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China – Beijing – Tiananmen Square 19th November

Having visited the Forbidden City on a previous week we missed Tiananmen Square, so we decided to head that way and have a look. Subway line 1 is always very busy and today did not disappoint however we battled our way through the crowds and made it in one piece. Security is very tight at Tiananmen Square, but if you have nothing to hide you wont have any issues, the obligatory X-Ray scanners are put through their paces in Beijing’s Subway stations and check points. The percentage of plain clothes officers and military wandering around in the crowds would be an interesting fact to find out!

We wandered around the square with the other hundreds of Chinese tourists and felt the very patriotic grasp of China through flags, massive TV screens with more flags and music on loop, stone monoliths, the museum where you can visit Chairman Mao himself (preserved in a glass coffin for all to see) and large socialist “can do / power to the people” statues. We did not go to see Mao but you can still feel the past here in many ways. China is moving forward but relics of the past will be a continuous reminder of a grander/darker side depending on which side you lean towards.

Not too far from the historic and splendor of Tiananmen we went in search of Beijing’s underground city streets. Instead we found the deprived areas of Beijing with falling down Hutongs and streets, a big contrast from where we had come from. The underground city was closed (possibly due to safety concerns) so we headed for a Chinese massage which had been recommended to us. We eventually found the venue and enjoyed a 60 minute session at The Dragonfly Retreat which we both loved. Very low light, serene music and the full body massage were a lethal combination, Helen fell to sleep at one point! All for a bargain price of £15 each.

Within walking distance is the more commercial street Wangfujing. Here you have department stores and old electronics shops that appear to be waiting their doom as construction is happening all around. St Joseph’s Church is a little further up Wangfujing and as we approached there appeared to be some kind of fude going on in the grounds of the church. Like the locals we decided to have a little nosey at what was happening. We saw a bride wrapped up in a man’s coat, whilst her husband to be argued with an official from the church. The police were on the scene and there was some kind of dispute surrounding them having their wedding photos taken on the grounds of the church. They were all still there 15 minutes or so later and the bride and groom did not appear to budge from their request.

We have seen quite a few couples having their wedding photographs taken in Beijing, it’s a common site especially around the 798 area. We heard from a friend that they have their wedding photos done here one year before their wedding day!! So on the surface is the bride dressed in a beautiful dress, hair and make-up styled professionally and underneath is a pair of jeans and trainers with a coat nearby to cover themselves up. The wedding photography industry is booming here apparently! We can see why!

5 minutes further down the street and you find the city’s most famous snack street. Although this is relatively new to the city it is a short strip of several food stalls selling anything from souvenir tat to fried wriggling scorpions and star fish ready to eat, if you so desire. We passed on the offer of a char-grilled chicken fetus on a stick! We decided not to opt for the snack street that day. This really is one for the gallery! Street food in China is a big thing and we have seen people with sticks of fruit coated in sugar happily scoffing down this sweet treat. We purchased this Winter Beijing snack and can see why people love them, they are great, like little soft brambly apples covered in syrup, if you have a sweet tooth you would be hooked!

We headed back to the apartment and cooked up our own evening meal of noodles, vegetables and tofu in a soy sauce.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 19 Dec ’10 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Again a great pictorial record of your journey. I can see this turning into a book. Also I recognise many of the places you are visited.

    Keep the photos and travel log coming.

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