Vatican Death March – Redux

A few years ago, I was in Rome. I made the mistake of trying to see the forum and Colosseum on the day after I got off the plane. I get in late last night but, having slept on the plane (heavily sedated, of course) as well as at the hostel, I thought I was prepared for the day.

I was wrong.

Along with two Chileans, Cindy and Sergio, I hit Beijing. This is the May Day holiday which means approximately one billion Chinese are off work and are traveling. About half that number was at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City today. Of course, being a pushy Westerner, I plowed through the crowds and saw most of what I wanted to see. At some point, though, I gave in to the tide of people and was swept past the entrances of a few of the galleries. Oh well.

The entrance to the square was terrifying. It was an underground tunnel with security machines, police officers, and ten thousand squirming humans. All I could think about was the scene described by one of the characters in 28 Days Later of a crowded train station when someone, unknown, becomes infected. Of course, I immediately began mentally planning my escape route should a zombie appear.

It was quite amazing to stand in the entrance square face-to-face with a giant portrait of Chairman Mao. I am old enough (barely) to remember the democracy protests. I couldn’t help but think of the students who camped in the square.

Portrait of Mao overlooking Tiananmen Square

Portrait of Mao overlooking Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City is massive. Beyond massive. Even the thousands of thousands of people who were there were dwarfed by the massive walls and temple complex. The one gallery that I did see was an exhibition on Chinese ceramics going back thousands of years. It sounds a bit dry but it was really quite amazing. I could do with a few Ming vases around my house.

Antique vase in Beijing Museum

Antique vase in Beijing Museum

After the Forbidden City, we grabbed lunch (I had dumplings, my two friends had the saddest plate of spaghetti I have ever seen) we toured a few parks including Jingshan Park which held a gorgeous Buddha. Lots of people were making offerings and prostrating themselves before it. It was quite a sight!

Golden Buddha statute

Beijing Golden Buddha in Jingshan Park

After that we went to Bahai Park. It was originally set aside for the Emperor but, of course, is now open to the public. Again, it was very crowded but there was a huge, gorgeous lake that we walked around. It was full of families on paddle boats. I mean…FULL. As a good lawyer, all I could think about was the personal liability issues when boats inevitably rammed into one another. I need to set up shop here.

So, after all that, I was barely able to crawl back to the hostel. One of my friends is headed to a night market. I’m taking my ass to bed.

As an aside, I think America has too many rules. On my way back from the cell phone store this evening, I passed a sidewalk where both a child and a dog were peeing in the gutter. That, my friends, is freedom.

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