We arrived in Beijing yesterday. The group originated from many different places, with some flying with me from London, others coming in from the UK on different regional flights and of course we are joined by some Travel Marvel clients from Australia & New Zealand. I set up a Welcome Meeting in our hotel last night so that the group have a chance to get to know each other, and me. Half an hour before the meeting was planned to start, the hotel denied all knowledge of the conference room booking. Five minutes later they found the ‘Missing’ room booking and discovered that the hotel ballroom was set up and ready for us, Sadly, the hotel doesn’t own any audio visual equipment, so my Powerpoint slides weren’t going to be happening. Five minutes later, the non-existent projector, screen and audio system were wheeled into the conference room and a lectern was produced. China can drive you a little crazy sometimes…
Preparations are underway for the upcoming National Day Parade celebrating 60 years of life in China under the present political system (1949 – 2019} on 01st October. This will be a massive display of military power – I’m sorry to be missing it. Rehearsals are planned over the preceding weekends and there are significant restrictions on movement and access to Tiananmen Square which is being prepped with banks of seating, floodlights, scaffolding and seating making it strangely empty of people.
Security has been ramped up and everywhere you look there are soldiers and police officers marching around and guarding things. Actually, they seem to be guarding pretty much everything.
There is also another more colourful army lined up ready for duty – the street cleaners – hundreds of them and all very cheerful and anxious to smile and wave.
From Tiananmen Square, its a short walk over a bridge under the close watch of Chairman Mao to the gates of the Forbidden City. It was beginning to get quite warm and sunny and the bridge was lined with a lot of serious looking young men standing under black parasols, looking like they might make life unpleasant for anybody transgressing the unwritten rules, whatever they might be.
The Forbidden City always astonishes not only in size but also in detail. Our Local Guide in Beijing is the always delightful Lily and we decided to move our traditional photo shoot from the Great Wall to here, just by way of variety.
There are always a few youngsters around who like to dress in traditional clothes when they visit and they add charm. What fascinates is not just that they dress like miniature Princesses, but that when photographed they adopt a sort of lofty hauteur that is convincingly regal… aged 7!
We were very ready for lunch and a cold drink by now, and afterwards we moved on to a famous Beijing Tea House where a last explained to us how to make tea ‘properly’ – The Chinese are scathing about the British Cuppa (Milk? Sugar? Tea Bags?) and are very keen to show us how it should be done. Yorkshire Tea Bags, it turns out, may be popular, but they just don’t balance your Yin & Yang or improve your longevity and kidney function. So now you know
Early night for a busy day tomorrow. We’re off to see the Great Wall.