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Thursday - 10 May - Sunrise is at 0530 with view from the 13th floor over a non-descript part of the city through very heavy smog polution and haze. Breakfast is at 0600 - an excellent multi course buffet with 'all you can eat' of pancakes, eggs, bacon, juice, rolls - plus many Chinese dishes for those so inclined.

The program director gives a fine briefing and group departs to Beijing Zoo at 1030 - But I instead take taxi arranged by Ms Weiman to the Chinese Revolutionary Military museum. Cost is 14 Y plus tip. The scale of the city map is deceiving, so the museum is a lot further from the hotel than I expect - good thing I do not try to walk there. By 0900 the city traffic is very congested. There are many fine, tall buildings along this main street. There are many elevated cross streets which must have involved destruction of thousands of homes. The military museum is a large building with marble floors and very high ceilings to large halls. It is an extraordinary museum, very well laid out with extensive descriptions of the exhibits. There is much too much to see in one morning or even in several days. Another taxi takes me back to the group lunch at a fine restaurant with detailed written directions by Ms Weiman - but the taxi driver cannot find it at the place it seems to appear on the sketch map. Fortunately he can cell phone to our guide for directions. The resturant is about 5 blocks through narrow alleys from the indicated spot. The local tour guide is waiting outside as I arrive. Cost is 32 Y plus tip. The restaurant is spacious with beautiful decoractions and set up for special groups in 4 or 5 small rooms. We have the first of many daily banquet lunches. The dishes are served family style, placed on a lazy susan in the center, to each group of 10 at a table and come one after another so that by the time the last items are served one can hardly eat any more. See Beijing
After lunch we start the tour of Tian' An Men Square and then the Forbidden city. There are many people in the immense square yet it hardly seems populated. There are the usual souvineer sellers - watches, books, hats, postal stamps and more. We buy several hats with Beijing Olympics symbols on them for .50 cents each. Then we enter the Imperial palace - the Forbidden city through a huge gate with the portrait of Mao over the passageway. There are 6000 buildings in this palace grounds in which 10,000 people lived to care for the emperor and court. There are Chinese soldiers in impecable uniforms standing like statues everywhere. The uniforms are dark green with white webbing. The large crowds of Chinese move easily through the huge spaces. The Forbidden city has a series of walls and gates with multiple courtyards between. Several of the important palaces are being repaired and are covered with wire. But we are able to enter others. We visit part of the extensive living quarters also and peer through glass to see the interior furnishings. There are ancient cauldrons used in former days for fire protection. The rock garden is interesting - unusual formations obviously assembled from other places.
We return to the hotel by bus, passing more temples and pagodas. Just enough time to dress for dinner. Bus to a famous Peking Duck Restaurant. It is an obvious tourist attraction with many huge dining rooms. A chef performs an artistic carving of a duck into 100 pieces. But the duck is a tiny part of the huge, multi-course dinner with too many courses to count served on platters on another lazy susan - we cannot eat all of even one course. Afterwards we try to walk off the excess by taking the subway back to the hotel and wandering through some very up-scale department stores. The Chinese are not lacking for hign-end European fashions, jewlery and perfumes. The subway is clean and quiet, not architecturally beautiful as in Moscow, but a lot more functional and clean. Too bed after a fascinating and exhausting day.


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