China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Wednesday, June 30th
Tianamen Square, Central History Museum,
Peking Duck, Forbidden City...

A very busy and interesting day that included tons of walking in the hot sun! Fortunately, I had my sunglasses, Panama hat and a bottle of water!

Today's activities include:

  • Tianamen Square. For some reason, I suspect the driver could not stop the mini bus closer, we parked some ways from Tianamen Square and had to walk about a mile to get there.

    According to Cathy, the Chinese government had just finished renovating Tianamen Square. When we arrived, I immediately noticed they expanded the Square. There were wide walkways on the sides where bicycles were evidently banned. Only pedestrians here.

    [Mao's picture, looking south on Tianamen Square] The second thing I noticed were the light poles which were spread throughout the Square. These light poles came equiped with spot lights, loud speakers and close circuit cameras! They were not there before. I didn't care for them because the banners hanging below all the light poles partially blocked your line of sight of everything else in the Square. The banners served no useful purpose other than decoration which they could have done without. The expanse of the Square was not as emphasized with the light poles. They partially blocked your view of Chairman Mao's picture with the side banners for one thing. Not good if you are trying to take pictures.

    [Oblisk, center of Tianamen Square] The third thing I noticed was the smog. Mao's picture was crystal clear ten years ago when seen from the opposite side of the Square. Now the picture is a bit fuzzy from the smog. Let's not forget the light poles partially blocking the view too.

    One more observation. The bricks on the floor of the Square were white washed before and made the whole Square look like it was all white. It was very impressive looking. Now the floor bricks are dingy. I guess from the smog.

    [Entrance to Central History Museum]

  • Central History Museum. They were currently renovating the museum when we visited but the museum was still open to the public. There were a couple annoyances here. You had to check in your bag at a counter if it was big. Being big was a subjective thing. The other annoyance was the 100 yard walkway to the museum was not well lit. Actually it was almost pitch black in some places. This was dangerous when you discover there are stairs in front of you in the dark. One person in our group tripped on the stairs because it was so dark.

    [Chinese Earthquake Detector] [Tortoise Shell Writings] The museum itself was great. I could have spent most of the day there. It was very interesting. We saw all kinds of things including an earthquake detector and tortoise shells with the oldest known Chinese writing inscribed on them. Of course, we did a lot of walking through the museum. The only thing I missed was the all jade burial suit sewn up with gold thread. I remember seeing it before in 1989.

  • Peking Duck. After the museum, we walked over to a restaurant called Beijing Qianmen West Street Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. We had a wonderful multi-course meal with Peking Duck as the highlight dish. The food was excellent. This is also the first time I saw the floor toilets on this trip. I was surprised they had this kind of toilet in a fine restaurant as this. I guess old habits die hard.

    [Entrance to Forbidden City]

  • The Forbidden City. The first time I saw the Forbidden City, we were rushed through it in less than an hour. This time I saw a lot more of the Forbidden City as I had about twice as much time. We had rented an audio cassette tape as an automated tour. This was great although I think the narration was wrong in a few places. Although I got to see more and even wander the Imperial Garden this time, I still didn't get to see as much as I wanted. I would have liked to see the Nine Dragon Wall and the side exhibits like the jewelry. These side exhibits close earlier than the main exhibits. But all in all, it was a good tour.

    There are lots and lots of things to see in the Forbidden City and I took oodles of pictures. It was hard deciding which pictures to scan as many of them show different things. I finally decided to scan a few pictures which hint at the wide variety of things to see.

    [Lion Statue] [Huge Courtyard] [Throne room] [Chinese Sundial]

    I also managed to buy postcards from a side vendor. I got three packets (ten postcards each) for $20RMB. I thought this was a good deal since he originally wanted $10RMB for one packet.

    As an aside, we were supposed to meet at the end of the tour at 3:45pm. For some reason that was never explained, most of the girl's group arrived an hour late!

    The bad thing about today is we did so much walking that my right knee has started to hurt. (Two years ago, I was in a serious car accident where both my knees were injured. They were never the same again. I believe this is a legacy from that previous injury.) My knee got worse during the CD/DVD/VCD run below.

  • CD/DVD/VCD Run. After dinner, we went to this somewhat questionable area to go shopping for CDs, DVDs and VCDs. We took three taxis and got separated at the meeting point. I finally got to go shopping and bought a few VCDs. One VCD is part of a famous 20 year space epic (Big hint: title starts with "Phantom")

    Here is an interesting story. While waiting for our group on the sidewalk, I was approached by an attractive lady who spoke very fast Mandarin. I asked her to slow down and she had to repeat herself a few times but I got the gist of it. She was a barker trying to get me into a dance club across the street. I played along. Evidently for a price, you can have the company of two young women, drinks, music, karaoke, etc. She started quoting rates when my group showed up and I had to leave. It was funny, but I thought it was cool I was understanding her Mandarin. The conversation lasted at least 2-3 minutes.

    The taxi ride back to the academy was also funny. We had a lady taxi driver who was given specific address information by one of the teachers to get back to the academy. She got us lost anyway! She was also a defensive driver which is probably just as dangerous as an aggressive driver in Beijing. Cars were zooming by us. Cars were cutting us off. Cars were crossing the double yellow line just to pass us! We even had the driver stop and ask for directions from another cab driver. She still didn't know where to go. Fortunately, the people in our taxi recognized landmarks and eventually got us back.

  • Later That Night. I discover how to submit clothes for the laundry service here at the academy. You need to get a plastic bag from the front desk. Write your name on the bag and put your dirty clothes in the bag. Give the bag back to the front desk. Your washed clothes should return the next day.

    I also asked Cathy if I could use her Internet connection to check my email. Cathy graciously let me use her computer. However, I was not able to connect to any email service. It seems Cathy's connection to the Internet is also slow. Sigh.

    So now I'm in my room, writing lots of postcards to be mailed tomorrow. While doing this, I decided to try the electric moquito repeller/killer. I'm getting desperate as I don't want to keep waking up to mosquito buzzing in the night. Supposedly this little gadget is safe for humans but deadly for mosquitoes. So I put this little blue packet marked RAID on the packaging (my first clue) into what really is a miniature hot plate and plug it in. At first, the smell is a little sweet. Later, I'm getting a headache and am coughing a little so I unplug it. That'll teach me not to use anything marked RAID on it while I'm still in the room!

    I just discovered my answering machine doesn't keep the correct time anymore! I suspected this yesterday but can confirm it today. At least it will still take messages.

The Next Day China 1999 My Writings Al's Wild Web Page

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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