Thursday, April 17, 2008


Our first attraction in China was Tiananmen Square. It was a crisp Spring day with lots of Chinese tourists there. In the new China people have time and money to travel and they make the most of it. We saw tour after tour obediently following the flags, umbrellas, and giant flowers held aloft by their guides. Keeping our group together, however, was like herding squirrels. More than once our guide had to ask, "Where have you been?"

After walking under Mao's giant portrait and through the huge red doors, we entered the Forbidden City. It's good luck to touch the gold knobs on the doors. There are usually 81 knobs because 9 is a lucky number and 9x9 is super lucky.

The Forbidden City is filled with fascinating vistas and exacting restorations of the original buildings. After we left there we went to the old section of town where the courtyard homes called hutongs remain and rode rickshaws into the labyrinth of alleys. They are still preferred by the residents over the ubiquitous apartment buildings. They offer a quiet respite from the hustle bustle of this city of 15 million. Cars simply won't fit through the alleyways, so bicycles, motor scooters and rickshaws create the only traffic.

The government arranges for local families to feed lunch to the tourists. So we arrived at the appointed time, squeezed our group of 14 into a tiny room, and got the best lunch of the whole trip. The food was so fresh and beautifully prepared. The shrimp were delicious and the jasmine tea flowed like water.

The second day we drove from Beijing to the Great Wall at Badaling. The wall is a restoration on the ruins of the original, but even this wall is awesome, steep and worn. Though there was snow lurking in the shady spots at the parking lot, the exertion required to climb the wall quickly made us shed our jackets. There were lots of tourists to make "friends" with; the Chinese seem to love taking photos with American tourists.

In the afternoon we toured the Summer Palace. I can see why the Empress preferred it over the Forbidden City; it's so peaceful and cool and has plants and trees and birds. The long corridor offers a weather proof place to walk and contemplate Kunming Lake.

Our last day in Beijing we toured the Temple of Heaven and saw the Panda bears before heading to the airport for our flight to Xi'an. I think we were about the only foreign tourists at the Panda house. The Chinese people LOVE them and ooh and aah at the slightest movement, which doesn't happen very often because they are so sluggish most of the time. We managed to catch this cute little one just lolling in a tree.

Tomorrow it's on to Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors.


Mary said...

I am so enjoying the tour Laura, especially as I doubt I will ever get to China.
Glad you are home safe and sound and enjoying everything dear to you around house and garden. Spring is beautiful here this year despite the drought we've had - a little rain now and then has greened up the grass and the blooms on dogwoods, azaleas etc. seem more profuse than ever, thank goodness.
Your pics are great - love the panda. Remember watching them in D.C. at the National Zoo, as you say, they are so lazy and slow!

Will look forward to reading more on your next post - thanks for sharing so many places of interest.

Pat said...

Wonderful photos and commentary!

Thanks so much, Laura, for this special look into China.
Everyhting looks so beautiful and exotic. I love that cute panda, and the shrimp look so delicious!

Hugs, Pat

Beverly said...

I have so enjoyed seeing your pictures and reading the story of your trip. It is all quite fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Laura, what a wonderful trip. He son( then 17 years old) went to China last summer with the People to People Student Ambassador Program.He loved it, the tour sounds very much like the places you went. Were the girls with you.Looking forward to more pictures. amy

JeannieTheDreamer said...

Wow! How nice it is for you and your family to see China. You make salivate for the shrimp!!!! and the panda oh how sweet and cute and cuddly.

thank you for sharing

Anonymous said...

This brings back such great memories. We were in China and enjoyed the same sites. They were a bit different then, not as modern. It was a fantastic trip and your pictures have helped me relive a wonderful adventure.
Thank you,

Morning said...

So nice to see your pics -- they're great.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! Looks like you had a wonderful trip. Your photos look terrific. That door is certainly impressive. Looking forward to more photos.


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Anonymous said...

Ooooh! I love your China pictures and memories. Share more and Welcome Back!
Karen xo

Anonymous said...

Was there still a KFC across from the square? Seeing the Colonel across the street from Mao was a site to behold.