With hard sleepers sold out, I opted for the hard seat from Xi’an overnight to Beijing. Wanted to try the comfort of traveling this way to maybe save some cash. The train is the one that runs back and forth from Lhasa to Beijing, so I found many Tibetans piled in my cheapest berth area. The ride was ok, though they leave the nights on all night. I threw my coat and towel down in the aisle and managed a few hours sleep.
Beijing is nice, clean, and easy to get around in. The Para-Olympics are going on and there are info booths everywhere to ask directions. Flowers and newly painted buildings add to the very relaxed attitudes of the Beijing-ites. Where most larger cities I’ve found to be a swarming bustle with people yelling about who knows what, the locals here slowly walk their little dogs or sit outside playing Chinese Chess.
Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City are amazing. The Tian’anmen Gate, or Gate of Heavenly Peace, sports the famous public portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong and serves as the front entrance to the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City was built from 1406 to 1420 and served as the seat of ruling dynasties. Today, the World Heritage Site is home to the Palace Museum.
Don’t forget the Temple of Heaven.
Communist leaders seem to like to preserve themselves for display after their death (or their followers do despite their wishes) and Chairman Mao is no exception. But just like in Hanoi, I was thwarted with short open hours and missed my chance, but I did get a nice red alarm clock with the Chairman waving his hand as the seconds click away.
I was able to couch surf a few days with a great host originally from Spain. Very nice flat and he and his friends are into just the kind of work I’d like to do with artistic projects using new media.
Hiking the Great Wall tomorrow!