Friday, September 02, 2005


Today began with a visit to Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 “student demonstration” (as our guide Robert described it) and yet another site from 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square was the ancient capital of China, and is now the capital of “Hello, you like?” A relentless stream of people hawking postcards, picture books, and Chairman Mao watches. Mao must be rolling over in his glass casket in the gigantic mausoleum in the Square. The Forbidden City is going through an extensive renovation for the 2008 Olympics. The FC -- as the kids call it -- (no, not really, we just said that for comic effect) hasn’t been renovated since 1949 and it looks it. Total disrepair. The last Emperor must be rolling in his grave, as well. So now every inch of it is being restored and it’s going to look phenomenal. It’s amazing what a little bit of paint can do. The Forbidden City has also become a haven for Chinese street urchins straight out of central casting. Lots of missing limb beggars, but no Starbuck’s to be found (the guidebooks said it was by the east Peace gate).

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