Yin and Yang on the Yangtze, Part Two
(See Part One for travel tips and preparing for arrival in Beijing)
Our room was beautiful: large, with a big modern bathroom and amenities consisting of bottles of water, tea and coffee service, mini bar, safe, and windows with great views of the city. The beds were covered with down comforters which we encountered in all of our subsequent hotels.
Since we weren’t scheduled for any activities that afternoon, I opted to stretch out fully on that soft bed and nap, but Don took off to explore our surroundings. He returned several hours later with his first hat of the trip, a Chinese dragon cap.
Early that evening, we met our Tauck guide and the rest of our group. Among the 36 people who gathered were those from Bermuda, England, and New Zealand. Following the cocktail hour, we dispersed to eat on our own at one of the hotel’s dining rooms. We retired early that night since the next day’s schedule was quite ambitious.
The long anticipated visit to China had finally begun.
Beijing Sites Versus Senioritis
I knew from the Tauck literature that the tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City was arduous — three hours of walking over sometimes rough terrain and many steps — but I had my seat cane (see Part One) to rest with even if a seat weren’t available. I was game.
As we disembarked at the Square early that first morning of the tour, I was due for a rude awakening.
Our group was divided into two, with a local guide leading each group. The guides told us that we must keep up with our group because with the crowds coming in for the national holiday later that week, we could get separated and lost. After this speech, the two guides took off at a good clip with their flags in the air. I tried to keep up, but soon found that Don and I were getting further and further behind.
At that point, after spotting a taxi outside the Square, I made the decision to let him go ahead and I would forgo the tour. He put me in the taxi with a card containing the hotel’s address, and took off to catch up with his group. But the taxi driver started to argue with me and gestured for me to get out of his cab.
A very nice young street vendor came to assist me and translate what he was saying. She said that because of the traffic, he would not turn around and head back to the hotel. He would only go in the opposite direction! So I had to get out.
I asked her where could I get a taxi to go in the opposite direction and she pointed to a long set of steps leading down to a tunnel that went under the road to another set of steps going up to the other side. Luckily the steps weren’t too steep and there was a railing, so I set out using my cane seat for extra support and after climbing to the opposite side, I hailed a taxi that did take me back to the hotel where I met one of the men in our group who had also found the going tough and had bailed out.
The two of us took another taxi later that morning to join our group at the Red Wall Café in the Grand Hotel for lunch. From the rooftop of this hotel, you can see into Tiananmen Square and view the rooftops of the Forbidden City. So at least I managed to get a glimpse of what I had missed that morning.