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Sunday and Monday in Beijing

On Sunday, I walked.  A lot.  I still have a relatively minor but annoyingly placed blister to prove it.

First I took the 20 minute walk and the subway to Tian’anmen Square where I forked over the RMB to go into the Forbidden City.  It was big and impressive and all—and I liked the garden—but the KMT really did take all the good stuff for Taipei’s National Palace Museum.  I really liked the garden at the northern end.

Of particular note (more than the imperial Chinese exhibits which, at this point, were starting to run together like one big wide ineffective wall snaking thousands of km across the Chinese countryside) was my visit to the Forbidden Store.  It’s not as big and gaudy as I’d half-hoped: it’s just a corner of a room shared with a standard souvenir shop.  If you’re a Tall or Venti (or, save us all, Short) aficionado, you’ll be disappointed: Grande only on this limited menu.  Cups still have the Starbucks logo; the storefront does not.  What’s truly remarkable is the willingness of people to pay standard Starbucks prices in a country where the hostel’s marked-up bottles of Tsingtao are 3 RMB/pint. 

If you noticed that I didn’t mention seeing Mao’s embalmed body on my trip, it’s because I wasn’t able to: the Maosoleum is closed for repairs for a few months.  Stupid Olympics.

After the Forbidden City I trucked my way down to Tiantan, the Temple of Heaven (catching a Peoples’ Armed Policeman climbing a tree to get his kite on the way).  The complex was big and rather nice, actually, probably my favorite “traditional Chinese” site.  This was another opportunity for the weekend’s fantastic weather to show off (maybe factories were down for Qingming): blue skies, warmer than Hong Kong, not a hint of rain.  Pictures are probably better than words (working on those).

After that, I ended up walking from Qianmen to one subway stop shy of the east side of the ring along Chang’an Jie, and then back to one stop west of the west side.  That’s a long way.

Sunday was a slow morning.  One of my roommates dragged me along to a local market where we laughed at tourist prices set for tea and took in the delicious scene of a farmer’s market sort of arrangement.  We bought food on the way back: some tasty baozi and a pineapple.  Good, of course.  After that it was off to the airport, on the bus to which I sat next to a 50+-year-old from Georgia who, at the suggestion of a mother in the States, had come to China to woo her Chongqing-based daughter.  Hope that works out well for everybody.

Arriving at the sparkly Beijing Capital Airport, I found that it doesn’t have Shenzhen’s talent for e-ticket check-in kiosks.  Shenzhen Airlines didn’t even open the physical check-in until 1h30m before departure: I kept myself busy at KFC “Select” in arrivals with a traditional Chinese “Zinger” burger, egg tart, and 7-Up “smoothie.”  It was overpriced for China, but so cheap compared to the rest of the airport’s offerings (and 2/3 the price of that sacrilegious sbux latte).

Sorry if I “scare quote” “too much”—I’ve probably picked up the habit from reading too many China Daily articles about Taiwan.

SZ Air was not terrible, aside from the normal queuing culture clashes.  Food was served (yes, on a budget airline flying one-class cabins domestically… such is Asia) with a drink before and after.  The meal wasn’t anything special but did include a baggie of four or five longan fruit, which were tasty.  ZH, like HU (a couple posts ago), is rocking the brand-new 737 models (a -900 for this flight).  One interesting feature was the obsession of the cabin crew with making sure the curtain at the front of the aircraft (concealing the galley, jumpseats, and one lav.) was closed for every second permitted by regulations.  There was some sort of raucous group stretch/prize drawing sort of exercise toward the end of the flight which would have been more interesting if I understood Mandarin.  One nice bit: I wasn’t expecting anything after the Chinese-language newspapers were paraded past, but I was handed a copy of the China Daily just before takeoff. 

Back in Shenzhen around 20:00 after a brief delay, it was easy to get to the bus for Luohu.  Lo Wu crossing was more crowded than when I’d left on Thursday, but after around 15 minutes I was through and fighting to squeeze on the East Rail train.  I took the minibus (44A) back from Sheung Shui for a change.  The extra HK$1 was worth it to fly by trucks and buses instead of the other way around, and I finally got to see a minibus speedometer over 100.

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