“You must never start a journey at the mid day hour of a Thursday”. -nodded my aunt with her ancient Indian accents.
Phew! What superstition. Can you really control the airline itenery (with three connecting legs in my case) with this kind of a mind?
But lo and behold – our plane really could not take off from Delhi airport at the right time; reason- dense fog, visibility zero.
After thirteen hours of waiting when we finally took off, we did miss our connecting flight from Beijing to San Francisco. The next available flight will be 32 hours later.
When I was taken to the fifth floor room of the five star hotel I just plopped on the bed. Probably I am coming down with a fever. What time is it? The time on my wrist watch is all screwed up.
The table clock showed it is 3 AM in Beijing. This is hard to believe. Everything in the airport and the hotel is dazzling with thousands of artificial electric light.
“Since we are stuck for 32 hours let’s see if we can get a city seeing tour. Will you like to come too, Ma?” Nina asked.
I am sure I have fever now. The chill is clattering my teeth.
I fell asleep when the phone rang again. ‘It is $50, Ma. They’ll take us to a jade factory, a tea ceremony, to the Great Walls of China and give us a lunch. Not bad, no? We bought for you too. If you decide not to go, we can cancel it then.”
Shall I ever have this chance again? I picked myself up, took a pain killer and a hot shower. I decided to join them at 8:30 in the morning.
Xiang (whom we called Jane), our guide is a sweet lady. Her husband is the driver of our mini van.
Our van strolled along the lanes of the city where recently many Olympic athlete heroes and their fans had trotted. The city is super organized. Lots of bi cycles are hustling with disciplined patterns.
Xiang tells us that Beijing is trying really hard to cut down pollution. They have spent 17 billion dollars to go green. Many factories, construction sites, even gas stations are closed in Beijing and near the city. Motor traffic is cut in half. Thousands of old taxis and buses are replaced. They have added thirty five hundred natural gas buses to combat pollution.
Two new sub way lines are opened and Beijing has banned all the “Yellow Label” cars that have high level of emission. Office and store hours are staggered so that traffic will be manageable.
Xiang’s husband added that even once a week each car needs to take a break from getting out on the street. It is based on the last digits of the license plate. Tomorrow it is his turn to stay home.
The government regularly utilizes cloud releasing machines to increase the likelihood of rain and showers to control drought condition and also for pollution especially before a large event.
The whole nation observes a tree planting day in March when each student, each individual will plant a tree or plant on the ground. What a nice idea!
Our van is now out of the city. “Way out there, see the Great Wall of China We’ll go there today in the afternoon, after lunch.”- pointed Xiang. Part of it is under restoration process. Nature took some and “Poor people plucked some of those bricks for their dwelling” commented Xiang.
We saw homes and huts, humble in their looks, not as dazzling as the airport lights.
“The Trans-Siberian Railway”- pointed Xiang. It is still in running operation. I had goose bumps.
Soon we reached the Ming Tombs, the burial site of the 13 emperors out of the 17 ones of the Ming Dynasty.
The Ming kings believed that they might need royal, worldly goods even after they go to the heaven, like the ancient Egyptians believed. So there are gold vessels, silver and gold wash bowls so that the dead kings could wash their faces and have tea in silver kettles and gold tea cups. There are gold brocade outfits for them to wear. We saw them in the Museum.
The Gate of Heaven is just across from it where the emperors used to offer sacrifices. This is a wonderful example of Ming architecture spanning a 267 hector park.
We saw people shouting something as they were going out through the door way.
Xiang smiled explaining what their shouting means.
“They were saying -here I go out, but I’ll come back to heaven one day. – It’s just a superstition!”