Friday, February 7, 2014

Beijing Day 2: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Hutong Tour

We woke up this morning for our second day in Beijing.  I was shocked to read on Facebook about snow at home in Texas... and then shocked to look outside to see that Beijing had received their first snow of the winter while we slept!  Our guides told us that in Chinese culture the snow was good luck.  We had two FaceTime calls with the boys and enjoyed talking with them, although my heart broke a little bit when Joshua asked, "Mommy can you hold me?".  We decided to hug over the computer which he thought was funny.  We ate breakfast downstairs and met more folks from our travel group who all arrived late yesterday.  We are in a group with 10 other families.

The view out of our window early this morning

We met our guides and group in the lobby at 9 and headed out to the bus.  Bryan and I wore many layers to try to stay warm: long underwear, pants, 2-3 shirts, our heavy coats, gloves and hats.  We also wore our snow/cold weather shoes which for me is my "boots with the furrrrr" as we call them.  As we toured for nearly 6 hours today, we managed to stay relatively warm and were thankful to be prepared!

Loaded up on the bus

On the bus our guides gave us hand warmers to use during our tour

First stop:  Tiananmen Square.  

We got a kick out of this sign:  NO HORNS!

Outside the towers near Tiananmen Square.  Nearby was a memorial building to Chairman Mao who died in 1976.  His body lies in state there in a crystal coffin.  Our guide said when families travel to Beijing for the first time it is popular to visit and pay respect to Mao who is seen as a great hero.  

In front of the memorial to the people who died at Tiananmen Square
Behind that is the congressional building.
The 100 Yuan bill in China has Chairman Mao on one side & the congressional building on the other side.

Chinese National Museum near Tiananmen Square

Our next stop was the Forbidden City.  We took individual and group photos in front of the entrance with Chairman Mao's picture and then took an underground walkway to cross the street and enter the Forbidden City.  I hope I will get the history right as I describe these pictures- it was a lot to take in and remember so let's just consider this to be a course called "China, In Layman's Terms" :) 

Part of the Forbidden City.  The colors on the buildings were spectacular.

The gates leading into the Emporer's Area of the Forbidden City.  Many of the decorations (animals, knobs, etc) are quite symbolic.  The area was also designed taking into account which numbers are good luck in Chinese culture.  

This is referred to as a gate leading into the Forbidden City.
The middle, largest walkway was intended for the Emperor.
As we gathered in different locations during our tour, Chinese people would stop and taking pictures of us and even with us!!  A couple women wanted to take pictures with Bryan because he was so tall. Another mom in our group managed to take a picture of us as we were posing with the Chinese women.  Hopefully I will be able to share that pic later; it was too funny!

This picture shows part of the political area of the Forbidden City where the Emperor would work with various political representatives.  We all followed Alice, our guide, with her CCAI flag as we went through the Forbidden City.

The Imperial Garden @ The Forbidden City

Bryan trying to stay warm as we stopped for our only potty break during the 6 hour tour today. 
I learned the hard way you have to bring your own toilet paper into the bathroom.
I was lucky enough to find a regular toilet and avoided using a squatty potty.

After 3 hours at The Forbidden City we loaded back onto the bus and headed to the Hutong neighborhood in Beijing.  It was founded in the 13th century by people from Inner Mongolia.  It remains one of the oldest and most expensive places to live in Beijing.  Only 10% of the people living their own their homes; the rest are owned by the government.  

Once we reached Hutong we loaded up into rickshaws so we could make our way into the neighborhood.

Bryan and I in our rickshaw

View from the rickshaw as we rode to the local family's home

Once we arrived at the local family's home we unloaded and walked into a small alley.  Their home consisted of several rooms, some connected and others separate.  I have to admit I was a little nervous about the food because I'm not the most adventurous eater, nor am I interested in making use of the small pharmacy we brought with us to China.  Much to my surprise, the food was delicious!  We were all starving after 3 hours of walking.  The food was traditional Chinese cooking.  We enjoyed rice, vegetables (celery, onions, garlic root, bamboo root), meatballs, chicken wings, a peanut & pepper dish, peppers and potatoes, and of course... dumplings!  It was all really good.  Our group of 11 families split into two different rooms to eat.  

Around the table getting ready to eat.  
This room was probably 10 ft x 15 ft.  We were told it is roughly $10,000/sq ft to own this property- so we were seated in a room that was worth approximately $1.5 million dollars! 

Small alleyway in Hutong home
Eating rooms are to the left and straight ahead
Kitchen and laundry room are to the right

This man prepared all of our delicious food.  It was YUMMY!

The kitchen where our food was prepared.

Feeling silly and laughing at my cup which says "I AM A PAPER CUP"

We really enjoyed today even if it was freezing cold!  The temps were in the high 20's but with wind and constant snow it was quite cold.  I don't think the boys would have tolerated it well at all, and so while we miss them we feel like we made the right choice to have them stay home for this trip to China.  

We have been impressed by how well CCAI is taking care of us.  Everything is so well organized and well done.  We are enjoying our time with the other families and having a taste of Chinese culture.  We have been so busy it has been easy to forget for a moment that in only a few days we will meet our daughter!  Until that day we are enjoying learning about her culture and the people of China.  

We have free time the rest of tonight and will figure out something for dinner and maybe visit "Snack Street" which is near our hotel.  Tomorrow's agenda (Saturday) includes the Great Wall, seeing the Olympic facilities and an acrobatics show in the evening.  Then on Sunday we fly to Hannah's province to get ready for Gotcha Day!!  


  1. Betsy! I am so happy to follow along with you guys! It makes me so excited about the future!! :)

    1. Sherry, you are going to love it when it is your turn to be here! CCAI does such a great job and we are really enjoying our time in China so far!

  2. Love the labeled paper cup! Glad you didn't have to use a squatty potty! Love reading your blog and keeping up with you. Hope you have a great day tomorrow!

  3. Sorry that I don't have facebook to leave comments like this but I'm laughing at how you were probably laughing at the picture of the hand warmers. That is one happy looking seal. A. I didn't know seals got cold. and B. Who knew hand warmers would make them so happy.