We are waaaaayyy behind on our blog posts at the moment and are scrambling to catch up on our last three weeks spent in Beijing, Datong, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and now Kobe. While looking through our pictures to decide what’s worth posting, I found these two photos from the opposite ends of Tiananmen Square. At the north end, there’s a view across the street to the entrance of the Forbidden City, where a giant portrait of Mao Zedong is hung. Each year, on October 1, the day the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the portrait is replaced–I guess this is to keep the portrait looking fresh and new. In our picture of Mao’s picture, you can see one of the many police vans that continually patrol the square. The security was definitely very tight there–we passed through a checkpoint with metal detectors and airport-style x-ray machines just to get into the square. Once inside the security barrier, in addition to the police vans, there are lamp posts all over the place hung with clusters of security cameras. It’s a little disconcerting and creepy to know you’re being watched so carefully. The square was packed, though. And no, it wasn’t raining–we’ve noticed that folks all over East Asia use umbrellas for sun protection. I’ll admit I’ve jumped on the bandwagon–an umbrella definitely does provide much-needed shade when it’s really hot!
We walked through Tiananmen square from north to south, along the way passing the massive building where Mao’s embalmed corpse is housed. We talked about going in to view the body, which I wasn’t really too excited about, but I thought it was perhaps a “must-do.” Fortunately for me, the viewing hours had finished for the day, so we just kept on walking toward the southern end of the square. I took a picture of John standing at the gate marking the southern end. He looks just as hot and tired as I felt at that moment. The smoggy, oppressive heat in Beijing felt very different from the humid, tropical heat in Thailand. It was as if an enormous polluted cloud just pressed down on the city, preventing all air movement. We sweat A LOT and drank lots and lots of water!