We’d been paying close attention to the weather forecasts for the last few weeks, as though HK is a toasty 15-20 degrees, Beijing had been bottoming out at a chilly -10, far colder even than we had suitable clothes for. Despite shopping for thermals, coats and other cold weather gear, the moment we stepped out of the airport at half midnight on Saturday night and knew we had to wait for a taxi (it turned out for up to about 45 minutes), we were dreading that even then we wouldn’t have brought enough clothes!The taxi driver obviously wasn’t too keen to have a couple of westerners in his car for longer than absolutely necessary, as he turfed us out in the street suppsoedly near our hotel, gesturing that this was the exact address on the map, it’s up to you to actually find your hotel from here. After finding a different hotel to ask for directions, they pointed us up in the opposite direction and we eventually stumbled upon it at gone 2 in the morning, ready to jump straight into bed.
Our hotel was on a road a couple of minutes down from Tiananmen Square, and our plan for Sunday was to head there before going on to the Forbidden City. We knew the vague direction to head in from the taxi ride the previous night, but the roads around the square are massive and only seemed to be traversed by subways. After several ups and downs, and a security check, we made it into Tiananmen Square without really knowing it until we’d passed the building that turned out to be Mao’s mausoleum. You can tell we did lots of research!The square itself was quite impressive: along one edge is the Great Hall of the People where the Chinese parliament meet; along the opposite edge is the National Museum of China; at one end is the large Qianmen gate (men in Chinese means gate); Mao’s mausoleum is bang in the middle, with the focal point obviously being Tiananmen with the portrait of Mao itself. Having only obviously seen the gate in pictures, it was a very strange feeling and quite surreal seeing the gate for real, as obviously there is a lot of history associated with it.
We’d been warned that the secret police weren’t too keen on Westerners taking photos of the gate because of what happened there, but we saw everyone else was and we didn’t have any trouble when we did. We were only really restricted by the biting cold wind that was whipping across the square which meant we had to take quick photos before hiding our hands back into pockets, which turned into a common theme of the trip!Eager not to stand around in the cold needlessly, after crossing under another subway, made our way through Tiananmen under Mao, through towards the Forbidden City.