In the Spring of 1991, my childhood friend, Cheryl met me in Hong Kong, where she spent the last of my three week business trip with me, and from there, we began our China adventure to the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and the ancient capital, Xian. I kept a very detailed journal from start to finish of my awesome journey, nearly twenty-five years ago, and decided this would make a great travel series for Travelin' Cousins. Over the course of the next two months, I will post chronological segments of my journal on my respective Throwback Thursdays. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed re-living my trip! - Elisa
Our day started off very early - 6:30AM. We had a lot to do before we set out. You see Cheryl and I had a major problem with storage for our purchases - no where to keep them. Perhaps we did a bit too much shopping. Ya think??
First, we couldn't get our suit cases shut and then we realized we had way too many boxes and bags and needed duffle bags in which to keep it all. So we were panicking.
The hotel lost another 1/2 star (you may remember that Cheryl was deducting half a star anytime the hotel(s) on this trip did not meet up to our standards), since Cheryl didn't have a spoon at breakfast.
All of our luggage was put on the bus after we finally managed to stuff many of our souvenirs into shopping bags and check out. We had to settle up our bill since we racked up an additional Y910.00 (about $150) from room service and laundry. Additionally, I was even more pissed off since the bell boy lost my book about Pu Wi ("The Last Emperor"). Thankfully, I managed to find the book at the Beijing Airport for $3.86 later in the day.
Our tour guide Harry told us how terrible this place looked after this awful event - bloodstained for many months. He pointed out the many gun shot marks all around the square as well.
From here, we were led into Chairman Mao Memorial Hall - across the square.
Within this building, the body of Mao Tse Tung is housed, and the atmosphere is very somber and respectful. Photographs were not allowed inside. As you enter, there is a huge, imposing statue of Mao sitting in a chair. The tourist lines go to either side of the tomb forming two semi-circles around the statue and leaning into another room where Mao's glass tomb holds his remains. The line moved very quickly, however, it was a bit eerie to see him lying there.
This was the only time we saw the Chinese lined up orderly and dead quiet.
We snapped some photos of the Great Hall of the People and the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, which all surrounded Tian An Men Square, though it was not on our itinerary to go in to any of them, which I'm sure would have been very interesting.
Tian An Men is just south of the Palace Museum, and north of the Square is the Ming Dynasty "Postrum of Tian An Men" which means Gate of Heavenly Peace and it is here that an enormous portrait of Mao Tse Tung hangs.
From this vantage point you can see the Golden roofs of the Palace and the Square which is called the Heart of China. It is here that Mao declared the founding of The People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
This entire area was enclosed during the Ming and Qing eras. It was originally enclosed by a large wall, which was destroyed during the 1911 Revolution. A large Red wall still stands bearing the Mao portrait, which we did not go beyond. Back in the time of the dynasties, commoners were not permitted in this area, except if they were to be executed.
After leaving Tian An Men, we made a pit stop at the "cleanest" public bathroom (according to Harry, our tour guide). It cost Y.20 and as you entered, there was a worker who would hand each person a small square of toilet paper, that was more like cray paper then the kind of toilet tissue to which we are accustomed. Honestly, I have never been in a worse smelling bathroom in my whole life. It was gross. I hate to see the dirty public bathrooms.
This is the location where the Emperor prayed for good harvest, for guidance and the atonement of the people's sins. The south building is where he went the third week of the year to pray for good harvest. Animal sacrifices were made to the gods and the previous emperors. There were ovens for barbecuing the animals and after the sacrifices, the emperor would stand beside the ovens where the animals were burned completely. This particular building was built in the 1500's.
The conical building was the place that the emperor went at the end of the year to give a sort of "annual report" to the gods. The center of the building was made in such a way that it enabled an echo when someone spoke loudly. At the south area, the wall that encircles the building carries voices from one side to the other when spoken into. We tried this out and it really is true!!
Stay tuned for Part 11 in two weeks: Farewell Beijing - Hello Xi'an