First Stop - Beijing
The epic trip has begun. We started with a 24 hour layover in Beijing. It was a special experience being back in China. The last time I was in China was in 1987. A lot has changed but it was nice to be able to understand and successfully use some Mandarin words and phrases. We stayed in a lovely hotel, Beijing Prime, with rooms tastefully decorated with Chinese art and featuring views of the city through the smog. During the short time we were there we managed to walk about 10 miles, much of it through the Forbidden City.
Our guide, Joey, was able to point out the intricacies of the buildings and share what life was like in within the Palace walls. We were able to take a step back in time together.
For me it was also going back to 30 years ago, hearing familiar sounds and seeing familiar sights. One thing I noticed is that China was no longer an attack on my sense of smell. There were no open sewers lining the streets. Things have changed; more cars and motorcycles, fewer bikes. People wear a wider variety of western style clothes and shoes. Video cameras were everywhere. Our guide Joey brought up the Cultural Revolution and discussed it freely, whereas I remember 30 years ago people turning away when I asked about it. I wondered how much people know about what is going on in Hong Kong. There is a lot of focus on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of New China coming up in October. We were told that Beijing was calm while we were there since local people are not allowed in the city because the government wants them to come in October. Much has changed but seems much is the same.