanda. She is hoping to come to live in North Carolina in December. She spoke pretty good English and had a wonderful sense of humor.
I wish I had a picture of our English speaking interpreter that we hired outside of The Forbidden City. His name is Mr. Lei and we have communicated through email. He may very possibly be the reason that I am here today. He faithfully fanned me for two and a half hours in almost unbearable 98 degree heat with no breeze and inside of a walled city with 30,000 of our best friends. ~smile~ as I tried unsuccessfully to get to a point that I could be moved to the exit gate. He kept conversing with the people around us at The Forbidden City and found a doctor in the crowd to help. Mr. Lei was the one who called the ambulance. He went in the ambulance with us so he could communicate with the medics in the ambulance. I will never forget this wonderful little gentile man who spoke broken English.
I will never forget our trip to Asia. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much about the Chinese culture and people. And in all of our travels, I found that even though we look different, we are all basically the same. We love our families and our countries. We want happiness and peace. At the risk of sounding like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I also learned that THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME!