Monday, March 31, 2014

beijing de gushi: day one, part two.

so day one of our beijing adventure continues! it was a good long day packed full of lots of sights, but it also meant our feet were dying & we pushed through our exhaustion. as evidenced by this photo taken during one of our many subway trips (we were prepared to get a driver for the week, & a few people recommended doing so, because we weren't sure how good the subway system would be [& you can get drivers for pretty cheap], buuuut the beijing subway system is really clean, really efficient, & really good! so that worked out well, & we saved some money not having our own drivah, dahhhling):

heading into tiananmen square with all its joys. how do you like our face masks? no worries, we didn't stick out at all - so, so many people wear face masks there! i'm pretty used to wearing face masks, actually - the last month or so of my mission, i started getting really sick from car exhaust fumes (i guess that's what a year & a half of biking down crowded city streets will get you?) so i started wearing a face mask while i biked. i had two: a neon green sparkly one, & an ivory one with tiny black hippopotami. they were delightful, & i'm pretty sure the hippo one is still in a box somewhere in the garage at my parent's house :) 

just some statue cheeriness in front of a bare-bones building at tiananmen square. tiananmen square is actually pretty bare - a wide, wide space surrounded by these similar warm & inviting soviet-era facades:

ah, that gaze of chairman mao. he's like george washington on the dollar bill - no matter where you stand, he's always watching you! haha:

me & mao, mao & me:

ben & mao, mao & ben (ben got really good at that mask face chin-tuck):

check out all the guards standing 'round!:

after passing through a hallway under the photo of the chairman, you walk through that tunnel behind ben's head:

keepin' us safe:

quick side note: i was loving this guy's pants SO MUCH:

something cool about beijing is that there are the high-risers & the neon lights, the olympic stadiums & others, but tucked in the streets between the tall buildings are little neighborhoods & alleyways called hutong. that's where you get a really great feel for the spirit of the people of beijing, & where i felt like beijing most echoed my beloved taiwan. 

down a street of the hutong:

we climbed the steep, steep stairs of the drum & bell towers. back in the olden days they would ring the large city bell to help people keep time. our guide said something like they would ring the bell 108 times an hour every day?! can you imagine that happening at, like, 3 am? haha. here we are climbing the bell tower, & the stairs were so steep. this picture does not even do it justice, but it was actually really scary climbing them - going up, i was afraid i'd fall backward & tumble down at any moment, & going down, i was worried i would stumble, fall forward, & just fall all the way down. so for how rare it is for one to feel afraid while climbing, maybe that'll give you a give idea of how steep these stairs were...?

the view from the bell tower. the bell & drum towers used to be the highest points of the city!:

this guy:

here's a cool fact: the bells & drums were used as timekeepers in beijing until 1924! you can see that red rod above my head - so chinese bells are different in that they would be ring by striking from the outside, as opposed to bells that have that little dinger inside of them:

we appreciated this incredibly helpful sign that told us where the stairs were. haha:

the steep stairs of the bell tower:

having a rest at the top of the drum tower & munching on these loves while waiting for the scheduled drum performance:

said drum performance (that higher middle one was loud. makes sense since the purpose of these guys was to be heard all over the city):

this is one of the drums that has been preserved for several hundred years: 

outside deck of the drum tower:

the view from the towers was amazing. here is a view of one of the city-within-a-city hutong:

in terms of city layout, the forbidden city is kind of the center from which a lot of the roads and landmarks stem. so like all one axis you'll find the forbidden city, the drum tower, the bell tower, & more. while we didn't see the forbidden city from the towers, this picture kind of gives an idea of how all the roads line up in straight lines:


while in the ("a"? i'm actually still not sure of which word to use, because you could pluralize "hutong" to "hutongs," i suppose, but that's not exactly how the chinese language works, but i'm not sure how western-ized/english-ized they're made the word "hutong" i'm not sure) hutong:

are you getting a feeling for the hazy, muggy weather from these photos?:

as seen on the streets:

haha this photo is great. i had ben walk out to the bridge over the water, & you can see a fellow "waiguoren" (foreigner) in the background observing the strangeness:

spotted on a bridge:

spotted in front of a door:

spotted down a road:

okay! that concludes our day one. we grabbed peking duck & chicken that night at a place near our hotel, so with that in mind, i leave you with this image of THE CHICKEN HEAD FOUND IN OUR DISH:

sweet dreams tonight! :/



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