It’s Always Sunny in… Beijing?

 

Well, that was certainly a welcome surprise.  The major storm system that rolled over us while we were on the Great Wall swept out all of Beijing’s characteristic smog.  This is a city which is almost perpetually blanketed by gray haze, so the sunny blue sky was an amazing treat.  At night in our courtyard hotel, we even got to see a crisp set of stars.

We decided to take advantage of the clarity by climbing some towers and looking at the skyline.  We were staying in the Dongcheng North neighborhood, which surrounds the Drum Tower and Bell Tower.  For centuries, these towers were used to measure time with an elaborate system of

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View from the top of Bell Tower.  Drum Tower is visible across the pavilion.

It may have been clear, but it was incredibly windy!  Everywhere we went that day, signs were blown over and people were struggling just to stand against the wind.

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Joel leans into the wind at the top of Bell Tower.
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Bell Tower from below.  Note the blown-over barricades.
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We happened to be at Drum Tower just in time for one of the daily performances. Simon was impressed. “Wow! Wow! Woooooowwww.”
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Family photo at Drum Tower.
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Blue sky! Note the hutong rooftops in the foreground.

Later that evening, we visited Tienanmen Square.  I was a little nervous, as the 25th anniversary of the protests is coming up.  It’s a huge square, and not really meant as a park–just a vast expanse of concrete, punctuated by flags and edged with government buildings.  Unless you’re there to watch the daily military display (we skipped it), here is really no reason to meander.

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Being chased by Daddy.

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But it didn’t take long for Simon to attract attention.  A woman gave him a Chinese flag and the sight of a blonde little boy trotting through this iconic square was enough to attract a horde of photographers.

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Just like Disney World.
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At one point, Joel counted 60 people watching Simon.

We eventually broke free of the crowds and found ourselves in a quiet area where Simon could stretch his legs again.  After consulting the guidebook, we determined there wasn’t much more to see in the area.  We were utterly exhausted and the day was getting late.  We headed back to the hotel and prepared for our trip home in the morning.

Little tour guide.
Little tour guide.
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