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Beijing Travel Blog

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Tian'amen Sq

So, home of the Olympics 2008, Beijing!

We were awoken at 6am by one of the train attendants as our train arrived in Beijing at 7am. We gathered our bags and emerged bleary eyed and yawning, heading for the metro system as on the map it showed a stop close to our hostel.

The Mausoleum containing Chairman Mao
We were stopped by an English guy who asked where we were headed. When we said the metro station he shook his head and told us it was closed as they were still building it. *clears ears* come again?? The olympics are being held soon and they're STILL BUILDING things?!? Oye! It turnd out the guy was headed to a hostel near ours so we walked to the next metro station which was about ten minutes away. Once we emerged we parted ways with Nick and tried to find our hostel. Unfortunately we got horrendously lost, spent two hours walking round in circles trying to find the right street. In the end we managed to flag down a taxi and after some mutual pointing at points on a map and a phone call from him to someone to find out where to go we eventually arrived, sweaty, stressed and cursing like mad. Our hostel wasnt on a main road like our map made it out to be, it was actually down one of the 'hutongs', narrow alleys ways that hold a menagerie of shops and hotels/hostels.
Once we had checked in we went straight back to bed for a couple of hours, wiped out from our trek to find the place.

Our first port of call was to work out where we were in relation to the local area so went for a walk. It turns out we actually walked past our hutong trying to find it as the name of the street was spelt differently (and broken up into four words instead of two!). We were pretty close to Tian'amen Sq so went down to check it out. It was a blazing hot day (over 100 again) but the Sq was pretty busy, with crowds milling about taking pictures. At various points around the Sq, and at each subway entrance there are guards. These guards are a mixture of military and police who search your bags going into and out of the Sq. Located in the middle of the Sq is a mausoleum, now this has very mixed reactions from people.

The weekend market
Some hate it because its an ugly building, some like the way it looks; but the main talk is about the contents of said place. It holds the (some say plastic replica) preserved body of Chairman Mao. Now if you know your history (I didnt but our guide book filled in the blanks for me) you will know that Chairman Mao was not such a nice guy. Thousands and thousands of people were 'allegedly' murdered under his reign, among other nasties he was said to have done. A lot of people think that his body should be removed and interred properly, others think they should just get shot of it because the eyes of the world will be focused on Beijing and it could portray them as a rather morbid lot for keeping an evil dictators mummified corpse on display (we plan to visit coz its free!).

China is a funny place, we have been several places here now and we have seen multiple statues/pictures/etc of Chairman Mao.

At the market
In Shanghai there was a large statue of him on the Bund, here in Beijing there is a picture hanging by Tian'amen Sq, and every little shop seems to be selling books with Mao saying, prints with his face on and I find it all just weird. Its like Germany having statues of Hitler all over the country!! This man killed thousands of people in his reign and yet it looks like they actively honour him! Rachel is currently reading Wild Swans, a book that is actually banned here as it portrays such a violent (and true) history of China.

We visited the weekend market as we wanted to see if there were any bargains to be had. We walked round for a while, gazing at stall after stall of jade carvings, bracelets, fans, kimonos (I thought they were Japanese?!?), bronze statues, and a host of other weird and random items before trying our bartering skills, getting a nice chopstick set for well under the starting price. We stayed at the market for a few hours but eventually had to admit defeat as it was way too hot so got a taxi back to the hostel.

So we finally got round to the spectacle. A mummified former (evil) dictator!! Dont get to do that everyday! We headed over to Tian'amen Sq and joined the throngs of people queuing up. Its free admission but you are not allowed to take your bag in or your camera (guess they dont want videos of Mao's face on Youtube), they will charge you twice for storing them if you have a camera in your bag! We had to go through a security check before being allowed in the grounds and once there we found a trailer selling flowers. Almost half the people in the queue were actually buying some(!) Just inside the foyer of the mausoleum was a huge statue of Mao, and the biggest offering of flowers I've every seen (after Princess Di's of course). Row upon row of flowers were lined up, with more being added the whole time. The thing I found stupid (apart from the obvious) was that the distance between buying the flowers and laying them down was less than fifty yards, you just knew that those flowers were going to be resold several times that day. Once we had passed the foyer we followed the cordon round into the centre of the buiding, where a floor to ceiling glass cabinet held the glass windowed coffin of Chairman Mao. His body was draped in a Chinese flag *rolls eyes* and his face resembled a b movie special effect. It has long been rumoured that a wax replica was made for display as experts were unsure how well the preserving process would be and since then no one knows for sure if they are seeing the really body or the replica.

yheleen says:
wow...:) thanks for sharing this.. how i wish am there right now in the Olympics ;)
Posted on: Aug 14, 2008
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Tianamen Sq
Tian'amen Sq
The Mausoleum containing Chairman …
The Mausoleum containing Chairman…
The weekend market
The weekend market
At the market
At the market
photo by: Eric