Tai Chi, Summer Palace and the opera

Tai Chi, Summer Palace and the opera
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Started the day at the Temple of Heaven about a mile south of Tianamen Square. It’s worth a visit as in the morning you’ll see a host of locals doing their own thing; Tai Chi, group singing, ballroom dancing or walking their caged birds or playing checkers. Elly and I skipped the temple and hung out with the folks in the park. Elly tried her hand at Tai Chi Ball which is a bit like trying to keep a ball stationary on a tennis racquet as you perform a number of Tai Chi moves. Harder than it looks but she did pretty well. The ballroom dancing classes were fabulous with young and old waltzing to some very distorted classical Chinese music. We had lunch on the way to the Summer Palce at a Szechuan resturant favoured by Deng Xiaoping. Even Ted Heath had a meal with the old reformer here. Note respectful entry concerning former Chinese leader and fathers of modernisation. The Summer Palace was dreadful. I’m sure it would be gorgious on a spring morning when 300,000 people didn’t have a similar idea. In short it could be beautiful but as all Elly and I saw was the backs of young Chinese holidays makers so I have no idea. For dinner we went to the Beijing Opera. What can I say? The singing was hilarious (high pitched, screeching, incomprehensible) but then Wagner isn’t so different. Quite fun as Elly and I were in juvanile hysterics at the subtitles. The English was eccletic. So first impressions of Beijing? Very modern, buzzing with the count down to the Olympics, clean, affluent and confident. I’d love to come back and spend some time looking beneith the surface. This vast, massively populated city has a real buzz.


Workers of the world unite, it’s your day off

Workers of the world unite, it's your day off
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Off at 8.30 for Tianamen Square. Fractionally less people but as a tip never visit China in the first week of May. Everyone is on holiday and they all want to visit the Forbidden City The Forbidden City was stunning except for the heat and the crowds. Yesterday they had 435,000 visitors, today more. Also much of it was being refurbished for the Olympics which wasn’t too good. After a quick lunch off to do a tour of the Hutongs – a bit sanitised but worth the detour as they say in the Michelin guide. Then for some reason onto Madame Sun Yat Sen’s garden. Don’t bother unless you have a very low bordom threshold. Very dull. Then with aching limbs off to the bell tower and a cup of jasmine tea. The tea being far more interesting than the tower. These organised tours tend to favour quantity over quality and I would have been happier spending the afternoon wandering the back streets with a camera. But I can not stress enough do NOT visit Beijing between 1st-7th May as the number of domestic tourists is simply staggering.


First impressions of Beijing

First impressions of Beijing
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Heathrow was pretty painless but BA seem to be on another of their mad cost cutting regimes. Their latest is measuring carry on bags. I was carrying a backpack but was some how exluded. A good 10 hour flight to Beijing and then we met up with our fellow tour members. Not a bad bunch but it’s early days. Staying at the Nikko New Century Hotel. Not a bad 4* hotel in the business district. It’s the May Day holiday here so traffic is blissfully quiet. Well relatively blissfully quiet. While Elly had a nap I decided to head off to Tianamen Square. It was heaving. Hard to estimate numbers but must be over 100,000 and all photographing their families in front of the Great Hall of the People or the Mao painting at the Forbidden City. Then headed back to buy some cheap water from the local Carrefour. An insane experience but wonderful. It was a supermarket but not like we know it Jim. Cheap but an amazing range of products. Colgate or pork intestine, wood mushrooms or live eels. Then back for a well overdue sleep.