In this edition of Hello, from… we re-join Rob Deason and his family as they discover Beijing & The Forbidden City.
1| You visited Tiananmen Square and Jingshan Park and the Forbidden City… what was your favorite part about this experience? Work delayed our daughter from joining us in Beijing by a day, so we were on our own touring Beijing’s Forbidden City. I will always remember its immense size. You walk up and down stairs across open plazas from one building to the next, admiring the ornate architecture. Some of the buildings house golden thrones or Buddha’s, but they are roped off to keep you from getting close. We entered by the East Gate and walked to Jingshan Park which looms above the Forbidden City (the view is spectacular) and then exited the compound via the North Gate. Then we took a pedal-powered rickshaw to Tiananmen Square south of the Forbidden City to avoid walking several more miles. That’s when we made a mistake. We were facing the iconic red wall/gate with the giant portrait of Mao which we’d seen in news footage of the famous protest and thought that was the entrance to Tiananmen Square. Actually, the square was across the street. We passed through the Mao gate, which turned out to be the south entrance of the Forbidden City, and once we entered and realized our mistake, they wouldn’t allow us to exit. We had to walk back to the East gate where we’d started hours earlier and by then, we had no interest in getting back to Tiananmen.
2| While walking amongst the food stalls on Wangfujing Street what was the most unusual thing you saw for sell? If the Far Side had Food Truck Friday it would look something like the food stalls on Wangfujing Street. Besides all of the usual unusual dishes of China, the more adventurous eater could select from scorpion, tarantula, centipede, starfish on a stick, giant bugs and mealworms.
3| What did you try? I bought a mealworm kebab, because they were bite-sized and I thought they’d be easier to get down if I hated them, but I actually enjoyed them. They tasted like crispy, crunchy fried something-somethings. By now, Rachel had joined us. She ate the big juicy bugs. Yum.
4| Did you have any travel mishaps while navigating such a large city? We relied on our daughter’s skills to get us around Beijing, except on our first day there when she had to stay behind in Shanghai. This one day proved to us how difficult it must be for anyone visiting China without knowing the language. We got off of the plane and didn’t have the first clue how to get to our hotel. Should we take a cab? A bus? A shuttle? And which one? Fortunately, we had the hotel address printed in Chinese. By showing it to a number of people we were finally directed to the correct bus. The bus driver had compassion on us, and after dropping off all of the other passengers, he took us directly to our hotel.
5| How did you find the subway system in Beijing compared to similar transportation in the States? The subway system works much the same as those in any major U.S. city. The trick is knowing which train to get on. Then, if you know your destination you can follow the illuminated track map in the car to make sure you get off at the right stop. The subways are well-lit and cleaner than the NYC subway. The Chinese won’t or don’t know how to queue, so we often found ourselves pushing through a crush of people, everywhere we went; not just on the subway. In an airport, for instance, I was handing my passport to a security agent. It was no more than a few inches away from his outstretched hand, when a woman behind me shoved her document in the agent’s hand. He stamped hers ahead of mine and she ran past me on an urgent mission. All you can do is go with the flow.
Stay tuned for the next part of Rob’s adventures!