Beijing, China

April 5-6 2010

For our visit to Beijing we were docked in Xingang, which is at the mouth of the Hia River.  Xingang is actually the port for Tianjin, the capital city of Tianjin Province.  Beijing is a 3.5 hour bus ride from the dock, so on our 12-hour excursion we spent more time on the bus than doing actual sightseeing.  The name Beijing means ‘northern capital’.  Formerly there was also a southern capital, Nanjing (its name literally translated is ‘southern capital’).  The most amazing part of the bus ride was seeing the huge numbers of trees that have been planted near the road.  The Chinese have literally planted forests.  The bases of the tree trunks are painted with lime to deter insects.  There are so many magpie nests in the trees that at first we thought they were squirrel nests.  The Chinese believe that if you see a magpie in flight, it will bring you good luck for the day.

Another interesting sight was the burial sites among the trees.  They are conical mounds of dirt; some had a few decorations, as the people had just celebrated their day of the dead the day before.  We also saw some families visiting graves.

The city of Beijing is fairly ordinary in appearance, although it does have a few unique buildings.  Their soccer stadium, which was built for the Olympics and was also used for the opening and closing ceremonies, is a pleasing design, as is the velodrome.  This skyscraper which is near by is truly unique.

Our first stop was for lunch, at one of the Friendship Stores (government store) which had a restaurant attached as well as a place where they make cloisonne, a Chinese specialty.  The lunch was served family-style, using a large lazy susan in the middle of the table for ten.  The food was pretty good; unfortunately we were not able to try all of it because some people served themselves without regard to how many people were at the table.  

After lunch we went to the Great Wall of China, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.  This photo will give you an idea of what the stairs are like:  old, worn, and of uneven heights.  We are grateful to whoever installed the hand railings that enabled some of us to get down.   Climbing any distance on the Great Wall is an experience not to be missed.  Be forewarned, however, that however much you do, you will feel it for days afterward!   It is unfortunate that the weather or the air pollution created such a haze while we were there.  It is difficult to show the beauty of the wall under the circumstances or how good the views are from it..  The presence of the mountains was a bit of a surprise after the flat terrain we saw in both Shanghai and the area between Beijing and the coast.  

After our time at the Great Wall we went to the Ming Tombs.  This was somewhat of a disappointment because we didn’t realize that the experience would not be similar to what we had in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, even though the information we have says two of the tombs are open.  What we saw was a museum with the history of the Ming emperors which was in the Hall of Eminent Favor.  The sculpture is Emperor Yongle, who was the third Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty.

This was a long day, but a good one.  We were glad to have an excellent bus driver who got us back to the ship safely, through all the relatively crazy traffic.  Although Beijing shows neither the same sophistication as Shanghai nor the imaginative architecture (for the most part), it is clear that the city has come a long way from where it used to be.  Where one once saw mostly bicycles for transportation, one now sees automobiles.  The bicycles are still there, as are the motor bikes, but automobiles are clearly the majority.  And we are talking new and shiny as opposed to the ancient vehicles one sees in Mumbai, India.  There is plenty of construction going on in the city, also.

We were grateful that the weather held for us until we got on the bus to return to the ship.  Twelve hours is a long excursion, but it was worth it to get to experience the Great Wall.

We spent another day in Xingang, but ended up spending the day on the ship, after hearing a negative conversation about the Friendship Store in Xingang, which was the shuttle bus destination.  We were notified that the Chinese immigration service wanted to do a face to passport check of all the guests on the ship.  They insisted that all people be off the ship before they started proceedings.  That meant we waited in line for about an hour and a half.  It might have been a shorter wait had there not been the usual people who figure that the rules do not apply to them.  The procedure left most of us with no desire to return to Beijing, at least not via cruise ship.  There is nothing in the city that is so compelling that we would want to go through that immigration procedure again.

© Susan L. Stone 2015