When we went to China we were really overwhelmed by the size and scope of its capital city, Beijing (Peking). Although I hope to one day do more exploring of this massive nation, our trip was limited to four days and there really is so much to see in just the one city and surrounding suburbs.
Our first night there we ventured to the red theater for a live kung fu show. WWW.RedTheatre.cn
My love for my favorite animal, the giant panda, had me spending most of a day at the Beijing zoo. This place makes for cheap entertainment and is easily accessible by subway. The zoo is beautifully laid out with excellent landscaping, exotic plants and docile animals. This was the first time (and possibly last time) we got to pet and feed zebras. Unscientifically speaking a zebra is basically a striped donkey. Most of the visitors didn’t pay me any attention, but Caliph caused a bit of a stir as he so often does. At the giraffe exhibit one tourist came right up to Caliph and asked, “Don’t they have those in your native country?”
Caliph laughed, “Yes, we also have them in our zoos.” Embarrassed the tourist just walked away. It is possible Caliph had been mistaken for someone who was from a country where giraffes roam freely in the wild.
In the heart of the city there is the famous Forbidden City with a larger than life portrait of former leader Mao Zedong overlooking Tiananmen Square. Standing in the middle of the square remembering that iconic day in 1989 when an unknown man stood alone in front of tanks, I felt that youthful spirit of the hopes and dreams of a young generation that wanted the benefits of democracy. To this day the square is fenced off and heavily guarded by military. Although Caliph and I were waived in without a second glance other Chinese tourists had to show their identification and submit their bags for further inspection before they could enter.
On a different day we randomly decided to explore the Summer Palace. I can’t really explain how ridiculously gigantic this place is, but suffice it to say that it includes an entire pretend market where the empress could pretend shop without actually leaving the property. Beautiful and breathtaking this is a must see for any visit to China.
On this trip I also did something that I seldom do, I scheduled Caliph and I for a guided group tour as our time was limited and we had to see the Great Wall. The tour began with a tour of a Jade factory where we purchased a small jade family ball and two jade name stamps.
Quickly it was on to the Ming Tombs, a truly fascinating jaunt through history located within 50 miles of Beijing. Our guide was very informative and humorous as she explained the story of the tombs.