By the time I arrived at the Wangfujing Grand, my hotel in Beijing, it’s 5:00pm and my body’s tingling from enduring the 14-hour international flight. Dusk is settling over the city, quieting the traffic noises to a gentle hum, relaxing me even more than the timeless lull that envelopes me. Exhaustion combined with excitement means that I was too wired and tired to do anything other than take a few photos from my room.
My obsessive pre-planning had paid off and from my window I have a clear view of the Forbidden Palace rooftops less than 1 km away. Perched from my 12th floor vantage point I get my bearings and establish my route for the evening - travel along the hutongs until I reached Tiananmen Square.
Forbidden Palace Roof Tops, Beijing
Park Pagoda, Beijing
Jet lag rules tell us; upon arrival not to sleep during the day, but that does not work for me. A short 2-3 hour nap is perfect to cut the rough edge from the buzz of the plane still shooting through my body. But by the time I am ready for the city its nighttime and this end of the famous Wangfujing shopping district is almost empty except for a few locals doing business on the street.
Wangfujing Street Life, Beijing
I feel safe alone – I always do, especially when the people who live in the country tell me not to worry. So off I go looking for dinner even though its 9:30 I am hungry. I see a noodle shop open that’s clean, friendly and I point to the photos of the veggie noodles. Happy and full I pay the bill and head off in the direction of the first hutong to the left, its left, then left, then left again along the small side streets too narrow for most cars.
Hutong Street Dining, Beijing
Its getting darker and the streets are becoming more deserted as I continue to walk and soon I am beside the majestic outside walls of the Forbidden Palace. Its not until I turn the corner onto Chang’An Avenue do I hear the throngs of Chinese who make a pilgrimage to this historic site. I am overwhelmed at their joy and happiness. It’s a pleasure to be amongst the thousands of families and I join in and take their pictures too.
Moa Couple at Forbidden Palace, Beijing
Tomorrow is Day 2 and I am off to the colorful Panjiayuan Market with my childhood friend Ira Cohen who has lived in China for 23 years.