Was that Beijing or Peking?
Trip Start Dec 28, 2005
13Trip End Ongoing
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Beijing is a sightseeing mecca for tourists. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are the big drawcards, although the line to enter Chairman Mao's Mausoleum was a mile long (nearly literally) so we gave that one a miss. It's interesting to me that Chinese people would queue to pay respects to this man under whose rule millions starved, and political commentators now take the line that he was 70%wrong/30%good in his policies
The Great Wall was indeed great (pun intended), although the section I visited (Badaling) was largely rebuilt so little of the original structure remained; and besides it was absolutely beseiged by hordes of tourists jostling for a happy snap.
At the Temple of Heaven one can stand at the point where ancient Chinese believed to be the centre of heaven. A sprawling 267-hectare complex in a pretty park, but partly closed for restorations (one pitfall of travelling in the off season I spose).
The Summer Palace is worth the tricky bus haul out of town centre. Got kitted out in traditional regal dress for novelty touristy snaps.
The Lama Temple was quite beautiful with characteristic ornate painted ceilings and gutter work. It housed the Statue of Maitreya, which held the Guiness World Record for the largest buddha carved from a single tree (26m)
But I'm starting to get a wee bit templed-out by this stage so it's off to the Natural History Museum, with interesting exhibits such as: pickled cadaver parts, fossils, skeletons etc, but sadly the educational factor was lacking due to limited English captions.
Beihai Park is typical of the many beautiful Chinese parks in that sculpted gardens surround a lake +/- rock features, but again we were thwarted by the central temple attraction being closed for renos. Thankfully, we could access the fantastic tiled dragon-feature wall, where I spied (and clandestinely photographed) my first minority Chinese in traditional dress.
Hired a rickshaw to tour through the northern Hutong district, which is a maze of ramshackle dwellings and narrow alleyways wide enough for often only single file rickshaws.
Then it's off to Xi'an...