Happy May Day or Laborers Day as it is known to the Chinese. As a special treat we are not leaving until 8AM. I spend a few minutes taking pictures of Beijing from our hotel window. It is the second largest city in China (23 million people) after Shanghai (24 million people.) Both cities appear quite modern and Beijing has the advantage of having many smaller scale buildings so it doesn’t look so much like people being warehoused.
View of Beijing out of our hotel window
A view in the other direction
After our global breakfast (yum, curry and pretzel rolls) we board our Jimmy bus to Tiananmen Square (TS). Apparently 500,000 people were at TS yesterday so we are really hoping that there will be many fewer today. It doesn’t appear so as we arrive. Jimmy steers our group through the security checkpoints. His “cousins” do not make us queue up like the Chinese must.
John in front of pagoda guarding entrance to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
Mary in front of other guard pagoda
Helpful? crossing graphic
Jimmy talks about the buildings in the square. There is Mao’s tomb, of course. There is a line of maybe 10,000 people or so waiting to get in. Jimmy admits that to the more educated people Mao is just a guy who did some good things and also a lot of horrific things but to a lot of people in China he is still godlike. People are waving flags and wearing souvenir Mao hats. People are also very interested in us.
Girl and her mother in traditional dress
Although the people we see are curious about us because we are not Asian, they are more taken with one woman in our group who is tall and black and wears her hair in corn rows. Lots of people want their picture taken with her. We figure that as a group we could have made quite a bit if money selling the opportunity to have one’s picture with her. It would have been an apt reversal on all the hawkers trying to make money from us.
There are other buildings in TS. The party building is there with a big picture of Mao adorning its outside. There is a large picture of Sun Yat-sen. I am surprised. But it is Chang Kai-shek that the Chinese dislike. Sun Yat-sen allowed a two party system and helped found the modern Chinese state. His picture is bigger than Mao’s. Otherwise, Jimmy says, the banners in TS are just propaganda.
Jimmy also tells us that the nightly national news is a joke. It is comprised of “Chinese life is great and getting better. Foreigners lives suck. Be happy you are Chinese.” We are still amazed when he says stuff like this.
Large picture of Sun Yat-Sen
John with tiny Mao
Painting of Mao on government building freshly painted every year
We fight our way through the crowds to the Forbidden City. We look at some buildings. Jimmy’s people are wearing down from the effort of negotiating their way while constantly being jostled by the throngs of Chinese. Even a Happy Room stop fails to perk us up.
Crowds and us surging through a tunnel to the Forbidden City
John helps out rounding up the Jimmy folks
Mary and John in the Forbidden City
Nine sons of the dragon protecting the building
Our fabulous bus driver, Xiao, is waiting for us at the end of the Forbidden City walk. Time for lunch!
Today’s lunch does not involve the frantic Susan, yay! It is buffet style. We shuffle among the foods. People say it is the worst lunch yet as they fill their plates with spaghetti and other western foods.
After lunch we tour the summer palace grounds and look at some of the Olympic venue.
Lake at Summer Palace
We board a dragon boat to cross the lake
A bridge full of Chinese tourist cross the lake
The Summer Palace in the distance
On the way back to the hotel we pass the Olympic torch shaped building
We also pass the Bird’s Nest where the fabulous opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics were held
Everyone is tired and many like we, have to get their suitcases out in the hallway by 11PM tonight. We have a surprisingly good buffet dinner with Kathy and Brad, say goodbye, and pack up for the long trip home tomorrow.