Beijing is known for its pollution and ,when we travelled to Beijing today, we left clouds and drizzle in Xian and arrived to clear blue skies and no clouds in Beijing!!! Again very lucky!! We were metby our next guide,Michael, who was given the English name of Michael by his English teacher and he was happy because he likes Michael Jackson. We suggested a moon dance sometime during the Beijing stay. The centre of Beijing is surrounded by 6 ring roads with a central north-south axis road. To live in the inner city, you must be wealthy. The area included by the 2 inner ring roads has mostly kept the old buildings including the old canals and there is no high rise in this area. The well known attractions,both for the tourists and for the Chinese people, lie on the central axis – include Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Clock Tower and the Drum Tower.
Because the day was beautiful, we wasted no time on our sight seeing and went immediately to central Beijing to see the hutongs (alleyways with courtyard houses). We had a separate guide called Selena who rode her bicycle while we travelled in a rickshaw (along with many other tourists) up and down the small alleyways. There are many public toilets in these areas because not all of the houses have their own bathrooms so public areas are used. We were taken into one of the houses which had its own,kitchen building, bathroom and courtyard. Inside the house, there was somebeautifuloldfurniture and the woman played a 21-string instrument forus. The sound was very soft and peaceful – so beautiful to hear. As part of this tour, we also visited the Bell Tower (the bell rung on special occasions) and the Drum Tower (beaten to indicate the time).
After we finished there, we were taken down Pipe Street – named because of the shape of the street as seen on the map. It was a buzzing little place full of shops and restaurants -this was a place not just for the overseas tourists but also for the Chinese people. There are old canals and lots of people riding in boats, or fishing or just walking around.
Because we were interested in Peking Duck, our guide took us to a restaurant to have it – it was carved next to our table and then eaten by rolling the sliced duck with spring onions and cucumber in thin pancakes with oyster sauce. It was delicious. Peking was originally called Yanjing when a Mongolian tribe founded the Liao Dynasty but now there is a local beer called Yanjing so we needed to taste it as well!!!
It was already a big day but we decided to go to the KungFu show after dinner which was good. And then on to the Dong An Men night market which is a snack market. There are skewers of most things there including snakes ,spiders (large and smaller), scorpions,centipedes, worms (look like larvae), seahorses, starfish!!!.