Day 10: Beijing and the Forbidden City

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Asia » China » Beijing » Forbidden City
October 20th 2009
Published: October 20th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Today we visited Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. We started with a bus ride downtown then walked 1-2 miles to Tian’anmen Square. On our way, we passed an elaborate structure with a few soldiers standing outside along with a few men dressed in suits. We asked Yuehua what it was. Her answer? The Chairman’s residence. It was just so unexpected and had little fanfare associated with it.

We continued down the sidewalk until we reached Tian’anmen Square. It had taken us nearly two hours to reach this point. We crossed over the bridge and through the doorway under Mao’s picture. This image looked heavily airbrushed/Photoshopped. It reminded me of an image from a funeral mass card. By this point, we were surrounded by thousands of Asians. This was the only time during the entire trip that I’ve kept a constant eye on our guide because if anyone got lost we would not have been able to see or hear him/her. The vase crowds made it difficult to move.

We passed through the doorway to the first square (the size of several city blocks) and made our way to the ticket office. Then we passed through another set of
inside the residential entranceinside the residential entranceinside the residential entrance

The blue means "unity" and the red means "work for the people."
doors to the second square with the Palace Museum. Yuehua pointed out the gold rooftops everywhere. Gold is an imperial color, signifying the emperor’s residence. The exterior building rooftops were plain, which is where visitors had to wait. As we entered the second square, I was standing at the top of the staircase when someone tapped my shoulder. A Chinese woman was having her photo taken so I thought she was trying to ask me to move. No, instead she wanted to take her picture with me. Westerners are such a rarity in China that we are a novelty. People often point, laugh, and then say, “Hello!” It is unlike anywhere else I have been. With this particular woman, she found me about ten minutes later to retake the photo because the first one was backlit by the sun.

We toured the Forbidden City without any guide materials so I do not have the names of the individual buildings. They all started to blend together. We would walk across a large courtyard, pass through a building, then enter another courtyard very similar to the previous one. Many of the buildings are closed, too. I looked inside one of the largest buildings but it was empty. People were lined up 5-6 deep and were pushing hard so we soon became claustrophobic. Fortunately, I didn’t let it discourage me to viewing the second building because it was the throne room. After this point, however, I started to suffer from overload. We all decided to split up and head in different directions. I ventured to the back half of the city, which was reserved for the emperor’s wives. I made a quick tour through the front part here and then headed towards the gift shop. Once we met again as a group, we left for lunch.

Lunch was a fun event. We went to Quanjude, a restaurant famous for Peking duck. We all had the duck - even the vegetarian in the group! It was so good!

The restaurant is located down a side street from a major shopping district (Wangfujing) in Beijing. We spent a few hours here, buying the rest of our gifts. It was nearly 5:00 when we finished and then returned to the hotel.

We had planned to tour the summer palace tomorrow morning but now we are worried about whether or not we can make it to the palace and back in time to leave for the airport. We’ll decide in the morning how we will spend the rest of our time in Beijing.

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