I was here 16 years ago and the feel was every different then. I can’t put my finger on it. There aren’t many foreigners around. We are being pointed and laughed at all the time by locals who try to take photos of us and especially of my friend’s children who are blond. There weren’t a lot of foreigners about 16 years ago but I expected there to be many more now. We pass two police check points before reaching Tianamen square, where we are asked for our passports and locals for ID cards. No social media is working and we have to rely on Google Maps to find places and eateries, which works fairly well. There is a sense of paranoia about. So many police everywhere. We take pictures of the square, of Mao’s maosuleum and his famous portrait on the red wall. We enter the first free part oft the forbidden city to have a little look around. There is a mix of people here. Bin men rummaging through the trash for something to eat, plastic recyclers looking for bottles. Hawkers selling sugar coated strawberries until they are shooed away by a guard. Chinese families having a nice day out and very few western tourists but we see a few. Men squatting on the roadside, women hanging out their underpants and bedding for an airing on the sidewalk. We stroll around the hutongs and observe the local life for a little while. No one speaks English, not even in our self proclaimed “international” hotel. The Sichuan food is delicious! We eat crispy chicken heads, peppery pigeon and bamboo worms until it’s time to fly back home.