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A great way to start my return to China

fullsizeoutput_33bI start off leaving from Canberra and arrive at Sydney Airport from Canberra for five weeks in the ‘Middle Kingdom’ and because this year [and last] I achieved Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer Status I take my friend Jon and I into the First Class Lounge.  On our last occasion we saw a famous movie star so that was pretty cool and on previous occasions I really look forward to ordering scrambled eggs, hash browns and sourdough toast but since becoming a vegan, eggs are out so it was delicious sourdough, hash browns and avocado and…a glass of champagne!IMG_2456Before I leave for any overseas holiday, I do a lot of research about where I want to go and then type out a full itinerary which includes details of places to visit/who I will see/my driver [if there is one]/costs and accomodation details.  My friends who travel with me love it because all details are in one document and it might include a map and a link to the place we intend to visit.  However, I do always leave time for resting as that is just as important to me as sightseeing.  This time was no different…a complete itinerary.IMG_2510We arrive in Beijing nearing midnight and I had booked an Airbnb in Sanlitun [area that is know for the location of many embassies and lots of restaurants and bars].  Our accommodation was great and the weather was amazing the next day; skies were blue [surprisingly]…but so welcome as we had great views from our apartment.fullsizeoutput_33eOur first day and evening we went for a walk around the local area and saw some great buildings; some I had not seen before in the two years since I had been to Beijing.fullsizeoutput_33ffullsizeoutput_343fullsizeoutput_340IMG_2505Our second day, I had arranged a private driver, one I used when I lived in Beijing, to pick us up to take us to the Forbidden City.  Both Jon and I had been to there separately before, but I really wanted to go back and walk slowly through and see things I had not seen before.  It was worth it as we arrived early and our fabulous driver Mr Mike had already booked us tickets so there was no need to line up; just arrive show our passports and in we went and as can be seen from my photo so did thousands of other visitors.fullsizeoutput_354But before we arrived, cars are not allowed to stop on Chang ‘an Jie [street] alongside the Forbidden City or Tian’anmen Square so we parked some distance and after going through security screening (and seeing the long line of Chinese to visit the body of Chairman Mao at his Mausoleum) we entered Tian’anmen.

Looking across Chang’an towards the Forbidden City is the iconic painting of Chairman Mao and also the People’s Liberation Army guarding the Chinese national flag (the former paramilitary flag guards transferred to the PLA in January this year, having guarded the flag since 1982).fullsizeoutput_347fullsizeoutput_350So as I said, we entered the Forbidden City and walked about a couple of hours.  It is a former imperial palace; so impressive and really you could spend days there looking at the individual rooms containing jade, jewellery, wooden structures etc.  Or like me, just loving walking around the ancient buildings because it has such an incredible history having taken fourteen-years to complete by over fourteen-million workers and the fact ordinary people were not allowed to enter without permission! I love hearing the provincial Chinese talking when it is their first visit to such an amazing place they thought they would never access.fullsizeoutput_348fullsizeoutput_349And one of my favourite sites is the rooftops..fullsizeoutput_34aAfterwards we enjoyed a delicious Chinese lunch of eggplant [of course], sautéed cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, a tofu dish [that didn’t look all that good but was absolutely delicious], string beans and mushrooms and duck pancakes for Jon.  And a bottle of New Zealand white wine brought by a dear Chinese friend.fullsizeoutput_353

fullsizeoutput_34eWhat a great way to start a five week holiday in the Middle Kingdom…so until next time!!fullsizeoutput_345