Tuesday 18th July 2018
Torrential Rain & Tiananmen Square
Up bright and early for a busy day ahead, despite the fact that the electric storm during the night had kept some of us awake. Breakfast began the day with a choice of chicken sausage, pak choi, noodles and steamed red bean buns (amongst other better known breakfast options) but still, no Coco Pops in sight. The rain still poured outside so we gathered our rain coats in preparation for survival, but nothing could have prepared us for the torrent at Tiananmen Square. Umbrellas, ponchos and rain macs were pointless given the sheer volume of water that was unleashed from heaven. The pavements lay 2 inches beneath the water and trainers squelched fountains with every step we took. Each layer of our clothes was sodden, including the contents of our bags; nothing stood a chance of staying dry! Tiananmen Square was a sight to behold, although hidden behind sheets of rain. We entered The Forbidden City through the deep tunnels of the outer walls, where Chairman Mao’s portrait stood in pride of place. We battled and fought against the crowds and a sea of multi-coloured umbrellas (which seemed to be used as weapons of torture!).
The Forbidden City was a labyrinth of ornately decorated palaces, 999 in all, to house the Emperor and his many, many ‘girlfriends’! Marble carved dragons and bronze cast lions decorated the many entrances symbolising the Emperor’s status above the lowly common-folk outside the palace walls. Lunch consisted of a traditional ‘Hot-pot’ but, not as we know it… instead, a copper pot filled with boiling flavoured broth was prepared ready for us to cook our own creation of fish balls, meat, noodles and vegetables. Ella J led the table like China’s answer to Jamie Oliver, mixing, ‘…a bit of this and a bit of that’, to create a real ‘pukka’ dish. The steam and warmth of the bubbling brew was a welcomed break from the storm outside, but our clothes remained soaked.
Plans were changed due to the weather and our trip to the Hutong was replaced with a trip to the Pearl Market shopping centre. We were briefed in bartering by Mr Redfern but he could not have prepared us for the onslaught we were about to experience. 60 minutes of anything but retail therapy commenced, but resulted in the many bargains purchased: headphones, speakers, t-shirts, trainers and gifts. The most prized buy of the day was Mr Redfern’s milk sweets – now, a firm favourite of us all on the trip. Before dinner, we were treated to a critically acclaimed Kung Fu Show at the Red Theatre, Beijing. This featured a talented cast of Buddhist Monks, with the youngest of the cast roughly aged 6. We were mesmerised by the thrillingly skilled stunts which defied death and demonstrated perfected dedication and talent. Adam L said the performance was, ‘the most astounding live show I’ve ever seen, action packed and exciting – just wow!’ Dinner was served in another local restaurant, with the highlight being some chocolate inspired spring rolls. The evening stroll took us to a shopping centre by the hotel where we visited the supermarket. We viewed the fresh and live culinary delights which included: monster crabs, lobsters, Mon Thong (stinky fruit), blue Pepsi and Suky Suky crisps (Samuel’s favourite apparently). It was then back to the hotel to pack our bags ahead of our journey to Changzhou the following day.