Funnel cake: it's what's for breakfast
Breakfast: Chinese-ish. Fried dough sticks; rice dumplings; big bowl
of powdered rice; and bowls of hot coffee, hot OJ, hot milk, ... yeah.
And one of the water coolers had hot water.
All the way to 天安门 Tian'anmen Square
Today was a good day: it was sunny! ... well, you couldn't actually
look at the sun through the smog, for once. Although it made it a
little warm, we still took the walk through the largest public square
in the world. Huzzah! There were a couple Disney World-esque
displays, both in size and style: a large (20' tall) Beijing 2008
Olympics logo, slowly rotating; a "cycling circuit" with the stick-man
cyclers biking up towards a peak; and another one currently under
construction. They were lifting the flowers in.
The square also has a few monuments and statues. Mostly it's just a
big open space. Really, really big, and open. Also, empty.
Unfortunately, it was pretty sparsely populated when we came through.
Who was populating it, though, was the USA women's soccer team!
So we got a buncha cool pictures with them and ended up walking with
them on route to the Forbidden City.
Beyond the square is the entrance to the Forbidden City. To enter,
you pass under a giant portrait of Mao Zedong. Rockin' it old school,
Forbidden City: Tourist Zone 1
The Forbidden City has a pretty epic entrance onto several imperial buildings, which all have various imperial uses. We just kept walking
through doors and seeing the same thing: big courtyard, big building,
lots of red roofs and blue-green detailing. Each door we walked
through was covered in large brass studs, nine to a row; nines
represent the emperor. So, it was good luck to touch the studs.
The City is indeed a city. It centered around the emperor, with all
of his servants, military, etc. all living in this one imperial city.
Now it's a good tourist spot. At one of the little tourist shops, we
it was steaming hot. Seriously, our waterbottles were a hunk of ice
with a little water. Also, a cold bottle of sweetened green tea cost
less than water.
Beyond all the big stone and painted wood buildings is hidden a large
garden, where the emperor, empresses, and concubines "amused
themselves" -- no lie, that's what said the sign. It was definitely
Secret Garden-style, with lots of old, twisted cypress trees and
curious rock formations.
Although we saw neither emperor, empress, nor concubine, we did see
two Chinese kids with mini javelins sparring in a moat. They kept
chasing each other around while the Americans cheered them on and gave
well-intentioned advice -- in English.
We dropped by some restaurant which had good food, real good food;
also, good service. However, we were limited to one glass of water
per person, to the Americans' chagrin. Barlow taught us "很好 (hen
hao)" so that we might properly express our pleasure with the
restaurant to Hao 先生, our tour director. He has good taste in
restaurants, and we want to acknowledge that from an American
perspective. The restaurant is actually part of a hotel and they have
a nice courtyard / tea room behind the restaurant with interesting
things for sale, including a variety of opera masks. The Beijing
Opera masks are pretty fearsome, one of the very stereotypically
antique Chinese items.
A stroll in the park
We visited 北海 (Beihei) Park, which was beautiful! On a river; there
Then, a short walk to another park, Jianshang Bird's-Eye-View Park,
where we walked the path up a "small hill" (maybe 5-6 stories' walk)
to a lookout structure atop the hill whence you could see the entirety
of the Forbidden City. Well, maybe if the city weren't so smoggy.
Home again, home again, too-la-rah-doo.
Dinner at the hotel was nothing unusual; another plates of various
dishes, some vegetables, and fish balls. Think meatballs, but with
fish meat (and less gristle and spices). Also, there was Coke as