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Here come my thoughts! Watch out!

I’ll start off at the airport.  Things went smoothly for us this time around.  We made it on time to the Hong Kong international airport and didn’t have any snafus.  We just got on the plane and took off.  That was so nice.

The flight was fairly short since Beijing is in the same country as Hong Kong.  Only 3 hours.  Once again, I was in the perfect position to see out the window when we were making our descent.  It was dark by the time we got to Beijing, but I looked out the window anyway.  I had no idea what to expect.   I was thinking Beijing would have the same towering buildings as Hong Kong but when I looked out the window I was surprised to see that it looked similar to a night landscape you would find in Utah.  Shining lights greeted me as I peered down at the unfamiliar freeways and neighborhoods.  There were no tall buildings here.  This seemed a little more familiar to me.

By the time we unloaded off the airplane, the airport was fairly desolate.  The lights were all dim and it was quiet.  My grandma told me that the lights are all dim in Beijing.  I later found this to be true.  The combination of the dimmed lights and lack of people in the airport gave it a kind of eerie feeling.  I felt like I was walking through a dream.  We walked through customs and none of the customs workers would smile at you or talk to you.  They were quite serious people and to be honest, it was a little disconcerting.  It reminded me that I was no longer in a free country.  This would not be a place that I could speak freely about whatever I wanted.

Our tour guide, Mike Zhang was waiting for us as we got out of customs.  Mike was another person who had become legendary in my mind.  He had previously been the tour guide for my grandparents when they toured Beijing after their mission to Hong Kong.  I had heard so many great things about him that I was so excited to meet him!  He looked just like the pictures I had seen of him.

We didn’t do anything that first night.  It was late and we were tired.  Mike drove us to our hotel and dropped us off, letting us know what time he would be to get us in the morning.  Our hotel was amazing!!!  It was so elaborately decorated and grand!  The only thing I didn’t like about it was that there was the lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke.  I would later find that smoking is allowed in public places in China–something far different than in America.

We went to bed and the morning came quickly.  We ate a delicious breakfast at the hotel and then grabbed our things and waited for Mike in the lobby.  When he got there, he let us know he had a full day planned for us.  Our first stop would be the Forbidden City.  He parked a little ways away so we walked through the neighborhoods to get to the gate for the Forbidden City.  Mike was so knowledgeable.  He gave us a brief history of the Forbidden City and let us know that in the old days commoners would be killed if they entered the Forbidden City for that was where the Emperor lived and he was deity.  He talked and caught up with my grandparents.  Mike had stopped smoking since the last time they had seen each other and his two kids and wife were visiting family in another province.  (Mike has two kids because one came from a previous marriage, so it didn’t go against China’s One Child Policy).  I was amazed at the beauty of Beijing!

China Neighborhood

Far away from the gate to the Forbidden City.

Mike was quite the charming individual.  He was easy to talk to, knew a lot about the places he took us to and made you feel like you had been friends forever.  While we were walking to the gate of the Forbidden City my grandpa asked something about the protests in Tiananmen Square that occurred during the 80’s, but Mike hushed us up right away.  He told us that he would have to talk to us about that another time because there were recording devices and video cameras around.  Of course, we all knew that he wouldn’t be talking about that to us, ever.

I was amazed how huge the Forbidden City was once we got inside!  There were so many people and so many buildings.  You weren’t really allowed to go inside any of the buildings, but it was still really awesome to see these ancient buildings.  It was so hot while we were there, but the humidity was much less than that of Hong Kong.


This is inside of the Forbidden City.

As we walked through the City, we were taught how to tell the difference between the male lion statues and the female lion statues.  For any of you who are wondering, the females have a baby lion under their paw while the male lions have a soccer ball.  And according to Mike, they really are soccer balls.  Just from a really early version of soccer.

Forbidden City

Can you guess the gender of this statue?

As we continued walking, Tyler and I were stopped by two Chinese college students who were also touring the City and asked us if the could take a picture with us.  We were, of course, flattered and allowed them to take the picture with us.  As soon as we had taken the picture, we were mobbed by a group of twenty more girls from the same school all wanting to take pictures with us.  It felt like we were celebrities!  To me, this was such an odd experience, it makes me chuckle to think about it.  We were being left behind so we had to cut our time as celebrities short.  But from then on, I was much more keenly aware of the stares we got while we were traveling.  I guess they just don’t see white people very often.

We made it out of the city after a couple of hours and walked across the street to a park.  There were elderly ladies dancing together and it was so cute!  Mike said it’s common for something like that to occur in parks.  Mike led us over to a set of stairs where we took a short break and took a group picture.  We then proceeded to climb the stairs which led to a pagoda like building where we were able to get an amazing view of Beijing!  It was hazy, but we could see so far!  While you’re inside the Forbidden City, you don’t really realize how expansive it is, but the I realized it after we made it to the top of that hill.  Mike informed us that Beijing is designed on the principles of Feng Shui, so whenever you see a square shaped building, you are likely to see a round building close by.  He used the Olympic park as an example.  The Bird’s Nest is a round building and is located right next to the Water Cube.


Me, Tyler, Grandparents and Mike

The park was a really nice place.  When we climbed to the bottom, there were old men playing harmonicas in the park just for fun.  We tried to give them money, but they didn’t want it.  Mike said that when people do that in Beijing, they do it for their own pleasure.  That sure is different from America.

Next on the list of things to do was a tour of the Hutongs, which are traditional Chinese neighborhoods.  We were in for a real treat.  I’ll get to that next time.


View of the Forbidden City and Beijing.

For more of the story, click the links below!

The Asia Trip: Beijing パート 5

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート 3

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート 2

The Asia Trip: Hong Kong パート 1

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