After the debacle at breakfast with the concrete buns yesterday, we decided to try a savoury omelette. OMG – so delicious! All our had was a flat, round hotplate and he layered everything up, along with some crunchy flat noodles to provide some crunch. Lots of spring onions… mmm mmm!
I couldn’t help but notice the curved scar on the man’s cheek. It looked like a half-circle with lines drawn across it, as though he’d cut himself when he was young and whoever tried to fix it by sewing the flaps of skin together wasn’t trained as a plastic surgeon Once we’d finished we continued walking down the street to the station. Today we’d finish the quest we started yesterday – we’d ‘do’ Tiananmen Square and see Mao’s mausoleum.
This time we chose the other station but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Queues, queues everywhere, but at least we’d made it across the road and we were now able to amble across the Square.
Here is the Square. Not all that exciting, to be honest, but seeing as how the last time this Square was really, really interesting I suppose that’s just as well. This is the view with my back to the Forbidden City, just over the road, facing Mao’s mausoleum.
To Australian eyes, there’s a lot of soldiers around the place. Fair enough, they’re guarding national monuments and there’s an army base a stone’s throw away, but when we were walking around yesterday and today there were lots of military, either at checkpoints are marching around the streets. These guys were doing a ceremonial ‘changing of the guard’ thing at the flagpole.
The first thing we wanted to tick off was to see Chairman Mao. We first had to go and check our bags over the road, where we saw police lose their marbles over people who hopped out of their car at the crossing and attempted to blend in with the rest of us. They hadn’t gone through a checkpoint, so the police weren’t happy.
The people here have bought single yellow flowers wrapped in cellophane and are going to lay them at the feet of the statue of Mao that was in the first room. I hope they recycle them, because the waste would be enormous.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was a little strange. We walked into the first room where a massive statue of Chairman Mao was smiling. People raced forward and placed their flowers on a HUGE pile in front of him and bowed 3 times. Those of us who hadn’t bought flowers proceeded to the next room, which was where Mao’s body lay. It looked like a waxwork effigy but that’s probably not correct. In stark contrast to what we’d experience a week later, we were raced through the room. The crowd was in single file, we were made to walk at a steady pace by a soldier standing at the corner of the display, so we all had a quick look at the body and before we knew it we were out. It was all very quiet, but quick.
Those of you who have read my Europe and UK posts in July and August 2015 know that my friend Scott put me onto the idea of buying Christmas tree decorations as souvenirs. Here’s my Chairman Mao one. Helen and Rick are going to come to my place at Christmas to see my EPIC tree. We’ll drink soju and sing merry songs. It’ll be a great night.
There’s a lot of people in Beijing. Here’s the crowd we encountered on the way to a shoe shop.
I forgot to pack some formal shoes to visit the Palace of the Sun in North Korea, where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are lying in state. Apparently, you need to be far more formal than in the one we’d just left, so I bought these children’s shoes rather than wear runners.
We then went out to a more suburban area to meet up with Matt, Helen’s son. He’ll be our European guide in North Korea and when he’s not working he’s based in Beijing. This worked out really well for us because he took us to lots of places we’d never have found on our own.
Such as the Artists’ Quarter. Helen was keen to see the exhibitions here, so we spent the afternoon wandering around here.
This is a section of the city that has been reclaimed by the artists. Big old warehouses with excellent light are slowly being turned into studios and galleries.
I love the happiness of this one.
The BEST exhibition was the one devoted to dogs.
Of course, the dachshund ones caught my eye! Not too many spaniel exhibits, which was a bit sad.
I was tempted to get this bag but decided against it.
I took this photo for my muso sons.
This was a gallery and workspace in a newer section of the quarter. Look at how the walls bow in and out like waves. It was really beautiful.
Rick is a civil engineer, so that, combined with being a boy, meant that he notices things like infrastructure much more readily than I do. He made a comment about the wiring. It was pretty free-form when you stop to look at it.
Before dinner, Matt took us to a street called Wangfujing in the centre of Beijing to have a look at the more traditional street food. It was PACKED and we had to make a concentrated effort to stay together. We feasted on lamb skewers and roast ears of corn, but there were other things on offer, such as whole roasted baby pigeons (beaks and all), tarantula legs and these:
Scorpion skewers. The scorpions were still moving. I declined, but I’ve since heard that after they’re deep-fried, they’re crunchy and don’t taste like anything much.
All very festive looking. We searched for a restaurant that would give us an authentic Chinese meal, but the one we chose had items on the menu that I simply HAD to share with you:
We ordered this one and this is what it actually looks like:
It was really tasty.
Then we wandered home after we went to a bar for another cheap cocktail. It’s so different to home. We walked down what seemed like a maze of tiny alleyways with what seems like an abundant array for public toilets. Lots of the old hutongs don’t have toilets, so the neighborhood needs lots of facilities. Matt says the lanes are quite safe, though I wouldn’t want to be walking down them by myself… Lots of red doors, grey walls and paving, then Matt, after a few false starts and backtracking, flings open a door and voila! Warmth, light, and the buzz of people and alcohol. You’d never know it was there. Apparently, it’s hard to keep track because bars and restaurants are constantly shutting down and starting up. It’s an ever-changing scene.
We had a relatively early night to be ready for our meeting tomorrow to meet up with the tour group for North Korea.
DPRK – here we come!