Beijing, People’s Republic of China

 

Ok, we are finally arriving… Throughout Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, China has lurked over these regions like a bad ass dragon. Whether it was fighting off invasions, present-day attempts to control the shipping lanes and fishing of the South China Sea, or casting a huge  shadow over the economics of the region, there is no ignoring the impact that China brings to everyone and everything. So it was our time…The preliminaries were over.

Flying into Beijing, I was nervous about the serious pollution we had heard about. But the air was generally clear and crisp. There were signs in the airport about China’s dedication to renewable energy technology. And they are planting new trees everywhere. Not only are some of these trees a cash crop (e.g.: chestnuts), the feedback is that the trees reduce emissions in the air. The forests also provided walkways to escape the urban neighborhoods. While the scuttlebutt was that China sacrificed air quality for development, they seem to be looking for a better environmental balance…A lot more impressive than the messages coming from our so-called more advanced culture right now.

The Airport: It was huge and they are building another. The were 100s of gates, many of them empty. And we had to walk about a mile, with the assistance of five or six moving pedestrian walkways to make it to baggage claim.  And the drive into the city was equally interesting… The highways are five lanes or so, and it’s still not enough. Our guide told us that Beijing has 22 million people who are doing better economically…So they now have over 8 million cars. The traffic is so snarling that the government designated one day each week when your car can’t be on the road. Electric cars are exempt. Most of the motor scooters and bicycles are electric.

 

We started our first day by touring their equivalent of a Historical Area. These were residential communities, mostly limited to one story, in the middle of town. These homes have no running water, and public bathrooms are found on every block. The government tore many of these blocks up after the Revolution, but then thought more wisely about it. The houses are in high demand, and the rich people will excavate basements and add indoor plumbing. We toured in a rickshaw, and had a wonderful family visit. Our host (above) is holding up a special piece of glass. Her family paints them From The Inside Out, with a thin brush, turned at a 90 degree angle.

 

Next, we visited the Temple of Heaven, a sacred site intended for the worship of the Emporer only. He would come twice each year to pray for the harvests. The temple was constructed without the use of nails, as the wood panels fit together seamlessly.

Tian’ahmen Square was our destination in the afternoon. We got lucky because it had been closed for VIP guests most of the last two days. Our guide told us that the Square is roughly the same size as the entire Vatican. Tian’ahmen Square is the most important site for the Revolution. It contains Mao’s mausoleum on one end

 

It is only open for viewing in the mornings… The lines form and snake back and forth shortly after dawn. Our guide says all Chinese visit the tomb at least once.      On the other end of the Square is the entrance to the Forbidden City:

 

One thing I have noticed is that signs of the Government are much less visible than I had expected. The most visible sign of soldiers was in the Square… Four stood at attention in each direction around a stately flagpole. We happened to be there at the changing of the guard:

 

 

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