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Published: September 12th 2012
We got to Beijing and haven't stopped since. The last three days have been insane...
THE FORBIDDEN CITY
The Forbidden City was the first site we wanted to see. It is within walking distance from our hostel so we set our alarm, woke up early our first day here and set off on our merry way. We grabbed some dumplings and pastries for breakfast en route and got to the City gates right around the time it opened at 8:30am. The first thing we thought was, "Wow, so happy we aren't in a tour group!". The tour groups are adorable in the most chinese way possible. Most of them wear ridiculous hats or have matching shirts (or other matching attire) and they all follow around a Chinese person with a microphone and a flag. It's just priceless to see... especially when they stand in line. Anyway! The Forbidden City has been around since the Ming Dyansty (I think 800-1400AD ish). Only the Emperor, his wife, the concubines and eunuchs and any other court people or ministers with special invitation were allowed inside the City walls until about 50 years ago. Each room/hall/temple had a purpose and much of the
City was rebuilt or renovated somehow during each reign to suit the current Emperors needs. Most of the stairs are marble. There are countless hand-carved dragon's, lion's and other important creatures. It is actually so hard to describe it all right now, it is one of those places you really need to see to comprehend. At the end of every single roof tile, there is a hand-carved dragon. On the corner of every single roof, there are hand-carved dragons - the number of dragons depends on the importance of the building; the Hall of Supreme Harmony (the largest wooden building in the world) has the most dragons with 11. It is immaculate. It is historical. It is beautiful. It is scandalous.
We wandered through the majority of the rooms in awe reading all of the plaques explaining the history that occured in every crevis of the City. It was an overwhelming experience and as we continue on this adventure through China we realize that is going to be a common theme to what we see and do.
THE GREAT WALL
The Great Wall is another historical site that you read about and anticipate and never really understand
what it's like unless you are there. Our very dear friend Paul contemplated meeting us in China just to see this wonder of the world. We'll see you in a couple of month's buddy, and when you make it to the Wall you will not be disappointed!
You can climb the wall in many different sections and from the get go, we decided that we didn't want to see a section that would be too restored and over-taken with souvenir stalls. The section we actually had decided on is currently closed for restoration so we were forced to chose another. We decided on Jiankou. It's actually kind of illegal to go there (aparently closed to the public), but we thought the raw beauty of the Wall would be worth it if we did get fined. Rebecca was stressed and Tyler was beyond excited! Great! Let's go!
We caught a bus to a nearby city then hired a driver to take us to the village of Xizhai where we would be able to access the Wall. After another early morning and a few hours of travel, we arrived at the village around 11:30. The trail was about a half
an hour hike before we caught sight of the Wall and once we both climbed on, there was silence. Since the Jiankou section is supposed tobe off limits (you can tell by the signs that say "not open to the public") there was barely anyone there. In fact, the only other people we saw were on the trail heading away from the wall. When we actually got onto the wall and started making our way along it, we didn't see a single soul.
Our dream of seeing the Wall in its purest form was accomplished. Parts of the wall were extremely deteriorated and we actually had to climb off at one point since the "stairs" were so crumbled. This was the section referred to as Heaven's Ladder.
The whole time we were trying to capture the perfect picture to share and the darn thing is so photogenic that we must have 300 perfect pictures. The day just so happened to be perfect as well. Warm with a bit of fog, great weather for hiking and great lighting for magnificent pictures. The wall was spectacular following the crest of several mountain ridges with numerous guard towers all left the
way they were last built during the Ming Dynasty.
We didn't want to back track to get back down so we followed a random path we hoped would get us back to the village. Luckily that worked out and luckily there weren't any cops waiting to handcuff us. We made it back to Beijing in time for dinner and for us to actually sleep in the next day... we didn't get out of bed until like 9am... so bad ass!
THE SUMMER PALACE
The next site was the Summer Palace. This is where the residents of the Forbidden City would spend their Summer and Fall months. It is just over 300 hectares of land which is mostly a water. The Kunming Lake is the largest on the property but there are also three smaller lakes. There are a number of temples, and just like the City, lots of halls and rooms each with a specific purpose. The Summer Palace is a much more tranquil place than the flat, concrete space of the Forbidden City.
Rebecca's favourite tree was the laced-bark pine. We tried our hardest to get a picture of the really pretty birds that were
Buddhist Fragrance Pavillion
one of the buddhist temples on the property
flying around but they are a tad bit camera shy.
Unfortunately most of the structures were ruined in 1860 by the Anglo-French during the second Opium War so not much of Palace was original.
We completely underestimated this place. We thought we could spend a morning there and that would be enough, but there is so much land to cover we did our best with the time we had. Generally, we try to stay away from the crowds and because of this, I think we saw a softer more serene side of the Palace than most tourists. The closer you look, it really does look and feel like a king's cottage. The structures aren't as rigid as the City, there is obviously much more nature encorporated into the design and it just feels cosier!
Our descriptions of these wonderous places can't even come close to depicting their historical beauty. Please refer to the pictures to hopefully do them justice.
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