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Beijing Travel Blog

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Forbidden City front gate

Our first few days here were spent getting adjusted to the time. Crazy time difference. We got off the plane, went through their immigration and customs and hopped in a taxi. Hint to travelers, go with the legal taxi, don't go following someone off into the parking lot cause they say they have a taxi. Compared to places like New York and London the taxis here are nothing so take a real one cause they're cheaper than any illegal taxi you can snag here. Anyway, the roads are crazy big and the driving... its more than frightening. People just merge cause they want to and I'm not sure if it's everyone but of the several days we've been here and the many cars we've been in... Ive not seen ANYONE look before they made a move! Okay, here's some driving stories to curl your hair.

Inside Forbidden City
1. Bikes are everywhere, even if they say they're not supposed to go on certain roads, they're there. They just go when ever and where ever they please and no one wears helmets. You hear a bell, look over your shoulder and it's there, waiting to advance on you. Sometimes there's a second person or a massive parcel on the back rack and they're all wobbly, they go in front of cars, they move into traffic to avoid people walking without looking... it's so scary. 2. We went through a red light across 6 lanes of cars to cross the road in a tour car... I thought I was going to die, we weren't the only ones! Still the cars waiting at the green light started to move forward cause not are people not going to wait for their turn, they're not going to let someone else take it if it ever comes.
Inside Forbidden City
3. you turn let here across the traffic from the far right lane(s). EEK!!!! That's across the bike paths, pedestrian walkways and the 4 lanes of sitting traffic. If the person in the second right lane decides to go straight instead of right you smash into each other, crazy! 5. Parking break, what's that? We never sit still in still traffic, you either roll forwards or back, just train your mind to block it out cause worrying isn't going to help you here. No one used autos apparently, it's all manual shifts and they change gear constantly, bumper to bumper traffic they grind to a halt with one foot on the clutch and one hand waiting to change back to second. Lastly 6. Seat belts? Not always. And,if there's no seatbelt, it's going to be a scary ride and you might think you're safer with one.
Detail of a door Inside Forbidden City
No. Think positively, when you see the traffic coming at your door you can quickly move over if the car aiming at you doesn't actually stop. I'm waiting for it to happen. Anyway, driving here is crazy, but its sort of fun to watch, from a safe place. We went to walk across a pedestrian walk with the red man green man and found everyone walking into traffic and a very frantic crossing guard waving a red flag at them. Apparently many people are just now getting accustom to cross walks that restrict you. I'm a little anxious walking across busy roads anyways, you get hit by one car and it makes you a little wiser. But, to have the red flag man wave you across the road when the lights green and cars are honking cause they should have the right of way makes you wonder if perhaps the red flag man is also getting used to restricted cross walks.
Detail of a massive bronze jar Inside Forbidden City
Anyway, beside the homicidal driving and walking, it's pretty fun here... well if you have lungs made of iron. I didn't realize they were serious when the WHO said the air quality was bad here. Luckily I have an inhaler and a camera that cuts the haze down quite well, you'd never know that you can hardly breath when sitting in traffic. Anyway, each country has it's own problems right? So, we're staying in the Grand Hyatt Beijing which is just down the road from the Forbidden City so we went there right off. Got up at like 5:30am cause we cant sleep and we were there for 8am when they opened there. It was nearly empty, apparently it's the best time of the day to go cause it's the least busy early on. It's also less hot so you wont completely bake.
Lion at a gate Inside Forbidden City
Though a warning, if you don't get a water in the courtyard before you enter (past the gate with Mao's portrait on it but not inside the second gate) you will have to wait till like the third gate past some of the palace buildings (in other words up a boat load of stairs) before you will get your next chance. Also, be prepared, every where in the tourist areas there are people trying to sell you stuff. It's cool if you want it, but know people are going to come up to you at random. You get your tickets then go to the entrance, if you have a bag it goes through security, no big deal, pretty standard. Then, you enter this massive courtyard. It's impressive (although under restoration at the moment). You think 'Wow! Pretty cool!' Then you go through the gates at the side of the building into another courtyard, and then another, and another.
Inside Forbidden City
It seems to go on forever, it's massive, beautiful and isolated. There were moments when I just stood on the walkways and could feel it, it was quiet even with hundreds of people flocking in, then you realize that only a certain number of people at a time plus servants and guards would have been allowed in to see the emperor and it's quite a strange feeling of quiet and isolation. Similar in someways to the great castles in Europe but then, not at all. I don't know how to explain it. Another word of warning, there are many many many steps here and it is not handicap accessible! So, be ready to walk and wear sensible shoes for the love of God! And... only use the stairs, don't be stupid like me and think that you can step around the crowds by stepping on the sloppy bit by the stairs, it looks like you can just put one foot there and move past it, no, just step over it.
a Chinese cypress tree
I nearly landed on my face, it's marble after all and slippery. Almost broke my ankle and had a limp the rest of the day, not broken or sprained, I just have one hell of a bruise and skinned it. Meh... But, I was so glad I got to see the palace, so it was fine. We went through the whole complex, at least what's open at the moment, there are major renovations going on to repaint and fix up the nooks and crannies cause they have the Olympics in 2008, by the way. WAY COOL BEIJING OLYMPICS LOGO!!!! They have these cute characters to resemble the spirit of China, a fishy one who is blue, a panda who is black, a red Olympic flame, a yellow and a green one... One's a bird and one's Tibet or something like that, it's pretty amazingly cute! I have the Panda Bare, his name is Jing Jing.
Inside Forbidden City, the Epmperor's garden
The fish's name is BeiBei... Get it Beijing? The other three make up the Chinese word 'welcome to' How cool is that?! I love it! There is also a bright pink cow for the special Olympics... he's a little more weak of a character but still lovable. Not too sure if he's the ipedimy of political correctness though. Anyway, I'm sure the intention was good. Still beats the ugly 2012 London logo, ick. Can we think of a better way to blow 40,000£? Anyway, enough of that. The back of the Forbidden City is a large garden with natural rock formations on display as part of the garden, it's absolutely beautiful and very very unique to Chinese gardens, I can now honestly say I can see the difference between them and Japanese and Korean gardens.
Detail Inside Forbidden City
Though I love them all :) And, I think I will end it here for the first few days so that there's something to read later. Sorry I couldn't get on line and put this up whilst we were actually in China, but there was a Internet issue and I didn't want to loose my password to the world. That's all I'll say about that.

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Forbidden City front gate
Forbidden City front gate
Inside Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
Detail of a door Inside Forbidden …
Detail of a door Inside Forbidden…
Detail of a massive bronze jar Ins…
Detail of a massive bronze jar In…
Lion at a gate Inside Forbidden Ci…
Lion at a gate Inside Forbidden C…
Inside Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
a Chinese cypress tree
a Chinese cypress tree
Inside Forbidden City, the Epmpero…
Inside Forbidden City, the Epmper…
Detail Inside Forbidden City
Detail Inside Forbidden City
Garden Inside Forbidden City
Garden Inside Forbidden City
Detail Inside Forbidden City
Detail Inside Forbidden City
135 km (84 miles) traveled
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photo by: Deats