I’m in Beijing for the week to explore and hang out with my friend Jess, who teaches English here. I visited the city about 10 years ago with my family, so I’m excited this time to live and breathe like a true Beijinger.
Jess shares an apartment with two others (a hyperactive Chinese techie, and an American/Colombian girl who just graduated and is on a fellowship to “find herself”). Jess speaks fluent Mandarin, which has been invaluable, and after 1.5 years here, she definitely knows the ins and outs and best places for food, shopping, massages…
Jess works odd days, so on my first day, I biked around the central areas like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and ended up at Prince Gong’s Mansion. It was so refreshing. I stick out like a sore thumb; biking seems to help me blend in! There are surprisingly few foreign tourists. Most of the visitors at these locations were Chinese, and of course, all in large tour groups.
(Anyone notice the resemblance with the Japanese school kids? Well, this is the Chinese tourist equivalent!) This picture was taken at the Temple of Heaven, below, in the southern part of Beijing.
Despite his not so great track-record, Mao still commands immense respect from the Chinese who rush to get their picture taken at this gate for example, or visit his mausoleum. Souvenirs with his face on it are ubiquitous.