Our guide throughout our China adventure, in both Beijing and Shanghai, was a charming chap who went by the name of Jim Mao. As you may have guessed by now “Jim” is a chosen name used for the convenience of China Spree’s English-speaking clientele. We would eventually realize that everyone in China Spree with whom we met had adopted an Anglicized name for us. “Jim” is actually Mao Gui Chen.
Jim had an almost impossible task that he handled with aplomb, charm, grace, and most of all a vast amount of patience — he had to herd 48 mostly American and very independently minded tourists through a maze of tight scheduling over vast distances and numerous sights. Jim would later tell me that this was the largest group he has ever had to handle. Our herd was greater than his usual number by a factor of three!
He picked us up from Traders Hotel very early on an extremely chilly morning. There would be much to see this day, and daylight was burning. So, we hurried aboard the large bus and headed our of the business district post haste.
After heading out of the business district we climbed out of the bus and into the bitter, Arctic/Atlanta-like air. The exposed skin of our faces stung from the extreme cold, and our breaths were visible like jets of steam arising from a hot Yellowstone geyser in January.
After about ten minutes on foot we arrived at Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square is the forth largest city square in the entire world, easily capable of handling over a million people according to guide Jim. It was also the site of the infamous 1989 uprising.
At the north end of the square is a very familiar sight — the Tiananmen Gate of Heavenly Peace that separates the square from the Forbidden City (which we’ll tour here next week).
Passing through the gate on the way to the Forbidden City you’ll note a familiar face looking down upon those who pass.
The Forbidden City really requires its own series of blogs, so I’ll skip over that for now and finish up with something we did a bit later — a rickshaw ride to a luncheon we enjoyed that day.