I’m back in the U.S. And because I started the touring part of my trip exactly a week ago today, I thought I’d talk about what I did, one day at a time, a week later. But first, some general stuff.
My first week here was at my company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, just on the China side of the border with Hong Kong. I flew through Shanghai, and took an Air China flight to Shenzhen from there.
Shanghai Airport is beautiful, very nicely architected, and my passage through customs and immigration there went smoothly. So did the flight to Shenzhen. But Shenzhen itself is not a pleasant city. There’s nothing to see there, it’s dirty and crowded, and the traffic is horrid and chaotic. Cars very much have the first right of way, with bicycles next, and pedestrians take their lives in their hands (that part is true in Beijing, too, and all over China). The visit to headquarters was interesting, but if Shenzhen had been my only view of China, I would never want to go back.
After a work week there, I hopped another Air China flight on Friday evening to Beijing. Because I’d booked the IETF hotel (the Shangri La) for 14 nights, I got a reduced rate — I saved more than $50 per night — and I got personal airport pickup included. That was wonderful! As I emerged from the jetway, an airport employee was waiting with a card with my name on it. He escorted me through to the parking garage, where a hotel driver was waiting for me in a cushy Audi (quiet and smooth, not like a rattly, noisy cab). It made the arrival very pleasant, and I didn’t have to think.
Friday, 12 November
When the IETF meeting ended on Friday, I had some of the afternoon left and had decided just to explore the area near the hotel, maybe stroll through the nearby Zizhuyuan Park (紫竹院, Purple Bamboo Park). And then I saw a message from an IETF colleague I know:
When the meetings in the halls end in about an hour, I’m heading over to Temple of the Earth (DìTán, 地坛), the Lama Temple (Yonghe Gong, 雍和宮) and then to Fairy Su (sùji-nglíng, 素精灵) for vegetarian food. They’re all at the same subway stop. If you’re interested in going along for any of that, let me know.
Around 3:45, three of us left the hotel for the half-hour walk to the National Library subway station, and hit the subway during rush hour. It was packed, of course, and we were like sardines in a can. But the Beijing subway system is modern, clean, and very easy to use, with plenty of English to help. It’s also amazingly cheap: 2 yuan (about 30 cents) per ride, anywhere in the system. Compare that with New York, where the fare is $2.25, and will soon go up to $2.50.
We emerged near the Temple of Earth, paid a couple more yuan to see that. The temple of Earth is to the north of the center (the Forbidden City), Earth being associated with north. The Temple of Heaven is to the south, and Sun and Moon are to the east and west. There was little to see here, really; the Temple of Heaven, which I would see a few days later, is the big one of the four.
We then walked a way to the Lama Temple entrance, but, alas, it closed at 4:30, and it was now pushing 5. We were meeting others at Fairy Su for dinner at 7:30, so we had lots of time to kill and decided to walk. We started east, found the restaurant, and walked on, through an area of restaurants and local shops — clothing stores, plumbling supplies, and such. I enjoy walking through local, non-tourist neighbourhoods.
We decided that since we had plenty of time, we’d set a goal: we headed south to walk to the Forbidden City. On the way, we went past the National Museum of Art. It was fully dark by the time we arrived at Di’anmen (Earth Peace Gate), the north gate of the Forbidden City. We went into the park to the north, Jianshan Park, climbed the hill to the pavilions overlooking the city, and took some night photos. Then we headed down and back northwest to the restaurant, where a tasty meal was had.