China National Holiday – Beijing

October 1st is China’s National Holiday, like July 4th for us. But the
Chinese don’t just celebrate the one day, they often take the entire week. We
planned a one night trip to Beijing at the end of that week, Oct. 3 – 4, hoping
to visit the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square, with the kids, and do some
shopping. A new fast train just opened up on August 1st, which is a direct
ride from Tianjin to Beijing in 28 minutes. So our day started at 8:30 am, when
we left our apartment complex by taxi for the Tianjin train station. After
arriving and getting to the platform, we boarded our train which left at 9:30

We traveled with our friends, the Bevis’, who also have a son Michael’s age.
Part of the reason for the trip was to celebrate the boys’ 16th birthdays, which
are five days apart. We arrived Beijing, then had to take a bus to the nearest
subway station (2 stops away). This part of the commute was a little
frustrating, many here say it would be nice to have the subway connect directly
to the train station. Anyway, we arrived at the subway after a crowded ride on
the bus, and then took it to the Tian’anmen Square stop. By this time we were
all getting a little hungry and were a little tired out from all the
transferring of transportation types. When we came up from underground we
entered into swarms of people. It seems that our hopes of a nice day of
sight-seeing were going to be shared with the thousands of people still in
Beijing for their National Holiday. We squished our way through the crowds,
trying to stay together, to get to Tian’anmen Square.

However each time we stopped to try to take pictures, we were quickly
surrounded by Chinese who wanted to take pictures of Megan and all of the kids.
It was difficult to even begin a conversation as to what to do next. Here’s a
few snapshots of the Great Hall, Olympic Mascots and Tian’anmen Tower, amidst
lots of people.

So we made a decision to make alternate plans and save the Forbidden City for
another trip. We decide to take the kids to the famous Pearl Market, where they
could barter and buy stuff. We had told them about this place after we were
taken their last fall, and they really wanted to see it. First we had to get
out of the crowds and find taxis. The roads were barricaded off for a couple of
blocks surrounding the Forbidden City and Tian’anman Square, so we did a fare
amount of walking before we could even locate taxis. Soon we were on our way.
Cell phones come in handy at this point, since we have to ride in two taxis
(they only allow 4 people per taxi). We had lunch at a little bakery then
headed to the market. Megan fell asleep during the shopping trip.

That night we planned for dinner at a special restaurant which Sean and I had
visited last fall with friends. Then we spent the night at a Chinese hostel.
Now some of you may be thinking…hostel!! What kind of accomadations will that
be? It actually is very basic, but really nice. The girls stayed in one room,
and the guys in another. We had three sets of bunkbeds, which had comfy
mattresses and even feather pillows! Since all we were going to do was sleep,
it made sense to stay at a hostel and save the expense of three hotel rooms
(two, which our large family requires plus one for the Bevis family).

The next morning daddy treated the kids to Starbucks and later we ate lunch
at Peter’s Tex-Mex restaurant which our friends told us about. The food was
yummy, enchiladas, queso dip, hamburgers, fajitas. We got a taste of home. So
for those of you interested…you can get Mexican food in China!

We did a little more shopping on Saturday, then made our way back to the
train station to get tickets for home. However, when we arrived at 6:30 pm, at
the ticket kiosk we discovered that the only train with tickets left for that
night wasn’t due to leave until 11 pm! So we spent the next four hours sitting
in the train station. The kids did really well. We ate at McDonald’s, played
cards, (they even got creative and played the familiar Spoons card game with
staws from McDonald’s) and they played hide and go seek. Megan found friends
where ever she went.

Finally on our way home…

But when we arrived at the Tianjin train station at 11:30 pm, it was pouring
down rain and no taxis were to be found! Life in China!! I’ll save that story
for another day.