04.08.2014 - 05.08.2014 36 °C
Well, it is our last day in China so I thought I would send one last post.
Yesterday we did the "slow, long march" to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was slow because of the tens of thousands of the people and long because the Forbidden City is about two kilometres in length.
First, let me tell you about the people, this is the Mecca for Chinese. Even though Mao Tse Tung had many, many shortcomings he is still revered in China. People line up for two to four hours to see his body which is raised from a freezer every morning and lowered back down in the evening. Our guide estimated that there was about 20,000 people there in line yesterday. On May Day that number jumps to about 40,000. Tienanmen Square can hold one million people at a time.
Words can't describe the hordes of people. Our most exciting moment today is when a pickpocketer was discovered and three others exacted their own punishment while waiting for the police. There was hits, slaps and the occasional kick to the groin. I think that guy picked the wrong pocket......no pictures as this is very frowned upon. Also security for the locals is very strong as people have been known to set themselves on fire in protest and what better place than Tiananmen Square to do that.
We were treated to some very frank and honest commentary from our guide, Iowa, as he was one of the students who protested in the square in 1989. He was 18 and in high school at the time. He was also very open about Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Very insightful which is one of the reasons we travel, right?
The Forbidden City was not what I expected. First, I didn't realized how large it was. But then if you have 3.000 concubines you need some room. That is why emperors didn't live too long either! 13 emperors have lived in the Forbidden City, the latest in the early 1900s. We are excited to come home to rewatch The Last Emperor which is, according to Iowa, very accurate and filmed on site.
The city goes on and on, with many temples and buildings. The area is devoid of trees until you reach the Imperial Garden which was stunningly beautiful and serene, even though there were thousands of people. I forgot to mention that we were treated with the bluest of skies this morning, something we haven't seen the entire trip.
After that we had a quick stop to see the Pandas as we missed that in Chongqing because of the weather. It was midday and hot so they were a little sluggish. Wait till you see the pictures. My only excitement was seeing the information on the Calgary Olympic panda visit in 1988. I will be happy to see them at the Calgary Zoo in 2016.
Our last excursion was our own trip to the Silk Market in the afternoon for some last minute shopping. This is a 7 level mall that offers everything and boy can these guys sell. Everyone has the same line, do you want to buy........I think the Bay could take a few tips on how to serve the customer. Bartering is easy because if you don't like the price go to the next shop as they have the same stuff. Another crazy, hair raising taxi trip and we are back at the hotel.
For our final night we experienced the Beijing Opera. It was interesting to say the least. The actors apply their makeup on the stage in advance of the show. There was three acts, the first a martial arts/mime presentation. Great costumes and action. The second and third were this weird operetta presentations where all the parts are played by men. There are English subtitles on the side of the stage. Odd, interesting and totally locally authentic would be the best description!
Our trip is almost over. Our luggage has grown with all our treasures purchased over the past two weeks. We have made some new friends, some who want to visit Calgary and Banff. It has been a once in a lifetime, bucket list type of trip. The history and culture are very strong. The capitalistic spirit is alive and well in China. Yes, they need to work of their environmental and population issues. The people are China's biggest asset. We loved smiling, talking and taking pictures of the children and adults. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. With the exception of one highway accident everything went like clockwork. Thank you China, xie, xie. We will take home fond memories!