It was great to land in Beijing! On the bus to the restaurant, we were offered a beer brewed in Beijing; there are quite a few breweries in China, and evidently no open container liquor laws. Our tour guide “Brad” graduated in tourism from the Beijing Tourism Institution and touted the city’s major renovation spurred on by winning the opportunity to host the Olympics.
Surprisingly, the highrises, art and creative building lighting reminded me a lot of Las Vegas and the broad boulevards of Paris. We were taken to an exceptional restaurant, Yi He, and much to our delight, the food kept coming. After 15 courses we had consumed delicious duck, beef, pork, chicken, fish, shrimp, rice, numerous vegetables and fruit. We won’t be losing weight on this trip!
Next it was on to the five star-rated China World Hotel, next to the World Trade Center, built to house and entertain the dignitaries at the Olympics. One of the things that struck me was the cutting-edge technology in the hotel room. Guests use an electronic key card to operate the lights, ensuring that they aren’t left on when you leave.
After an amazing breakfast, we headed to a business meeting presented by the International Trade Administration, and then it was on to Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the world. They were having the People’s Congress, and due to security, the Square was closed. Even from a distance, though, it was an incredible sight. We walked across the street to the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, home of 24 emperors with a total space of 9,999 rooms. Dragons are a symbol of strength and power and were everywhere. The more dragons on the rooftops of buildings showed the importance of the building. It was truly magnificent.
Then we were in for a treat with a tour of a Hutong by rickshaw to see the old Beijing. A Hutong is a true community, with families living in close quarters separated by courtyards. They enjoy knowing their neighbors and some families have lived there for generations. The Hutong we visited is one of the last; many have been replaced by high-rise apartments, and families were relocated. We had the opportunity to have lunch with a local family whose family members had lived there for over 150 years. Our host cooked for 22 people in a small kitchen on the other side of her courtyard. The food and company were excellent.
Next we visited a pearl factory and walked to the Summer Palace, known for the Long Corridor with a painted gallery, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, Seventeen- Arch Bridge and Marble Boat. If the trees and flowers had been in bloom it would have been beautiful Regardless, the buildings were true works of art. We then went to a very famous restaurant, Quan Ju De for duck cooked as many ways as you can imagine, including roasted Beijing duck.
Tomorrow we visit the Temple of Heaven, built in 1420 A.D., where the emperors prayed to heaven for a good harvest. We’ll take a tour bus excursion to the Great Wall, the 4,000-mile long and 2,000-year-old construction is said to be the only man-made structure visible by the naked eye from the moon. Also on the agenda: a visit to a Jade Factory and the Ming Tombs, one of which is fully excavated and open for exploration. We finish the day with a business dinner with distinguished guests.
If you go to China, here are a few tips:
— As soon as you get on the plane, change your watch to the time of your destination. It really helps with jet lag.
— Wear comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking and wear layers, the weather fluctuates a lot.
— If you would like an adult beverage with dinner, beer is plentiful but it is hard to get a good glass of wine,
— Carry your passport with you as you visit the sights, you want to show if stopped that you are legally in the country.
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