Day two in Beijing involved our family making a spirited attempt and finding places to eat inter sped with random touristy activities. With our hotel being “only down the road” and “a quick walk” from/to Tiananmen Square we awoke on this fateful morning with this plan firmly in mind – we would attain eats and then make the quick jaunt down there and then on to the shops for lunch. FANTASTIC IDEA. Unfortunately, a “quick walk” in Beijing is the equivalent of around 5 kilometres. Which is a bloody long walk for us untamed lazy suburbites who enjoy the luxury of car mobilisation.
I any case, after consuming a classicially Chinese breakfast, we made out way out to Tiananmen Square and hence, Qianmen, directly translated as “Front Gate” (this gate is formally known as Zhengyangmen, “gate of the zenith Sun”) – this large hulking figure was built in the Ming Dynasty and once consisted of the gatehouse proper and an archery tower – At 42 metres high, the Zhengyangmen gatehouse was, and remains, the tallest of all gates in Beijing’s city wall and is by far an impressive site to see. Just from walking about in this are, you really get a scope of proportions in China – NOTHING IS MADE SMALL. NOTHING.
We also purchased tickets to have a little peek inside the newly renovated gate and were overpowered by the smell of new lacquer and extremely steep steps – but the view alone was well worth the minature trek. There was also a nice spot to relax on the upper decks where we took the opportunity to take a breather.
The top level of this gate holds a massive room filled to brimming with various charms with wishes and prayers written on them – unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures in the space – it was truly amazing, the sheer number of red-threaded wooden plaques that were hung up all around us.
There are a lot of carts like these and pedlars selling their wares – usually Communist star caps and various patriotic merchandise – it got so hot that I dearly wanted to purchase a slice of this melon, but my mother, very abruptly, stopped me. I hindsight, that was probably a bad idea on my part.
A public phone “booth”.
After taking in our full of touristy gate-looking, we decided it was well-worth a visit to some shops – and to experience first-hand extreme shopping. After taking a very cheap trip out the closest shops via bus (to be honest, I have no idea where we went, I was following the guidance of my father at this stage) – we found ourselves on a massive street lined with shops – mostly international brands – and all with the massive mark-ups expected of imported goods. As we wandered the aisles, we had to wonder what was up with the pricing, and why were people still so eager to buy when the prices were clearly inflated? Suffice to say, I bought not a thing except food (lots of it). My sister, however, purchased a sweater – which, even I have to admit, was quite cute, although pricey at AUD $45.
A cranberry thirst quencher after a long bought of exploring the department stores and consuming ramen.
The city truly lights up at night – and as we were walking back from the bus stop later that night and peering out of our hotel window, we received a wonderful display of lights – the night was superbly clear and we would see all the way out to the square and Front Gate.