Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year's Eve was fun.

I started the day by visiting Mao Tse Tung's Mausoleum, where foreigners and nationals can still pay to get a glimpse of the legendary leader at rest.

I tried to get in line, but was quickly told to leave my camera across the street. No cameras or bags were allowed inside. After inconveniently depositing my camera in the check room across the street, I got in line and waited in the icy wind for about ten minutes before they would allow us to enter the gates of the highly guarded complex. I was part of a group of visitors ushered in about every 15 minutes, and we were led along the outer fence, walking within dotted yellow lines, until we came to a halt in front of a flower stand. At that point, visitors could leave the line to purchase flowers.

After a few moments, we continued to the front of the mausoleum, and made our way up some steps to the entrance, where two sniffling women were collecting money, and given our tickets to go inside. Surprisingly cheap to enter 1 RMB (about 12 cents), a sign asked me to remove my hat before entering, to which I respectfully complied. I won't reveal the hidden inner-mysteries of Mao's final resting place as it would be like telling you the end of a movie or a book.

I left the mausoleum and went to one of the large old gates of the city, at the South end of Tian'anmen Square, now a kind of museum of old photographs and artifacts of Beijing, the old walls and lifestyle of the city. I finished off the afternoon by taking in the National Art Museum, which showcased a large number of fine paintings.

After going home, where Angela reminded me that a lot of people were suffering at this time of year due to the Tsunami which ravaged so many unsuspecting people earlier this week, we quietly prepared to meet some friends for dinner. We didn't quite know what to expect from the company or from the restaurant, and our spirits were lowish when we set out for the evening.

Angela was begging for pizza all the way to the restaurant, which we are going to enjoy tomorrow night, and we were happy to discover that many of the items on the menu were Italian dishes and, actually, quite good. The dinner party consisted of: my friend Alex from Boston, two Bulgarian students, a Chinese Film teacher and his girlfriend, two Italians, Angela and Paola, and me. We had a nice conversation over our dinner and we were looking forward to the celebration after the meal at a warehouse party in a part of Beijing that we hadn't yet visited.

We left the party at about 1 AM, after cutting the rug for a few hours, and went to look for a cup of coffee. Starbucks is, sadly, one of the only options for coffee in China, and they aren't open so late, especially on New Year's Eve. We settled for a pricey restaurant where I ordered an orange juice nightcap. We finally arrived home and were sleeping soundly by about 2:30 AM. A late night, but not exceptionally so.

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