Background on my evening Tiananmen Square Walk: My short visit to Beijing was almost over, my meetings were completed, and I had a short 60 minutes to do some sight seeing. My host had to leave for Shanghai, and I was left with our nice to driver, who agreed to drop me off at Tiananmen Square for one hour. I was looking forward to this!
The traffic along Chang’an Avenue was really heavy and he couldn’t park close, so he found a section of the street two blocks away where he waited for me. With a finger pointing to the square, he set me off on a solo walk.
I started east walking by the architecturally unique National Centre for the Performing Arts (really beautiful!), I then followed along Chang’an Ave passed the Great Hall of the People and reached the north west corner of the square. I saw the Tiananmen Gate, the iconic entry way to the Forbidden City, with the picture of Chairman Mao on it… this is one of the most common images you see in tourists pictures.
Tiananmen Square is physically across Chang’an Ave, south from the Gate. The plaza area is fenced on all sides, and if you look at the pin on Google Maps, it’s right at the entry I went through. The entry is a guard station that scans all packages and backpacks. I was waived-through no problem. Overseas tourist types like me, while not common, looked welcome. I would say most of the visitors to the square were citizens of China from other parts of the country (lots of tour buses).
While at the square I briefly walked by The National Museum of China, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Monument to the People’s Heroes, and very popular flag pole. I got there right at sunset and 100s of people were gathered around the flag pole as the soldiers, in a very solemn ceremony, lowered the flag, right at sunset.
When the flag was lowered, the Tiananmen Gate lights were turned on. It looked really nice! A couple of people from a university came up to me, in excellent English welcomed me to China, asked me where I was from and with pride shared some of China’s history with me. Very memorable.
But it was time to go. I didn’t want to keep my driver waiting. I haven’t been to China in over 8 years and it was very nice to be back. I had a really nice Tiananmen Square Walk.
As business travelers who go to the Dongcheng or Xicheng Districts in the city center know, during rush hour, the Chang’an Ave is 10 lanes of very, very slow traffic. After my brief walk through Tiananmen square my driver had to drive 3 miles to my hotel. It took over 40 minutes. This is Beijing — get used to it. The last time I was in town, my host had me use the subway — probably a good idea for next time.
There’s so much more to see in this area. I didn’t have time to go into the Forbidden City. There’s some really nice outdoor shopping bizaars nearby, and the museums are beautiful, but not this trip. Maybe some other time.