Day Three – Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
We had to be at the restaurant at 7 with our suitcases packed. Breakfast was okay but not as good as the morning before. Then we headed to the Temple of Heaven in which we discovered the Chinese exercise; Chinese shuttle cock. To our surprise the park was full of pensioners! Ed Note; exercising in harmony – fantastic community spirit. We headed to the open space in which we attempted to play the Chinese way. We soon found that playing with the shuttlecock was harder than we initially thought so Charlie whipped out a mini football and we began to attempt to do keepy up’s. Despite the language barrier, a local proceeded to join us. With great use of his shuttlecock experience, to our surprise he was world class and mesmerised us with his incredible ability. Surprisingly the OAP found Chris hilarious as after every touch Chris did he burst out laughing due to the indescribable skills Chris had put on display.
We went to the Temple of Heaven, which was breathtaking. We then travelled to Tiananmen Square which was very politically interesting. Ed Note; the site of the uprising in the 1980’s. As it was so important to the Chinese people, we were heavily guarded and had to do what we were told. We then went under the subway to the Forbidden City which was very good to look at the beautiful architecture. Ed Note; extremely busy and involved regular head counts on the move. You’ll be glad to know, all present and correct.
For lunch we went to a local’s house on rickshaws where we had homemade Chinese food Ed Note; some staff took a bit longer to arrive due to a detour with the American group. We learnt that the house was ancient and that the residents of the home had passed an artist skill down over the generations. The art of painting bottles from the inside (clean and intricate) and even gifted one to Queen Elizabeth II.
Next we travelled by rickshaws once again but to a tea place. There was tension between the rickshaw drivers, who were eager to pass each other. We indulged in the aroma and scent of each unique flavor of tea (expensive). We all enjoyed most of the tea.
Next we ventured towards the shopping mall. Everything was fake. Gary gave us a tip on bartering that we start low, don’t budge in price and walk away if necessary. So we each made a rule that we could only buy items for 10 yuan. We made a lot of store managers furious with our vigorous attempt at bargaining. Some we made a good deal with, others shouted some gibberish we didn’t understand and sent us away.
Most importantly, today we had to say goodbye to our amazing tour guide Gary (Wu Jian Feng). He led us through the Beijing train station and down on to the platform for the final time. As we stepped on to the train everyone said their goodbyes and as he stepped off the train, the whole of the carriage chanted his name.
Gary later replaced the picture of Mao at Tiananmen Square and became the president of China and the world was united under his smile (if only).
Written by Zac B, John Y and Jay D
Ed Note; another fantastic day, the sun was shining and we are all a little bit tender this evening on the train to Xi’an. Gary was a star again and we look forward to meeting our new guide tomorrow morning in Xi’an. We hope you have all put your clocks forward. At least we’ve not lost any sleep yet.