Wednesday, December 24

A MUSLIM NYONYA IN BEIJING (1) Coping in winter

"Please wear your winter clothes. It's cold outside," said Azmi, our Chinese tour guide in fluent Malay.
"Follow me," he said.
We walked with our bags out of the airport.
Gosh, he was right. It was cold at 8am China time. I felt as if I had walked into a refrigerator. Interestingly, 8am in Beijing was the same as 8am in Malaysia. We didn't have to adjust our watches.
Then the winter wind blew.
"Ooooo..." somebody uttered and everybody stopped in their tracks. We shivered.
It was freezing cold!! The dry icy wind hit our faces and caused temporary numbness. It was only a 2-minute walk to the bus but it sure felt like eternity.
"Welcome to Beijing. The weather report this morning predicted 0'Celcius today and a -4'Celcius at night," said a smiling Azmi.
Brrrr....!!! What a freezing welcome.

Our group picture at Tiananmen Square in front of the Forbidden City.

"We're going to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City first," said Azmi, explaining that the hotel will only be available for check-in at noon.
There was no time to put on my thermal wear(longjohn) so with only my long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and jacket, I followed the rest of the tour group to the historical sites. It was 9am, the sun was shining but it was still cold.

"You ok?"
I was worried about my husband but he gritted his teeth and followed the rest of the group members into the Forbidden City. We were far behind but we didn't mind. All we had to do was to look for Azmi's blue flag amongst the other tour agency's flags. Our Malaysian agent, Mas was kind enough to stay behind to ensure our safety and to cheer us on. With the cold wind blowing from time to time, it was really a challenge. It was so cold that my camera's batteries lasted only for 30 minutes. I prayed that Husband would have the strength to walk on his painful and swollen leg. It would be terrible if he couldn't continue and we got stranded somewhere in the Forbidden City. Well, a local Chinese man offered us the use of a wheelchair for 200 yuan(RM135) from Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City but Husband refused. With 5 more days to go, I suppose his was a wise choice. We put our trust in Allah swt to help us reach our destination(the bus) safely and in good time. We didn't want to keep others waiting for us.

Syukur alhamdulillah we managed to reach the waiting bus at the other end of the Forbidden City at 12.35pm, 5 minutes behind schedule. Amazingly, we had walked for more than 3 hours, or at least 5km. I'm so proud of my husband. He's tough :)
In front of the main building of the Forbidden City. You can get lost here.

The Forbidden City is large. Build in 1406, the buildings are still well-preserved. It's amazing how delicate the carvings are and how strong they made the doors of the buildings. Even the floors are in good condition, with each cement slab closely linked to the next slab that there is hardly any space between them. Only strict discipline and hardwork could produce such high-quality materials. The gardens in the Forbidden City still have growing trees and are well-preserved. In fact everything looked good. I salute the people of China for their preservation of this beautiful and historical site.

It was so cold that the river had frozen. I've seen a local walking on its surface.

One of the interesting things I noticed in Beijing is the this vehicle. It's a motorized bicycle,called "ta-pin che" by locals. It has a motor that runs on batteries, so it's easy to cycle up a hill. How convenient and environmentally friendly. I've seen many Chinese nationals using it in the morning on their way to work. Wish we have this in Malaysia.

This belongs to a Chinese peddler from whom I bought some souvenirs. See, it even has thick gloves to keep the hands warm while cycling.

The Chinese welcome Malaysians warmly. We're known to be generous and friendly. Muslim tours have become well-known in Beijing, which has many famous Muslim restaurants. I was told that in this cold December alone, there're about 100 Malaysian tourist groups in Beijing, with about 2300 tourists. This means a lot to the Chinese nationals who depend largely on foreign tourists to make a living. In a city of 17 million people, and a sales promoter's monthly salary is only 800 yuan (RM430), every sales counts. And yes, they work hard to make a living.

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