Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Friday, September 23, 2005

Beijing China: Sprucing up for 2008

There’s always an incentive to pick up the house and perhaps remodel the bathroom when company you want to impress comes to town, and it's no exception here in Beijing, where the city is slated to host their first summer Olympics in 2008. While we’ve seen the Temple of Heaven and large chunks of the Forbidden City under scaffolding, it hasn’t taken away from the allure and grandeur that is Beijing. If you had to compare Beijing to Shanghai, using analogies of American cities, Shanghai is like NYC and LA with a bit of Vegas thrown in for good measure. The fast, financial heart, boasting incredible outwordly architecture. Whereas Beijing would be like Washington DC, with its wide boulevards and monuments everywhere-- except neither city is really its American counterpart, for they are uniquely China!

We arrived in Beijing at 7:26 am having taken the overnight train (Z8) from Shanghai, which was a novel experience. Dylan hopes to write about it in her blog, so we’ll save that story for her. Although Shanghai has a larger population, it feels more crowded here in Beijing. We tried to get in a line for a taxi from the train station, but the wait was literally over an hour long, so we jumped on the metro to get us anywhere out of the crowds. Yeah, right. Like that was possible. But we did manage to get a taxi which grossly overcharged us (we paid $6 instead of $1.25, the going rate) but got us to our hotel. After deciding upon a room and settling in, we knew we had to plan the next two steps of our China trip now, or we would be stranded in Beijing for weeks. October 1 is National Day in China, the day they commemorate Chairman Mao’s creation of the People’s Republic of China. Not only is the day itself a major holiday, the Chinese have stretched it out to a week long vacation where millions of Chinese decide to take to the roads at the exact same time!!! We were unable to get a train out of Beijing to Xian within a week of when we wanted to leave, but we are able to catch a plane out a few days before the holiday starts.

While we’ve been in China, two different friends have been in Beijing. We were not able to hook up with our friend Chris Johnson (who Loey met up with in Seoul last year) but we were able to spend our first evening and full day in Beijing with our friends Don and Nancy and their kids Jakob and Victoria. (Andy and Don went to high school together in Bozeman, went to Dartmouth at the same time and met their wives at the same baby government event in ’85! We like to joke that they have parallel lives.) Don and Nancy were in town after spending five weeks in China with their work, and it was a special treat to just hang out with them at a great restaurant they scoped out in their neighborhood, and spend an afternoon with them walking around the Summer Palace.
Yesterday (Friday here) we struck out on our own and visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (which the Chinese are trying to get the world to call the Palace Museum). Tiananmen Square has become a bit more user friendly since Mao’s day, or even in 1989 when the image of a student facing down a tank was seared into the collective conscious. Today’s Tiananmen had a huge model of the city, decked out with hundreds of thousands of flowers and complete with windmills, which we thought were promoting alternative energy. Hundreds of tour groups with their flag waving guides were hanging out around the square and city (the majority being Chinese and other Asian groups, followed by the Europeans) and the presence of a couple guards did not diminish the festive, almost frenetic atmosphere of the world’s largest public square.
Okay, if you’ve seen the movie the Last Emperor, when two year old emperor Puyi walks out of the palace and a bazillion people prostrate themselves before him, you can get an idea of the size and scope of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was built a few years before Columbus stumbled on the shores of America (1430) and was the exclusive conclave of a number of emperors. It boasts 800 buildings, over 9000 rooms and is the imperial heart of historic China. I told Dylan we were going to visit all 9000 rooms, which for some reason she didn’t think was funny. All in all very impressive, huge and a “must see” in China.
One of the things we wanted to try while in town was Peking Duck. Our helpful concierge made us reservations to the Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, the oldest and most famous duck restaurant in Beijing (they have a picture of Fidel Castro dining here, as well as George Bush Sr. poking a duck with his finger). It’s become a place for the tourists, and even the Lonely Planet says you have to be completely quackers to miss.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Guys-

Sure love your blog. Miles likes Dylan's site better because he can read and get the gist of it alot faster. WHAT? Jolie however loves that Loey writes and when Andy has something to say he puts in his 2 words....We hope you guys are having a great time and Miles says "stay away from that duck and chicken"! Not the game. Alright guys be safe and can't wait to hear the upcoming stories you tell.

love Miles and Jolie
p.s. Dilly Uncle Miles loves you like you love rats!

September 25, 2005 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Chris Morin said...

Andy, what an amazing thing to hear about your blog from Upfront.ezine! I checked out your pictures to make sure it was the same Andy Wells that used to work at ESI in Portland... and it was! I hope you and your family are having fun. If you find yourself coming to Malaysia, I live here now with my family and would love to visit w/ you. You can get my email off our web site.

September 26, 2005 7:56 PM  

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