We didn't do much sightseeing during the first 3 days in Beijing, so this time we're doing a bit of running around.
We had a quiet first day back, but one thing we did do was visit a gorgeous little tea shop where I ordered 'Chrysanthemum 8 Treasures' tea. Up until now I'd stuck with Jasmine tea, but Chrysanthemum had been recommended and '8 Treasures' sounded intriguing. This is what I was served:
How stunning is that?? It smelt and tasted amazing too. Unfortunately it's a special mix and I couldn't find half the ingredients afterwards. Methinks I'll be googling and then scouring Chinatown when I get home!
The morning of the next day we go to see Chairman Maos' embalmed body in the mausoleum on Tiananmen Square. I've taken a liking to Saras' term for him, 'Pickled Mao'. Having seen Pickled Minh whilst I was in Hanoi I have now decided that a visit to Moscow is in order. Visting Pickled Lenin in the Red Square would finish off my Pickled Commie Dictator Trio. I wonder if there's a t-shirt for that? Unfortunately you can't take pictures inside the mausoleum, they make you check your bag in at a locker room across the road first. Lighters and matches are also banned. I suspect that the glorious Pickled Mao is highly flammable given the quantity of formaldehyde he must have absorbed over the years.
There was a sign at the entrance saying 'Please be quiet and remove your hat'. Rather like laughing at a funeral, whilst doing the Mao rounds I had a slight smirk on my face and the almost irrepressible urge to don my frog hat and beat at the glass whilst howling at the top of my lungs. Thankfully I managed to refrain and made it out of the mausoleum in one piece and without handcuffs. He looked very peaceful....if a tad plastic, surely there'd be no harm in giving him a poke to see if he wakes up? Apparently not, he's in a glass case surrounded by glass walls with 2 guards.
Shame. Maybe next time.
Having oogled Mao, we moved onto the Forbidden City. A few people have told me how they were a tad disappointed with the city, but it's quite incredible when you think about it. It's name comes from the fact that the common people were forbidden to enter the city, only those given permission by the Emperor were permitted to enter. It housed the royal family, high ranking officials and 'admin' staff. There are 5 entrances to the city, the centre entrance to be used by the Emperor only (and presumably the poor sods carrying his sedan chair, I very much doubt he walked anywhere), the two inner entrances for the royal family and highest ranking officials, and the two out entrances for the rest. Even today, the central entrance is cordoned off all the way through the city, probably as much to do with preserving the intricate carvings on it as maintaining tradition.
Construction on the city began in 1406 and it remained the seat of power in China for over 500 years, through successive Emperors and Dynasties. I can understand why some may find it a bit of a letdown, it can be a bit 'same same' if you stick solely to the central paths, but Sara and I amused ourselves by looking around the galleries at the sides where many of the artefacts are displayed. Then we paid an extra quid to get into the treasure galleries, SPARKLY STUFF!!
It always amazes me how people of money and power just like to surround themselves with stuff. Just, loads and loads of expensive stuff, some of this jewellery was incredible. I can't deny that I wanted to smash the cases and steal some for myself.....dangerously alluring stuff, this 'stuff'.
We visited the Imperial Garden on the way out and bought far too much stuff in the gift shops and then headed to Beihei Park for a walk and a coffee. Beijings parks are stunning in the summer, it was much less crowded and leafy at this time of year, but it was great to watch kids playing on the frozens lakes and sit in the coffee shop watching the sun go down....Sara and I, we're WELL romantic!
Back in the hostel we stayed up until 1am drinking beer and playing Liars Dice!
This will be my last broadcast from chilly China. Today has been quiet, with an 11pm flight to look forward to I didn't really fancy doing anything strenuous, you know, like walking or moving in general. I've watched Prince of Persia, Pirates of the Caribbean and Zoolander on the DVD player in the hostel and spent some time chatting to Liu, a girl who works here. She was talking about her boyfriend and how she keeps breaking up with him, but then takes him back whenever he turns up crying at her.
After a while I realised that her boyfriend was sitting right behind us, well within earshot. She just said 'It's ok....he doesn't speak English!' Turns out that she's actively discouraging him from learning English :o). Good girl :D she makes me laugh!
Ok guys, I'll be leaving for my flight in about an hour and a half. Thanks for following if you have been. Hopefully it won't be too long until I can blog here again :D. Big loves xx