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The flight to Beijing was well under two hours, and I'm really glad I got through customs painlessly.  That was nice consolation for the four trips I had to make to the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan just to get my tourist visa in early December.  Even the train ride into town and to my hotel went smoothly and didn't seem as long as advertised on Google Maps.

After checking in to my hotel room and connecting to Wi-Fi, I noticed that Facebook and Google aren't loading on my laptop and my smartphone.  Very interesting this Great Firewall the country's got going..."annoying" is more like it.  If you're on a laptop here in mainland China, it looks like is a decent alternative to Google Maps.

January 22, 2018

"No laundromats in the entire city?!"

My digs in Beijing.  It looks swanky, but the place was probably built over 30 years ago.

Another typically clean subway station with a set of doors and glass walls separating you from the tracks.

Lucky for me that the subway signs are written in English in addition to Chinese.

January 23, 2018

"Lack of egress keeps the place forbidden."

Well, I washed clothes in my bathroom last night, which wasn't so terrible, I suppose.  And with it being dry here in the middle of winter, my threads were ready to go by morning.


My wrinkled fingertips and I walked southwest from the hotel this morning to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  It's difficult describing how large this area is.  Anyhow, approaching the Forbidden City from the east or west eventually takes you through metal detectors and leads you to the main entrance of the city marked a portrait of Mao Zedong.  If you decide to enter the city and view the Palace Museum, you'll need your passport; Chinese Nationals need to present their residency card when for entry to the main gate as well as to the Palace Museum deep inside the city.

I walked around the grounds pretty thoroughly; there's a park on the west side of the grounds with a small entry fee of $0.50.  I didn't go into the Palace Museum because I didn't have my passport with me, and the wait to enter the museum was about an hour.  I might try to go back later in a day or two.

One really annoying thing about the compound is that there seemed to be only one exit, and that was to the east not far north from the main entrance.  You end up walking along the eastern moat some.  Maybe this how the folks who enter the Palace Museum also exit.  All I know is it was kind of annoying trying to find the place; if there hadn't been a map, near the entrance, I would've had to ask a security guard or police officer taking my chances that my translator app wouldn't spit out anything insulting.

Luckily, my hotel is east of the Forbidden City, so I had to head in that direction, anyway.  I breathed a sigh of relief once I started seeing shops, restaurants and traffic lights.  I didn't take that close a look behind me when I exited, but it seems like people could enter the compound from there and not have to go through any metal detectors, but I'm probably mistaken.

The main entrance to the Forbidden City.  I couldn't take a single photo to capture the enormous scope of the area which includes Tiananmen Square across the street.

Some interesting history of the Palace Museum; I only walked through the outer grounds as well as the park on the west side of the complex.

Of course, the map of the grounds doesn't depict the enormity of the place.

View of one of the structures lying along the eastern wall.

The moat surrounding the property was frozen.  I guess invaders 500 years ago needed to wear skates if they planned an attack during winter.

A late lunch in a good Chinese joint that I stumbled upon while walking back to my hotel.  Did I eat all that food?  Maybe...

January 24, 2018

"Why isn't it called 'Beijing duck?'"

I walked about three miles east towards the financial center to the Rosewood Hotel for a wonderful lunch at their restaurant, Country Kitchen.  Just before heading out there, I got help from the concierge to procure a car and driver tomorrow for a 90-minute drive to the Great Wall.  I wasn't sure which tour to join based on a couple of websites I checked out.  The concierge felt a private tour with an English-speaking guide wasn't necessary, and I concurred; I'm most interested in the scenery and magnitude of the place.

January 27, 2018

"So long, farewell, 直到我们再次会晤, goodbye!"

It was off to Beijing International this morning for my 1:30 PM flight to Shanghai.  I got to the airport nice and early.  Unfortunately, the flight was delayed four hours due to weather at the destination.

Take care, Beijing!  I'm happy knowing I have a feeling I'll see you, again!

January 25, 2018

"Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!"

I met up with my driver at 8:30 at the hotel for the trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall about 45 miles northeast of Beijing.  Once we were able to get past rush hour traffic, it was a pretty quick ride to the tourist attraction.  The car and driver cost 1,000 Yuan ($150) for round-trip transportation.  That might be steep for one person, but I really didn't know how to get there, otherwise.  The ride was a nice sedan, and if four people were to use this service, I think it definitely becomes an affordable and convenient option.

Once at the main entrance to the Wall, there were charges for (1) the short round-trip bus ride to the base of the mountain, (2) the cable car to get you to the Wall, and (3) entry into the park.  You might've been able to bypass the bus ride, and you could definitely skip the cable car.  But, you'd then be left with maybe an hour's very steep climb to the entrance.  Of course, lining the walkway to the bus station were souvenir shops selling kitsch as well as gloves and scarves which would've come in handy on a freezing day like today.  There was a Burger King, a Subway farther up, and some places advertising authentic Beijing cuisine, with many signs in English.

I'm sure the scenery is most picturesque in the summer when the mountains are covered in beautiful, green foliage.  That I went here in the dead of winter was OK for me, however, as there weren't any crowds to speak of at the bus, cable car, or anywhere along the Wall.

After getting off the bus, there was still a short, though pretty steep, walk to the cable cars.  The incline mixed with the cold, clean air sure felt refreshing...once I caught my breath.

I didn't walk very far in either direction since the scenery wouldn't have changed, but even the miles-long section you're able to view of the structure from this tourist area doesn't help you comprehend the over 3,000 miles of wall that exist.  It's breathtaking, and I certainly recommend a visit to one of its sections when you're in Beijing, maybe during milder weather.

Cable car up to the Great Wall.

View from cable car.

Dedication of Mutianyu Great Wall.

View of the mountains in the northwest.

January 26, 2018

"Because you're mine, I wok the line."

Well, today was my last full day in Beijing.  I went back to Country Kitchen for another fantastic lunch.  From there, I headed to Ritan Park to see the Temple of the Sun, but like many things in these city parks, it was closed off!  I also took a few pictures of this skyscraper that looks almost complete in the financial looking building.  I then returned to Tiananmen Square for photos from the south of the Forbidden City entrance.  The sun was setting, so a few of the pictures are dark, unfortunately.

I went to a seafood joint for dinner near the hotel and factoring expectations and decor, I'd have to say the food came up very short.

Some of the staff at Country Kitchen in charge of prepping noodles, raw bar, steamed buns, finishing parcooked duck...all that stuff.

Fresh chili peppers in the pestle.

Not sure the name of this new skyscraper being built, but it looks to be the tallest building in the city.

A mural in the center of Ritan Park.  The Temple of the Sun was closed off, so I don't really know what it looks like.

The National Museum on the eastern end of Tiananmen Square.

One more shot of the Forbidden City.  Wish I could've gotten elevated some.

On the tarmac at Beijing International Airport...we were delayed four hours due to snow and freezing rain in Shanghai.

What the heck?!  I thought a communist regime censored this kind of thing! says, "I love Beijing...."

My last meal in Beijing: roast pork w/pickled cucumbers & fungus.  Again, what these food courts prepare in shopping malls and airports I still find nothing short of amazing.

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