Beijing is unreal!!!
Trip Start Jan 12, 2008
171Trip End Oct 01, 2008
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On our way we stopped at the Drum and Bell Towers where we tried to trade our new bikes for a sweet rickshaw but decided to just steal one for a little while when the drivers graciously declined. After a bike around Hou Hai and Qian Hai (cute little lake area with shops, bars and restaurants around the waterfront) we enter Bei Hai park where the 9 dragon screen turns out to have a bonus 9 extra dragons on the back side.
Finally we make it down to Tian'an Men Square and our first stop was the Forbidden City.
Besides the obvious beauty (amazing imperial architecture) and historical importance (24 emperors ruled from its confines for almost 500 years), the names of the various halls and palaces were the best part.
Clearly the name 'Forbidden City' in itself invokes a lot to think about, but once inside this garden of Eden you can find yourself walking through the Halls of Supreme Harmony, Mental Cultivation, Imperial Peace, and Union or entering the Palaces of Heavenly Purity, Earthly Tranquility, Eternal Harmony, Abstinence (an odd one I thought...), or Peaceful Longevity. Regardless of where in the Forbidden City you find or lose yourself, the one constant is the awe the place leaves you in.
Next we headed across the street and past the national flag and into the massive square to see the Monument to the People's Heroes which is inscribed with calligraphy from Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Looking back at the Forbidden City you see a huge portrait of sweet sweet Mao looking down at the people in the square. Moving on we reached Mao's Mausoleum where we could have seen his casket which is raised from its refrigerated chamber every morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, we were unable to pay our due respect and so we decided to move on. After taking in the sheer imperial grandness of the Great Hall of People (seat of the Chinese legislature) and the China National Museum, which flank the square, we were back on our bikes and headed home.
The ride back brought us winding through some sweet hutongs, which are small traditional neighborhoods that wind around tiny streets that cars can barely fit through if at all. When you turn off a main road and head into a hutong for about 10 yards you are all of a sudden transported to China of a hundred years ago, or more. From the outside they are basically all identical grey structures that are in various states of disrepair with the already narrow streets further cramped with all sorts of impediments including food stalls, chairs, bikes, markets and people with a general happiness about them.
A few situps, pushups, curls, weird acrobatic things, some jumping games and a few aerobic machines later and we were biking away with our tails between our legs but glad we met a really cool Beijing park gang.
By the time we reached Henry's place, we were all starving and made a quick turnaround to a restaurant named Da Dong... for duck, despite all your wildest thoughts based on the name!
The day wasn't over just yet though... I know, it's already been quite a full day! After I was done picking the duck literally clean, we headed to a college bar where we saw some of the craziest dance floor antics I've ever witnessed.