Beijing Traffic Impression in the Rush Hours

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Beijing offers some of the most famous historical sites – The Great Wall, The Ming Tombs, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and Tian Anmen Square – of which we have been to see all.

As could be expected, the visiting crowds were enormous – and this was not peak season. Large tour groups (Asian, European, North American), pushy vendors, vacationing Chinese families, guides with microphones, back packers and a few beggars present an awesome spectacle in themselves. The pictures we took of The Great Wall are as memorable for the mass of colored umbrellas filling the width and length of the wall as the grandeur of the Great Wall itself. We entered the Wall at Badaling and took the south route as the crowds were slightly thinner. The steepness in some parts emphasized the feat it was to build this structure.

The charms of The Forbidden City were slightly diminished by the sheer numbers of people; umbrellas open because of the rain. We shuffled through the Meridian Gate and into a magnificent courtyard. The first three buildings comprised the outer court and were used for meetings with the emperor and speeches. The next three buildings were the inner court where the private lives of the royalty took place and to the left were the residences of the emperor’s concubines. A lovely garden continues behind the buildings where the sea of tourists emptied out onto the bridge over the moat.

The buildings of the Summer Palace date only from the last century but the site goes back to the 12th century used by the emperors of many dynasties. The most outstanding feature was the long, outdoor covered corridor which is beautifully painted and decorated.

Tiananmen Square, which can hold over a million people, is a huge empty space presided over by a huge portrait of Mao on the Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City. The square attracts millions of peasants from rural China, many of whom found the presence of “Foreign Friends” so fascinating that they stared at us for up to 5 minutes at a time. The younger generation of giggling teenagers were lining up to have their photo taken with John (they seem to think he looks like Mr. KFC’s brother).

The last impression I want to mention is the monumental traffic jams in Beijing. They have huge highways and 6 ring roads but the rush hours are a nightmare! We were driven in a black “Red Flag” limo with our guide and a driver who had all the skills of a movie stunt driver. We listened and smiled as he snarled at any poor unfortunate driver who did not measure up to his standards. His commentary to the guide consisted of a very distinctive, smoker’s growling Beijing accent and broke us up even though we couldn’t understand it.