One of the ‘things’ to do in Beijing is see Mao’s body. It was embalmed in 1946 and is publicly displayed every morning. The lines are long, so it’s recommended to be up and waiting before the sun comes up. Being the good tourists that we are, we were walking towards Tainanmen Square, where his body is, before the sun came up. It was especially cold this day and we were having a hard time finding the entrance. We were following swarms and swarms of people, assuming they were all headed the same direction. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of the Forbidden City, which sits right by Tainanmen Square. We were cold, and I was grumpy, so we found a café to warm up and made a collective decision to forego seeing Mao’s body. After all, it’s an embalmed body, how could interesting could it be?!
The Forbidden City is where the former emperors used to live. It’s expansive with several buildings, consisting of over 8,000 rooms. While it was interesting to see, most of it is not actively being used, so we were able to see it quicker than most would recommend. We’ve been told we are very, very fast tourists 😉
Immediately outside of the Forbidden City was a restaurant with an English menu. The translations at restaurants were always entertaining. There were items such as “Pimple Soup” and “Fried Enema.” Obviously, the translations were not quite correct, but to be safe, we always chose very clear choices such as “Chicken” or “Pork.”
On our last day, we revisited some of our favorite places. We went back to the very first café we visited. We also had hot pot for dinner. But my favorite part of the day was finally finding the replica of the Friends café. I had done some more research after we couldn’t find it the first day. It was on the 6th floor of the office building and was such a fun place. It was very well done and very much looked like the Central Perk café from the TV series. And it was a great place for pictures!
Our time in Beijing had come to an end. I learned a lot on this trip. It was my first exposure to a communist country. Facebook is blocked. Google doesn’t work. The Internet is filtered to show results that the government wants the people (and visitors) to see.
The people are pushy. They are not as helpful as I’ve experienced in other cultures. I don’t want that to come off as a bad thing. It’s not at all. It’s simply a cultural difference. But it helps me to understand the world in a different way. The Chinese one-child rule was in effect from 1979 to 2015. There are two generations of people who have been directly affected by this rule. These are one-child only generations, and because they are someone’s only child, they were spoiled and treated like royalty. They are often referred to as ‘Little Emperors.’
This becomes evident as you walk the sidewalks and cross the streets. Each man is out for himself. Certainly there are exceptions to this; the staff at the hot pot restaurant, for example, was extremely generous.
The pollution, as I mentioned earlier, also stands out in my mind as something memorable. Men and women roam the streets in pollution masks. It is not uncommon to see them spitting or blowing their nose right onto the sidewalk. It took effort to not step in (or wheel through, in my case) someone’s spit or mucous. I can only assume some correlation with this and the pollution.
I learn something about the world on every single trip I take. But Beijing was different. I understand the world differently from an economic perspective. From a political perspective. From a human perspective. The culture is fascinating to me, and one that I will continue to read more and more about. I remembered on my flight home why I travel. To learn. To experience. To understand.