Friday, October 21, 2011


Getting to Beijing seemed a little more problematic than I thought possible.  We had purchased a seat for our infant on the plane, we had his car seat and thought it best to just have a seat for him instead of doing infant in arms.  I don't think this is a common practice in China.  They kept telling us we had done it wrong, and we needed to buy a different ticket for him.  It seriously took us at least 1/2 an hour to explain about his car seat and how we wanted him to have his own seat on the plane.  They eventually let us go with our seat assignments, but we still had Chinese people who could speak English come up to us and try to explain that we had bought the "wrong kind of ticket."
Beijing, just outside Tiananmen Square

We hired a car to pick us up at the Beijing airport and to drive us around Beijing our first day.  We used this car to drive out to the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, and to the Silk Markets.  Unlike the taxi drivers that we had experienced earlier, our hired car did not drop us off where it was most convenient for them, but took us right where we needed to go.  I seriously would have been lost without them.  The signs directing you where to go, that were in English, were very misleading.  It was excellent to have someone who could speak Chinese and knew what they were doing.  We had 2 drivers who shared a car, so we had one driver in the morning and a different driver at night.  They did not speak English, but we managed alright with maps, and calling people who my husband worked with who spoke English and Chinese who would translate for us.  

The Great Wall was simply amazing!  It was, in my opinion, the best tourist attraction we went to.  There are many parts of The Great Wall that you can go to, several have cable cars.  We went to the most touristy spot, the Badaling section of The Great Wall.  The cable car that took us to the top was well worth the money we spent.  I had my baby in a Bjorn carrier, and it was hard to trek along the wall, I can't imagine what it would have been like to walk all the way up from the bottom.  I don't think I would have made it.  If I didn't have a baby attached it might have been fun to walk instead of ride.  At the top we did see a mountain coaster, if we would have had our other children we probably would have done this as well, it looked like fun.  

Hero's Slope going up
After going up and down steep hills and almost slipping several times, being cold from the weather and sweating from the physical strain, I was done.  I took a break, nursed my baby, and enjoyed the view.  My husband climbed Hero's Slope, and spent some time just enjoying being someplace he always dreamed about going to.  

Hero's Slope looking down

After going to The Great Wall, we then decided to go to the Ming Tombs.  We went to the underground tomb.  Which is basically a palace that was built underground for the burial of the emperor.  

A replica of the coffins
Outside of the Tomb

A Chinese person dressed up in a costume of  the Emperor's clothes
After the Ming Tombs we went to the Silk Markets.  The Silk Markets is a mall of sorts, many floors of stores where you can find modern name brand clothes, traditional Chinese clothes, red lanterns, parasols, swords, chopsticks, throwing stars, suits, shoes, and of course silk.  Haggling was ridiculous.  The prices that were first told us were about 5 times the amount of the starting price in Nanjing.  It took so much effort to get the same price we got at Confucius's temple, that after an hour we were worn out and I was tired of shopping.

I don't think the Swastika has the same meaning in China
People taking my baby and posing for pictures at the markets
We went to bed early and woke up October 1st ready to get on the metro and go to The Forbidden City.  We did not realize that October 1st was their National day, like the 4th of July in the U.S.A.  Beijing was a crowded city when we went to bed, but when we woke up the city had doubled in people.  They only allow so many people into The Forbidden City on National day, and 1/2 of the tickets sold are sold online, to buy the tickets online you have to be a Chinese citizen.  Fortunately for us my husband's colleague in China bought us our tickets online with his citizen ID.  We got on the metro and the metro did not stop at the stops for The Forbidden City, it passed right by.  I guess the President of China was going to be at Tiananmen Square, roads were closed, the metro station stops were closed, it was crazy.  We got off the metro as soon as we could and actually ended up farther away from The Forbidden City than we had began.  We tried to get a taxi and they yelled at us and drove away, I took that as the Universal, "screw you."  So we started walking.  After 3 hours of trying to get to The Forbidden City, we finally arrived.  It was madness.  So many people!  My husband was worried about losing me, he went to find out how to redeem our online tickets, and a crowd gathered around me and the baby, it was as big as a tour group and although I had not moved, he did indeed lose me.  We finally reunited and entered The Forbidden City.

So many people trying to be our tour guides, we were not in the mood.  We walked right by them!  The Forbidden City was HUGE!  It is indeed a city within a city.  We were told it would take us about 4 hours, I think we stayed for 6.  We enjoyed The Forbidden City, but I was disappointed.  I was expecting a more Westernized version of The Forbidden City.  Rooms that were recreated to look as they did while the Emperor's lived there.  There was a few areas like this, but we were not allowed in these buildings, just allowed to look through the windows.  Even some of these areas were closed, and I think it may be because of the day we were there.  My favorite parts were the throne rooms, the Empress' palace, and the royal gardens.  I thought it was interesting that the building we were allowed in were museums for other things, like pottery, science, astronomy, or clocks.  

One of the alleys

One of the Throne rooms

The rooms the Emperor would occupy after marriage/during honeymoon
My husband was too tall for a lot of doorways

In the royal garden

Just outside of The Forbidden City
We walked back to our hotel, packed, went to bed, woke up early and headed to the airport.  The airport was interesting.  We had to go through several checkpoints, security screenings. When we were checking in we ended up standing at our check in counter and the person helping us disappeared.  In fact there were 2 other service counters next to us where the people who were checking people in disappeared.  I don't know where they went, if they had a lunch break or were changing shifts, they just walked away in the middle of checking us in.  The people standing next to us looked at us, we looked at them, and we all asked each other, "where did they go?"  Our luggage was sitting on the conveyor belt, not yet conveyed and my husband asked, "Are we done?  Do we go to our gate?  Is our luggage going to get on the plane?"  We decided to play it safe and wait till our luggage was safely on its way before we left.  About 5-10 minutes later someone else came and finished checking us in, as well as the other confused passengers.  

The plane ride home was pretty uneventful, but I did notice that in the middle of the flight several of the Chinese passengers were lining up in the back and coming back to their seats with "cup-of-noodles."  I still don't know if they brought their own and just were asking for hot water, or if the airline provided the noodles. But is does give me an idea for a snack food for future flights.   

This is definitely a trip I will never forget!  I am so glad I was able to go and experience so many things.  Beijing was definitely my favorite, if you are going to mainland China and can only choose one city, I would choose Beijing.  
The baby that created quite the stir!


  1. The "swastika" is a holy symbol used to mark temples or shrines. You may notice that it is actually a mirror image of a swastika.

  2. I did not know that. I know that in Finland the swastika is very symbolic, and that Hitler stole the symbol from them. It was not a bad symbol until he stole it.