China for the New Year (4): more Beijing

Still in Beijing, in total contrast to our first night here – when I was awake with jet lag – I slept well. So well in fact that, when my alarm failed to go off at 7.30 am because the battery in the iPhone ran out, I did not wake up until Joshua banged on my door at 8.35 am after I had been asleep for nine and a half hours (more jet lag!).

One way and another, it was 11,15 am when we climbed into a cab (Hua always paid with the Chinese WeChat app) which took us to Qianmen Dajie – a recently restored pedestrianised street near the south side of Tiananmen Square dating back some 570 years with now lots of brand name and exclusive shops. It was milder today: ten degrees different at 5C.

I had some photographs taken of me with various bronze statues. Then, at Joshua’s request and to his delight, we spent more than an hour in the Beijing Madame Tussaud’s – an outpost of the original one in London. The quality of the waxwork models was quite high and there was a good mixture of world and local figures with plenty of photo opportunities. Two young people actually asked to be photographed with me  – an exotic foreigner.

After some lunch, we walked along Dazhalan Jie, a centuries old pedestrianised shopping street where there were some colourful old buildings and – as everywhere in the centre of the city – a substantial police presence. Another cab took us to our afternoon venue which was totally different from the morning one: the Niujie Mosque in the Muslim quarter of the city. Apparently there are some 35,000 mosques in China and this one is the largest and the oldest in Beijing, dating back to 996, but today’s mosque looks much more Chinese than Arabic.

A third cab took us to the hotel that was the location of our evening entertainment. There was time to spare but nothing to see locally, so we spent an hour at the Friendship Tea House drinking lots of Chinese tea, chatting, and using our phones (the tea house had WiFi).

When we returned the short distance to the Qian Men Jian Hotel, we had a small dinner in the Fu Gong Restaurant and then attended a Beijing opera show in the Li Yuan Theatre. The performance involved excepts from two traditional operas and sounded like squealing cats but the make-up and costumes were amazing. A fourth taxi had us back at the hotel towards 9.30 pm after a very varied outing of 10 hours.


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