Saturday, October 19, 2013

Monday, 10/07/13 Tianjing to Beijing

Monday, 10/07/13 Tianjin to Beijing

Transfer day to the hotel in Beijing -- the Marriott City Wall hotel.  The previous evening, all bags had to be packed and put outside the door by 10:00 p.m. except for carry-on bags, which included my camera and laptop.  After breakfast, the wait to board the bus was not long, and it seemed that the bus would leave early; however, after boarding, the tour guide announced that the bus would be holding at the ship because the freeway leading to Beijing had been closed due to heavy fog.  The bus would hold at the ship until the freeways had been reopened.  The morning was pleasant at the ship, and I waited outside the bus talking with a Canadian man for a while.  After about an hour, the announcement was made that the freeway had been reopened, and the bus proceeded.

The American name of the tour guide was Jason; he gave his Chinese name, which I did not understand.  He spoke with an American accent, and I asked him if he had spent time in America; he said that he had never been outside China, but had an American teacher.  He had studied English in school, and also at a special language school.  He had been a tour guide for eight years, and he said that his wife was also a tour guide.  He talked a lot about himself, his family, China, Chinese policies, and many other things; I thought he was a really great tour guide.  All passengers remained with the same bus and tour guide for the three days in Beijing.

Once on the freeway, new high rise buildings began to appear everywhere.  He said that Tianjin was a “mid-size” city of 14 million people, and it was the main port for Beijing.  He said that many of the new high rise buildings were condos, and that people in China purchased their condos, often taking mortgages for their entire lives, the prices were so high.  He said that the usual size of a condo was about 1000 square feet.  He also said that many new apartment buildings were empty because people could not afford to purchase the apartments.  He said that all land in China is owned by the state, and that land is leased for a period of 70 years.  After that, the lease must be renewed, or the building torn down and the land reclaimed by the state.

After the bus was on the freeway, traffic stopped for half an hour or so due to the back-up from the previous closure.  Eventually, the traffic moved, but slowly.  The terrain to Beijing from Tianjin was flat, as is often the case in coastal areas.  Much of the land was farmland, with sudden groups of high-rise apartment buildings rising out of the countryside; again, Jason said that many of these new buildings were empty.  The highway was beautiful and it seemed to be new, although I am sure that it was there when I last visited Beijing in 2008.

Once in Beijing, the bus went directly to Tiananmen Square for a visit.  Because of the late arrival, the tour stop in Tiananmen Square was brief, but it was sufficient to walk around and take a few photos.  Although the Golden Week holiday was still underway, there were not as many visitors as during my visit in 2008, and the opportunities for interesting photos were fewer.  The children were still cute.  Across the street from Tiananmen Square is the National Art Museum of China, a very large, beautiful building whose title board was inscribed by Mao in 1963.  The building spans an area of 18,000 square meters in five floors and has 17 exhibition halls.

After the visit to Tiananmen Square, the bus stopped for lunch at a nearby hotel -- the typical Chinese lunch with an unending line of dishes being placed on a large Lazy Susan in the center of the table.  I found the sweet and sour to be the most palatable of the dishes.  As the bus traveled through Beijing, it passed many beautiful buildings and important historical sights, such as the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters building; with 54 floors, the unique building reaches a height of 234 meters.  The bus also passed Zhengyangmen or Qianmen Gate House, a historic gate house on the city wall that was first constructed in 1419.  The gate was completely reconstructed in 1914, and it was occupied by the People‘s Liberation Army in 1949.  It has become a major tourist attraction.

After lunch, the bus went to the Forbidden City.  As I followed the tour group through, I thought of the last time I was there, and this time, the place seemed more familiar, even though I had been there only once, and that was five years ago.  I took many of the same photos as before, and this time, I did not feel as much urgency.  I took far fewer photos this time, and the photos were of a more general nature than before.  The Forbidden City is unique and one of the great sights in the world -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One still gets a feeling of awe walking through it.

After the Forbidden City, the bus went directly to the hotel for check-in -- the Marriott City Wall Hotel.  Everyone was given the keys to a room without having to go through the room registration process, and luggage was already in the room upon arrival.  The room was okay, although a bit small, but the bed turned out to be a foam mattress and difficult to sleep on.  Remembering the food illness I got the last time I visited Beijing, I wanted to be cautious this time; the pizza in the restaurant in the hotel turned out to be just fine.  Then early sleep for a full day tomorrow.

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