This is the street scene after midnight. Note the McDonalds at the corner. Pleasant to see it was not the most popular place on the planet.
This statue illustrates a vendor selling cooked and candied hawthorns.
So apparently getting up at 4:15 to see the raising of the flag at 5:31am in Tiananmen Sq was on the minds of, no exaggeration, a million other people. Coming downstairs at the hostel, I found my bike tire flat again. I need to just buy a fresh tube. So I walked. That and not knowing what I was supposed to do when I got there with the million other people, caused me to miss it. I hung in line, just to help myself in case I decide to make another attempt, but I was turned away, probably because I was in the line with the tour groups, and so I found a different line, with a promising security checkpoint, but that may have been the line to see Mao's body (located in the same area). That line stopped moving for almost 30 min, and I wanted to get out of line, but was squeezed in with a million other people inside barriers. Finally I hailed a security guy and he assisted by kicking me out because I had a bag. Interesting experience. Except for exiting a burning stadium, I can't think of anything I would ever want to do with a million other people.
This is but a small sub-set of the masses.
Bell Tower: not as popular as the drum tower, but just as awesome. I am still extremely sore from climbing the Great Wall, the two scenic overlooks and up to the Buddhist temple a couple of days ago. The stairs on these were comparable to the Great Wall, but with railings. 12" or better risers, 8" tread. I wasn't aware how much you use those muscles on the front of your thighs walking down stairs.
In the drum tower, they beat the drums on a schedule. PUT VIDEO HERE. The original use of the drums was to sound the time, much as cathedrals have bell towers.
No one looks around the back. Better photo ops.
I'm not sure why the bell tower is so much plainer than the drum.
They would swing the crocodile back and release it, like a battering ram. The signs said that sometimes they swung it quickly, but that is difficult to fathom.
Looking back at the drum tower.
This is the mansion house of the wife of the last emperor. I'll have to look into this, because I thought he was deposed at a really young age. Going here was really just an excuse to check out the hutongs (neighborhoods).
The area around the Houhai Lakes was a little touristy, with European themed restaurants, but without the gaudy souvenirs.
This very old looking bridge was good to see. The government is taking more of an interest in saving antiquities. Some of the wholesale bulldozing of neighborhoods has been stopped. In truth, it is not much different from Buffalo, NY, where whole neighborhoods were removed for "urban renewal".
This carving was something the likes of which I had not seen before.
A small example of the western style restaurants.
It was surprising to enter this bookstore, which was not western at all. Most of the books were paper and had stitched bindings. Only a few things were not in Chinese.
This smaller bell tower was located at the Lama Temple.
The Lama Temple is still used by Buddhist monks, outside of the hours it is open to tourists.
I think the idea of a lion playing with a ball is very funny. I used to think the ball represented the Earth or something. Another thing to look into.
Now the female lion dominating a juvenile seems so much more dignified.
Buddhists spin these prayer wheels, which I think contain the principles of Buddhism within. They are always spun clockwise.
I was so pleased to see this young lady working on skateboard tricks alone. She was very persistent, and was working on her balance, trying to still the board while switching her feet and not touching the ground.
Dinner. I found a bar/store with foreign beers. 48¥, which is about $8 US. I could have bought 4 servings of dumplings for that. But I was exhausted and there were no street vendors out yet, at 6 in the evening. Today I bought a subway rechargeable card. I hopped on for about 4 rides, ranging from a mile to 4 miles, and in the end I had spent 10¥ off the card (about $1.30 US). The card deposit is 20¥ and reportedly you can get that and the remaining balance back.