Beijing’s Ancient City Center

We were up early again on day 3 in Beijing! Today we were headed to the city center with alot of sites to cover.  Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, Houhai and the Hutongs. We decided on a taxi to the first stop to save time and be the first ones in line to get into the Forbidden City. The taxi dropped us off at a quiet park and said it was just around the corner.

Unfortunately – we were not the only ones with the same plan!

The line was crazy long. It turned out it was ” Childrens’ Day” – a National Holiday – yikes! Everyone knows you NEVER go on a holiday. Too late –  we would just have to deal with it.  As the line moved forward, we had to pass through a bag check and a metal detector. I had never seen anything like it,  4-5 people would go through at the same time, It was wobbling back and forth!

Just hold on to your family – thats all I can say!   Once on the other side it was a bit calmer as we all had space to move around. We were now in Tiananmen Square, with the unmistakable portrait of Mao.

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Then it started. Very politely locals would ask if they could have their picture taken with us – mostly my daughter. Not to be rude, we said yes. Then, we could see it would never end. Now we knew what it was like to be famous. It was non stop the rest of the time in China with people taking OUR photo – still not really sure why, are we that strange?

There was not much to see in Tiananmen Square, so we moved forward towards the Forbidden City, also known at the Palace Museum.

We moved past guards lined up in civilian clothing at the Gates of Peace.

Once inside, a guy approached us to see if we were interested in a private tour guide. I immediately said no. My husband, the history buff, said yes. So after some negotiations we had ourselves a personal guide for 100 RMB ($16). I wanted to just move through quickly, but everyone needs to be happy. In hindsight, he was great and we ended up giving him 200 RMB because we got so much out of it that we would have missed if we had just done it on our own.

The Forbidden City  was overwhelming, 100s of buildings. It was built in the Ming Dynasty and lasted 500 years till the Qing Dynasty, it took 14 years to build and was completed in 1420. The same year as the Temple of Heaven was built and when China’s capital was relocated to Beijing. It was home to 24 emperors and was the center of the Middle Kingdoms power till the Imperial collapsed in 1911.

 

Chinese history has so much symbolism. Colors – yellow color of Imperial China;  numbers – 9 thought to be the highest number; Feng shui – balance; dragons – power; etc.. Nothing was by chance, everything had a meaning.

Our guide was great in explaining all these things to us. Since it was Childrens Day, there were many kids, they would come up to our kids and ask if they could teach them some Chinese and then of course a photo –

We just keep walking – its huge! Now we were in the Imperial Gardens.

We exited at the Gate of Divine Might, crossed the moat and headed to Jingshan Park, which lies on top of a little hill.

 

 

The hill was built with the earth excavaged to build the Forbidden City’s moat.

Nice views.

Next stop – Houhai. We were going to take Bus 5, that was the plan, but we fell trap the rickshaw drivers. They were persistant and after bargaining with them we decided to go for it since we thought was a pretty good deal.

They were to take us through the Hutongs (old neighborhoods) and drop us off at Houhai.

It started out ok. They took us through a few Hutongs, but then they just stopped at some random street corner and ordered us out! They said since we had not paid their original price this was as far as they where going to take us!

Now stranded – we tried to get someone to help us. We had no clue where we were. And of course no taxi would stop. After about half an hour a couple of young men offered to help us. They pointed us in the right direction to Houhai and off we went. It was about a 45 minute walk. Boy, were we glad to finally arrive and get some lunch!

It was recommended to go to Houhai in the evening as there are many bars and is all light up, but with kids and the jetlag, that was just not an option.

My son had seen they were selling scorpions on a stick. He wanted to try one – I guess too many episodes of “The Amazing Race”! Not to be out done by her brother, my daughter ate one too.

With that out of the way, we moved on to some sweets! Cotton candy

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and hand blown sugar animals

Of course we could not get a taxi back to the hotel. So we took Bus 609 to the Silk Market, connecting to Bus 28 home.

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What a full day!

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