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October 14, 2006

I got back into Beijing today after spending some time in Yangshuo and Xi’an. It was finally time to enjoy the city without the crowds that
were here during the National Holiday.

The first place I had to go was Tian’an Men Square. I only saw this from the perimeter when I was here the first time. I needed to stand
in the middle and get a feeling of how large it actually was (as it is the largest public square in the world).

I will sum up what I saw as I stood there: people of all ages flying kites; looking at Chairman Mao’s photo that hangs on the wall at the
entrance to the Forbidden City; and a large display with ‘The Friendlies’…

Who are ‘The Friendlies?’, you might ask. I will give a hint. There are five of them. There is a blue one (BeiBei), a yellow one (YingYing), a
green one (NiNi), a red one (HuanHuan) and a black one (JingJing - which also happens to be my favorite).
Now can you guess who they

They are the 2008 Olympics mascots! And they are absolutely adorable. Especially my beloved JingJing. He is a panda bear who wears a
little halo of Greek leaves behind his cute little panda ears. This isn’t the only reason why he is my favorite – I saw a commercial with all of
‘The Friendlies’ and they were all behaving…except for little JingJing. He was a little rascal who kept running around. From that moment,
I knew that was my guy.

Now that you have a general idea of the little people that you will be seeing a lot of in the summer of 2008, let me continue with Tian’an
Men Square…

The vibe here was great. So much energy. So many Chinese people with such a pride of their country (as many of them walked around
waving little China flags). After reading up on a bit of history regarding this square, I just stood in the middle and tried to take it all in. I
tried to imagine was it must have been like in 1989 – a year that was not long ago at all. There was some emotion ignited in me when I
was looking around and seeing what it had become today.

Aside from walking around and people watching, I really didn’t do too much else during the day. But when night rolled around, I knew that
I wanted to head back to Tian’an Men Square to see what it looked like. I am so glad that I went as it was an entirely different scene.
Little lights lined the buildings on the perimeter. ‘The Friendlies’ display was lit up and they looked even more adorable at night. The
Forbidden City entrance was lined with lights and Mao’s picture was lit up enough so that it was as if he was looking right at me.

October 15, 2006

There were only a couple things I wanted to do today: check out this ‘Silk Market’ that everybody had been talking about and go to
Jingshan Park.

First Stop: Silk Market (or also referred to as ‘Silk Street’)…

The term ‘silk market’ is a very misleading term. Don’t get me wrong…there is definitely silk being sold there. But there are also purses,
sunglasses, clothes, souvenir items, watches, jewelry, etc. being sold as well. There are about five floors lined with row after row of

While I have been in China, I haven’t felt the ‘need to shop’. But this isn’t to say that I haven’t felt the ‘need to bargain’. I am almost
addicted to the art of negotiation out here. And I have to admit that I am darn good at this, too. My strategy was to play hardball. I had
absolutely nothing to lose since I didn’t ‘need’ anything. I came out the victor in every situation I was in at this market. An example: A
woman quoted me 680 yuan for a pair of sunglasses.  I said 50 yuan. She said 600 yuan. I said 50 yuan. This continued and I left with the
sunglasses for 50 yuan. This literally happened
every time I inquired about an item. In the end, I left with sunglasses, a watch, Lancome
mascara, two Chinese notebooks, a big paint brush I wanted (to use to paint ‘male’ bamboo) and ipod ear buds (since mine broke a few
days ago) for $21. While at first I thought these vendors hated me, once the money was exchanged I could tell that they actually respected
my skills. One of them even told me so.

I could have spent much longer at the market but saw it in my best interest to leave and take a nice hour-long walk out to Jingshan Park.
What made this park special was that because it lies directly across the street from the Forbidden City, the view was incredible from the
Now it was possible to see just how many buildings were in the Forbidden City. What made this park even better was the 2 yuan
entrance fee. Definitely a nice (and relaxing) way to wrap up my time in the Beij…

I am now going to go grab a glass of wine downstairs. It feels like an ideal way to end the night. Tomorrow will be an early rise-and-shine
time as I mean with my ‘panda bear’ tour group and we fly out to Chengdu…
Back to China.
JingJing as he pumps some iron.
View of the Forbidden City.