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Beijing (Continued)

Traci and I went to bed way too early the night before. As a result, we were both wide awake by 3:30 AM. Traci finally got up at 4 AM to do one of her yoga videos. We were on the motorcoach by 8 AM for another full day of sightseeing. There was initially some confusion as word had spread through our group that we needed our passport to visit Tiananmen Square. Our guide assured us that there was no need to run back to the room to retrieve it. So, off we went.

Tiananmen Square was our first stop. This large square is the place where you can see monuments dedicated to China's national heroes. However, Chairman Mao's Memorial Hall is the most prominent building here. For me, what comes to mind when I hear "Tiananmen Square" is the protests that took place there in 1989. I remember watching the news and seeing a man facing down tanks. It is speculated that thousands of protestors were killed by the Chinese military when they entered the square to put down the demonstrations. The official number of casualties is still unknown today. News outlets were banned during the unrest. Someone in our tour group asked our guide about the protests but he became uncomfortable and did not discuss it.

Tiananmen Square also brings to mind a much more light-hearted association. It reminds me of the episode of The Amazing Race in which the contestants were racing across the square. It was during this episode that it appears as if the team of two sisters loses the race because one of them stopped to use the restroom.

We took a group picture in Tiananmen Square. We encountered a lot of "paparazzi" during this time. Random passersby took pictures of our group with their phones. Some even jumped in the shot.

Tiananmen Square

 

Many people wanted photos with us "foreigners".

 

One interesting tidbit that our guide shared with us that day was that China's first KFC is located near Tiananmen Square. He said there were long lines when it first opened. He said that there were even weddings that took place there.

Behind Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City. Our guide led us there and gave us some facts about the place. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of emperors during the Ming Dynasty (1368 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). It is called the Forbidden City because it was off-limits to common citizens. Only the emperor/empress, their families, servants, and concubines were allowed there. Once there, servants and concubines were never allowed to leave. The Forbidden City was not opened to the general public until 1925.

We were given some time to explore on our own. From our Chinese experiences thus far on this trip, it came as no surprise that the Forbidden City is huge. It contains close to 10,000 rooms. You can look inside only a few of them but from behind a barrier. There were crowds galore as we walked the palace grounds. It was another hazy, hot, and humid day. You needed patience and tolerance if you wanted to inch your way through the mob to peer inside one of the buildings to see maybe a throne or some other exquisite artifacts. More than anything, I was impressed by the immensity of the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City

 

 

 

We were driven to a restaurant for a family-style lunch and then it was off to a silk factory. The presentation at this one was interesting as the hostess explained the tedious process of pulling silk from silkworm cocoons. There were live silkworms crawling around in the bins. It takes a lot of cocoons to produce useful silk products. After the presentation, we were turned loose in the two story showroom.

We were returned to the hotel by 3:30 to get cleaned up and changed. We had to be back on the buses by 5 PM so that we could be taken to the Gala Dinner to celebrate our Great Wall Marathon accomplishments. The gala took place at the Convention Center located next to the Olympic park where the 2008 Beijing Olympics took place. We could see the Bird's Nest Stadium from there. This was exciting to me.

Great Wall Marathon Gala Dinner

 

 

The gala included all 2,000 participates - not just the 140 of our Marathon Tours Group. This was a grand affair with food sculptures, open bar, champagne, Chinese performers, and more. I like the fact that the meal was a buffet instead of family-style. There were some brief but well-deserved recognitions of the Great Wall Marathon organizers for the fantastic job they did. It was during the gala that the Great Wall Marathon 2017 Recap Video was unveiled. The audience had some good laughs as we saw ourselves and friends struggling to conquer the Great Wall. Traci and I actually appeared near the beginning of the video. Here is the link:

Traci and I appear at 0:25 and again during the warm-up at 0:33


Motorcoaches were available to take people to the after party at the hutongs that we visited two days ago but you would have to find your own transportation back to your hotel. Most of us skipped the after party and boarded the motorcoaches headed back to our hotel. Continue...

 

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