Around Beijing in a Day

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

Flag of China  , Beijing,
Saturday, July 13, 2013

Today was Dean's last day in China, and so we wanted to cram as many things in as we could. After already visiting the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, the most important places to go in Beijing would be the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square. I was also keen to show Dean the 798 Art District, because it is a really interesting little zone, and something that you would not really expect to find in Beijing.  Looking at the map of Beijing, all three places were in different corners of Beijing, making it likely for us to have over an hour in travel time to each place.  It was an ambitious plan, but we knew we were capable and up to the challenge.  We called it a 'real Fisher plan', because travelling with my father means that our plans are well considered, well planned, and well executed.  Dad is always good with making the best use of time, so I am used to early mornings, ‘plans for the day’, schedules and busyness. I put all my skills learned off Dad to good use, and I planned how we were going to achieve everything.

We started off the day by going to the Summer Palace, because it is on my side of the city, and is only about 30 minutes away by taxi from my university.  The Palace was built in 1750 for the Royal family to relax and reside during the warmer months.  Like the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace covers a huge amount of ground- 742.8 acres; however, the gardens are undoubtedly more beautiful than those in the Forbidden City. The buildings seem to be designed to complement the gardens, whereas in the Forbidden City, the halls are intimidatingly obvious in the sparse courtyards, which I think shows power. The Summer Palace is softer in its layout, with a huge lake, small gardens within the larger one, and plenty of greenery.  We were dropped off by the taxi at the back gate, which I had not been to before, so I didn’t recognize much of the back part of the Palace.  We worked our way through the gardens to the main gate, where I was much more familiar with the surroundings.  We walked through the Long Corridor, which is a 728 meter corridor, which is made entirely of wood, and has 14,000 paintings in total- a different painting on every beam. We were also really excited to see the Marble Boat—an unmovable boat originally built in 1755, but completely remodeled in 1863 by Empress Dowager Cixi using funds embezzled from the Navy.  Unfortunately, by the time we actually found it, we discovered that it was covered up due to some restoring work, and so all we could see was a picture of what it usually looks like hanging on the canvas.

Next place on the list was the 798 Art Zone. It was formed after the Wireless Joint Equipment Factory moved out, and leased the plants (including the 798 factory, which the zone was named after).  The district subsequently has a very industrial feel, which is definitely part of its charm.  The factories are converted into art galleries, which you go and peruse through all day.  There are so many different galleries displaying works of photography, paintings, ceramics, and more.  There is also a lot of graffiti art on the walls as you walk by, and attention-grabbing statues along the roads. I really enjoy going there, because it really is such an unusual area, filled with eclectic art, people and restaurants.  It is a really pleasant place to spend an afternoon, even if you’re not an art fan.  With our energy deteriorating, Dean and I stopped at a little café for a drink, which was designed to be like a tree house.  I loved climbing the ladders and settling in amongst the trees, but I think the waitresses carrying our drinks may have a different idea!

With some spare time that we had, we went to a shopping centre to walk around for a bit.  My Chinese name is 爱美 (Aimei), which means ‘love beauty’, and I happened to see an advertisement of a man with my name written on his chest.  My name is certainly not a very ‘Chinese’ name (no Chinese person would ever be named Aimei), so it was written for the meaning.  Nevertheless, I got quite excited.

Our last stop on the list was Tiananmen Square.  Cover 440,000 square meters; it is the biggest public square in the world. It was famous as the place where Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Nowadays it is perceived by Chinese people as symbolic of their power.  We were there in time to watch the flag being lowered.  It is quite the ceremony, as they shut down the busy road connecting Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City for the soldiers to walk in sync over to the flagpole and lower the flag.  So many people were there to watch, I was as squished as peak hour on the subway.  It was a great time to go there though, as seeing how formal and ritualistic it is to lower the flag.

After a hectic day it was time to say goodbye to my visitor who is travelling onwards to London and Amsterdam.  I relished  the opportunity to introduce Dean to much of my life here, as well as going to see some famous sites that I haven’t had a chance to see this time yet. 
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Andrew on

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree
Your proof. - great work Ames

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