Considering the current geopolitical situation in maritime Southeast Asia, just even the thought of going to China feels awkward to say the least. Yet here we are, my family and I, in the Chinese capital of Beijing, maximizing our 11-hour layover.
Theoretically an 11-hour layover is a lot of time, but considering the time we spend in the immigration (I didn’t know that a Filipino passport holder can get a temporary 24-hour pass to exit the airport in China), trying to figure out where to exit in the absence of English speakers, the journey itself to the city center, the journey back to the airport, and lining up again in the immigration, all that’s really left is about four hours to tour Beijing. So we pick a particular spot, which turns out to be the Tiananmen Square, and spend an hour or so there.
It’s actually my second time in mainland China. The last trip was 12 years ago, though it feels just like a couple of years have passed. The last time I was here, the country was in the midst of preparations for the Beijing Olympics.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we explore the Tiananmen Square, the historic site where the ill-fated 1989 protests took place. I don’t remember the site being heavily guarded in 2007, but today security checkpoints are stationed now at the site. There’s also a thick crowd gathered in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, suggesting an event, though I don’t bother asking.
The Forbidden City is just beside the square, but it’s closed for the day, so we just walk around for a few minutes before taking the subway back to the airport.