What an amazing day. After a long flight (even upgraded) yesterday, we were left kind of wiped out this morning. Amy and I think we woke up every 2 hours and then couldn’t adjust the to time zone change. We just gave in and got up at 5 something. The kids are tired but really holding up well. They love the adventure and so far are proving really good travelers. After being a little worried last night with the heavy smog, bad traffic and the strange smells everywhere, I was really left wondering what the allure to this city was. Well, today that was all answered. Today was clear and sunny and proved a beautiful backdrop to some amazing history. Tienemen square was interesting as I had expected but the forbidden city and adjacent park were absolutely top notch. I am kicking myself for not buying a book from a persistent street vendor to remember it by. We started out at 150 Ruan and ended up at 20 but for some reason I didn’t pull the trigger…definitely a mistake. After that, we were off for lunch but had to make a deviation from the scheduled location because it was closed. We found the busiest place nearby and went inside for some great food and quite a bit of help from our guide and the locals. Getting a table was similar to being on a busy subway but we were lucky enough to finally share some seating. Our family definitely gets some attention when off the hotel strip and several people really enjoyed watching us try to eat everything with chopsticks. We were then off the see some of the old charm neighborhoods which appear to be (at least in some parts) quite upscale now. It really went from tiny rustic and poor appearances to quite hip evening bar scene stuff. Really neat, narrow streets with store front shops and shared residences behind. There was even a frozen lake and canal that had people renting strange tricycle-like sleds which looked like a lot of fun. All the while, I was reminded of the history here as walking on 500 year old canal bridge that handles cars no problem. We took buses today and also took the subway. Our guide explained to us how the government many years ago planned the expansion of the city demolishing the old rings/walls around the original city interior. I know they tore down an awful lot of history, but they did get this subway /mass transit thing right. What an awesome way to get around. They are efficient, safe, modern and easy to learn /use(heck our last trip tonight we went across town and transferred subway lines by ourselves) Buses come every 3-5 minutes it seems and there are fully developed giant bike rental stations all over. We are so far behind as far as transit goes. NOT so much as air quality though as my eyes generally do feel strained with the sustained smog. So far Nathaniel is doing just fine and his asthma hasn’t been an issue. The subways, malls, people and city are far more hip than I expected…much more what I would have expected in Japan or Korea. Everyone it seems, has cell phones and are plugged in. There are so many high end luxury cars here going down the road with old rusty tricycles opposite. Tonight Amy and the kids went to bed, but I was drawn outside by the crazy amount of stadium sized televisions, neon and signage. There was Christmas trees and a carousal being taken down by an upscale mall and just absolute chaos as how the cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians work together. The general rule here appears to be that any traffic law can be broken when convenient and that if you are a pedestrian, bike or generally smaller vehicle- look out!
I have quite forgotten the time as I purposely didn’t bring my cellphone and didn’t remember to bring a watch. It’s getting late and time for bed.