Beijing: A Larger Than Life Experience

Flying into the largest airport in the world can be an intimidating feat, especially after being in the plane for so many hours, but we were eager to have new experiences in the huge country of China. And “huge” is the word that ran through my head constantly during our visit to Beijing. Everything is “bigger than big” due to the number of people who live there.

We visited Beijing as part of a China/Tibet tour with Gate 1 Travel. We had decided on taking a tour, instead of traveling on our own, for several reasons. One, we don’t speak Chinese and two, we wanted to see many places. A guide could make travel arrangements, help us see more sites more quickly, and act as an interpreter. Also, visitors to Tibet must be on a tour.

We had a great tour guide who made our trip easy and shared information about China and its history. Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, which at the size of 62 soccer fields is the largest open square in the world. Ironically, Tiananmen means “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” Many remember watching the student-led protests in 1989 as thousands of people marched through Beijing to Tiananmen Square calling for democracy, free speech, and a free press. And many of us remember watching in horror as a man was mowed down by a tank as he tried to stop their progress. (I am thankful every day for living in a country where we can worship and believe what we want.) The visit to the square was somber because of the memories each of us had of the events. The dense smog intensified the feeling as we walked past the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong where the lines still snaked around the building. The Zhengyangmen overlooks one end of the square. This photographic-worthy building was built as a gatehouse for the city wall and now contains a museum.

And then onward to the Forbidden City, the largest government building in the world. Once “forbidden” to commoners, the palace complex, with its 980 buildings and 8,728 rooms, was the residence of Chinese emperors from the Ming to the Qing dynasties. Every concubine had her own palace within the complex which added to the immense size. The central meridian runs through the Forbidden City, bell tower, and drum tower.

Our next stop was the bell and drum towers, the time-telling center of the ancient dynasties. Because there were no clocks, villagers knew the time because the giant bell would ring and the drums would be played. The steep stairs of the drum tower were worth the climb as we viewed the traditional performance by multiple synchronized drummers.

Beijing is also a great base for several day trips including the Great Wall of China and the Sacred Way to the 13 Ming Dynasty tombs, both of which are wonderful sites to add to a bucket list of China.

Beijing is a large city, but it has maintained its atmosphere as a center of Chinese history, a history that goes back thousands of years and remains strong today.

Have you been to Beijing or other parts of China? If so, what were your favorites?

Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers. 


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