This post is being written in Houston well after the events described below.
I apologize in advance for all the pictures in this post. Most are taken of the television screen in our room with the others taken out our hotel window.
As you’ll recall, when we initially booked the Viking cruise in China, it was done due to a promo they were offering (upgraded stateroom and “free” air). We paid not a whit of attention to the dates so didn’t realize that we would be in China for their National Day (which is really a week). This is their counterpart to the 4th of July in the USA but like everything chinese is at a massive scale. This was especially true this year as it was the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China which was celebrated more grandly than other years as the USSR only lasted 69 years.
If you watched the news you probably saw some of the festivities but I doubt you got a full picture. The military parade started at 10 am and lasted about an hour, followed by the people’s parade for about an hour and a half. The evening gala/pageant was about two hours long and was basically a blown up version of an Olympic opening ceremony. Everything took place at Tinammen Square and most of downtown streets in Beijing were closed to traffic. Only invited guests were allowed near the square and most businesses were closed so we decided we would pretend it was a sea day and just enjoy our nice hotel and room.
We slept in and headed to the huge buffet breakfast which was included with our room just before it closed. Like all Asian hotels with buffets like this, they have foods for American breakfasts as well as Asian ones-so eggs, bacon, hash browns, pastries as well as Chinese soups, stir frys, steamed buns and dumplings-think of a holiday buffet brunch at a big city hotel and you’ll have the general idea. The room was full of Chinese folks who had come into ten city for the celebration and all the TVs were tunes to the festivities. Actually, all the stations were covering it so it wasn’t possible to watch anything else. Before the actual parade started, Chairman Xi Jinping rode in his limo (which has its own microphones) and reviewed the troops.
There were reportedly 15,000 troops in the parade and gosh knows there was plenty of military hardware on display There were several flyovers involving helicopters, fighter jets and other military planes. We got to see these fly by our hotel window and then a minute or two later show up on tv!
After all the military might had finished being shown, the People’s Parade started with the unfurling if the HUGE flag by 2,500 (at least if my counting of heads and multiplication is correct) Chinese shown at the top of this post. Those are people in white outfits marching along (in unison of course) carrying the flag. It was originally rolled up and carried by the last row. When the parade started, it was unfurled and ended up in the center of that huge block of people. I can’t imagine being one of the poor 600-750 folks who spent the entire parade holding it up over their heads! The flag was followed by 15-30 other motorized”floats” each of which was surrounded by a mass of people. According to the news reports, there were over 100,000 marchers! The parade ended with the release of 70,000 doves followed by 70,000 (biodegradable) balloons. All in all it was a pretty impressive show!
After the parade was over, the television channels spent the rest of the day reviewing it and interviewing those who were in the square. We decided to enjoy the hotel’s indoor pool and perhaps a nap might have been taken😂
That evening we watched the four act gala on television. It included a 1000 piece orchestra, a large group in mirrored suits holding LED screens with changing animations-flag, amoeba like shapes, etc), dancing and dribbling basketball players, singing and saluting children and lots of fireworks-including those that opened the pageant by making a huge 70 in the sky. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the fireworks directly from our room but we could see their reflection in a nearby building. The party leaders all watched this from the balconies of the Forbidden City’s Gate. They had attended a big dinner inside the palace and had dessert and tea served to them during the show. Given how bored they all looked, I think we had a better seat for the show!
All in all the daylong celebrations had been most impressive to see-I suspect the logistics would have been ever more impressive to learn about. Where did they find another space big enough to allow for rehearsal (and trust me they had been well rehearsed!), where did they house 100,000 people and 15,000 soldiers-perhaps that is why our hotel was changed at the last minute? How did they feed them all? After seeing the havoc a simple parade in a city like Houston causes, it’s amazing to thing of putting on this event which was hundreds of times larger and in a city that is 5 times bigger!
Tomorrow, we do a walking cultural tour and then transfer to the hotel to connect with our Viking Ocean Cruises’ precruise extension. V