Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hello Winter!

Welcome to Beijing and winter! We’ve been following summer around the globe but the ride came to an abrupt end once we reached China. Winter slapped us in the face and our toes almost froze off as we attempted to explore the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The reinforcements we purchased in Shanghai (hats, scarves, gloves, boots) were no match for the bitter, biting cold here. Apparently it’s the coldest winter in Beijing in the last 35+ years (perhaps the unanticipated result of the Chinese government’s weather manipulation).

We only lasted for about two hours walking around the Forbidden City, which felt like a giant wind tunnel, before being forced to take refuge indoors to warm up for an hour, then we braved the cold again to see Tiananmen Square by night. The intense security around the square and sheer number of police (both in uniform and plain-clothes) was on a scale I’ve never seen before. Obviously the Square is an incredibly important and symbolic place for the Chinese – it was where Chairman Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic in 1949 as well as the site of the tragic pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989.

The cold was so intense we actually discussed hightailing it out of China earlier than planned to go somewhere warm like Bali! But in the end, we decided to persevere and just keep buying warmer hats along the way (first hat purchased in India in anticipation of cold weather in China, second in Shanghai, third in Beijing, fourth at the Great Wall).

But the bright (and warm) spot of our time in Beijing has been staying with Vipin’s friend, Andrew, who took great care of us and was a wonderful host.

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