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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Friday, 05 May 2006

Location: Korea (South)

MapGot up bright and early this morning to make my to Tian'nammen Square. It was going to be a busy day. I took a quick shower and had a quick bite to eat and I was on my way at 7 am. The taxi dropped me off in front of Tian'nammen Square (by the way, taxis are very cheap and I took them everywhere). I arrived. The first thing on my agenda was to go into the mausoleum to see President Mao Zedong's body. He was the president of China for quite a few years (I can't remember how long exactly but he facilitated the people's revolution) and died in 1976.

You're not allowed to bring your bags and camera into the mausoleum, so I was looking for the drop-off point. This one guy (who I thought was part of the staff because there are so many guards and people in uniform) showed me where it was. Of course, I had to walk all the way back to where I entered the mausoleum area. This guy proceeds to tell me that he wants 100 RMB (about $10 Cdn). He says, "no pay, no go see Mao!" Long story short, I knew he was just trying to rip me off because if I had to pay anything it would be at a ticket booth. However, this turned into kind of a shouting match with the guy holding my arm. I finally pushed him away and told him "bye-bye!" He didn't follow me but he was still yelling at me. So to anyone going here, watch out for these guys.

Moving on, the lineup into the mausoleum is longer than any lineup I've ever seen, as it goes all the way around the mausoleum, and this is a big building. But it moved pretty fast, I'd say about 40 minutes (wasn't really paying attention to time as I was enjoying the atmosphere/scenery). Finally I was into see the body. First you enter this room with a huge white marble statue of Mao, and everyone puts roses there. Then you proceed to a back room called the Hall of Last Respects; this is where Mao's body is. I'm not quite sure what to think, a body that's been dead for 30 years now. You can only see his head and upper body; the rest is covered. His faced looked as if he just recently died. I couldn't help but think "you know, they can do amazing things with wax" (for anyone who's ever been to a wax museum). Then again, science can do amazing things and I'll leave it at that. In any case, I was standing in front of the body of a person who began the People's Revolution in China. Obviously, I don't have pictures because no cameras allowed.

So I made my way out of the mausoleum. It was time to get a coffee as I hadn't had one yet, so I went to MacDonald's and got one there. Then I started heading to Tian'nammen Square (the mausoleum is just outside the Square). As I got closer, I could see the big picture of Mao hanging above the entrance. You've probably seen this on tv. I was about to enter the place where they had the People's Revolution (this is what Tian'nammen is famous for). I just kind of had to stare for a bit as I couldn't believe I was here. So I went inside. It's nothing special really, but to think of what happened here is what makes it exciting. It was so busy with people. I made my way to the Forbidden City, where the emperors and empresses from the Ming and the Qing dynasties lived. It's called Forbidden City because only the royals, concubines, servants, and those associated officially with the royals were allowed inside. I rented an audio guide. A lady speaks to you as you're walking and explains the significance of the buildings. This place is huge! And it is everything you'd expect about Chinese palaces. Yellow roofs, buildings red, with amazing decorative architecture. You'll see decorative dragons and phoenixes everywhere here as the dragon was the emperor's symbol and the pheonix was the empress's symbol. You could also see the thrones inside the palaces and some of the rooms were decorated as they had been at the time of the dynasties. I also saw the Imperial Garden. This place was so beautiful. This place was so busy too, and there were people pushing and shoving when you tried to look into the buildings (you can't go inside). Note to anyone going here, try not to go on a holiday. It was a holiday week in China, so everyone was off work and that made it busier than usual.

The weather was beautiful that day. I'm glad I didn't go midsummer. I exited the north side of the Forbidden City. It was hard to believe I was in this place. And it is different than the Korean palaces that I've seen. It was now 3 o'clock pm and I was doing ok for time. I had to meet Brian at 6 pm, so I thought I'd head to the Silk Market and try my hand at bargaining.

When I arrived at the Silk Market, I sat and had a coffee and rested before I went in. I sat with these people from Ireland who were visiting China for their son's wedding. They were nice people who gave me a few tips on bargaining. I finally went in and stopped at one of the first shops. Needed some clothes for work, so I tried bargaining immediately. This was fun! I got the first one down to 1/3 of her original price. I had to do more. You can't get upset with this kind of thing, it's fun. The store clerks have just as much fun as it's like a big game. One can't go to Beijing without trying bargaining. After I bought what I wanted (and I could have bought more if time allowed) I went to get a snack and a beer and then headed back to Brian's. We were going to have a night on the town.

We met up with Brian's coworkers and some other people and went for some good German food. Who knew that the first place I'd be trying lamb would be China? I had lamb with veggies and a side of mashed potatoes. It was delicious. We then hit some local pubs to check out the nightlife. Beijing is quite the scene at night. After a few drinks, we went back to Brian's. Went to bed at about 2:00 am and it was going to be another early one, 6:00 am to get to the Great Wall! It was another great day in Beijing!