Our second full day in Beijing happened to be David’s birthday, so we humored him and let him drag us all over the city, starting around 4:30am. The first stop was to see the flag raising across the street from Tian’anmen square (天安门) in which we were treated to views of the back of peoples heads as well as a flag being raised across the street. There were a bunch of people in uniform who accompanied the flag across the street from Tian’anmen, but I mostly relied on the phone screens of the people in front of me to see anything. David’s true goal was to get in line to see Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, but being that we were there 2 hours before it opened and the line was already wrapped halfway around the building he decided we could give up on that dream and head to the temple of heaven park which opened around 6am.
After the flag raising we went to the temple of heaven park where we got to watch several runners and a large group of older retired people exercise on the adult jungle gym. I think I could have spent all morning here, but unfortunately we just stopped by for a quick peek and had to keep moving. The park is very large and there was lots to see!
Sidebar: If you have a dream to join a old-woman jazzercize troop, boy oh boy is this the place for you! You can pick from one of several in this park, or other recreational activities if you so choose.
After leaving the temple of heaven it was time to get some breakfast (finally) and head back to the hotel for a quick rest. Not too long after though and we found ourselves back at Tian’anmen and on to the forbidden city. We picked up a tour guide at the forbidden city to learn a little more about the history of this sprawling imperial city. Our guide explained that the center entrance was only used for the emperor and his wives and other visitors had to use other entrances and stairways to enter the city. We went through the emperors entrances and got to see some of the restoration work in progress. These paintings are really quite detailed, so I had been impressed thus far at how many of them looked fairly well maintained.
Of course, no trip to Beijing is complete without some 北京烤鸭 (duck), so we went to a well known restaurant nearby and ordered ourselves some! The building itself was 5 stories tall and the menu basically had appetizers, two duck options, and a drink list. It was absolutely amazing and we completed the meal with birthday 白酒 (“white wine” aka straight alcohol). I also had no idea you were supposed to put the duck on a flat tortilla with some sauce/veggies, but it was excellent.
And of course, no birthday of David’s is complete without going to the midnight showing of the newest Marvel movie, this time was Captain America 3: Civil War. The movie was excellent, but we had a nightmare getting taxis: no one wanted to turn the meter on and the one David took asked for payment upfront, told him the money was fake, kicked them out of the cab, and they had to find another one…but once we made it to the theater and found the back alley elevator entrance we were all good. It wasn’t until trying to take another taxi the next day that David realized he really did have $100 worth of fake money on him. Jury is still out on where it came from, but my suspicion is the cab driver (or someone else) pulled a fast one on him and got some legit money out of the deal. David maintains it was the bank ATM, but the bank has vehemently assured me that it is impossible. Guess we’ll never know. Moral of the story, Beijing taxis suck and keep an eye on your cash.
Even though we were more tired the first day from climbing the great wall, we go way more steps in on the second day just walking around Beijing. Since we stayed out so late on the second full day, we were not able to fit much else in before catching the train to Xi’an. Our feet were perfectly ok with half a day of sitting after our whirlwind Beijing adventure though! I think it is highly likely we will make another trip to Beijing in the future, and I still have a list of place we need to check out next time. I do think we did a good job catching all the highlights this first go ’round though.