Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
374Trip End Mar 15, 2007
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Where I stayed
My flight with China Eastern Airlines was as cheap as any budget flight back home but with far greater service and legroom and even some complimentary snacks and drinks
With the May holiday fast approaching I wasted no time in cramming in as many sights as possible before the craziness started so after checking into the very nice Red Lantern Hostel I headed straight out for the Forbidden City.
Beijing immediately struck me as very different but also very similar to Shanghai, gone is the modern subway system and western feel about the place to be replaced with a more aged metro rail (no ticket machines here, you have to actually buy a ticket from a real flesh and blood person, weird) and many more bikes but at the same time it still had the same busy feel about it even if you were more likely to be knocked down this time by a cyclist carting a load of chickens rather than a taxi cab.
The Forbidden City is big, very big. After walking a good 10 mins from the Gate of Heavenly Peace with Mao's mugshot hanging above it I finally reached the entrance of the palace with the huge walls reminiscent of the city of Troy or some such
Although certain parts of the city were closed or covered in scaffolding as it undergoes renovation (the main hall is completely covered) the city is still an amazing place. Walking around the grounds for hours I was still finding whole areas I had not explored with the yet to be renovated sections looking far more impressive than the bright, colorful painted sections that look brand new and really kind of tacky.
Walking past a group of soldiers drilling, no doubt just as a show of authority, I soon reached Tiananmen Square spread out in front of the city. I did a lap of the square and saw plenty more soldiers marching about among the crowds which is quite a sight given the history of the place.
Heading back to the hostel the government certainly lets you know that the city is hosting the next Olympics with countdown timers and huge posters and billboards everywhere (don't think I saw a company advertised that was not an official sponsor).
Met the only other guy staying in the dorm room, John from Canada, who seemed to keep himself to himself which was fine by me tonight as I was too tired to go through the whole where you from/been/going routine.