The Forbidden City - Revealed! (Sort of)

Beijing Travel Blog

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Near Meridian gate, Forbidden City

The Forbidden City - Revealed! (Sort of)

At the moment, I am sitting in a Tea Garden, just off the east gate of the "Forbidden City" - the remains of the former Imperial Palace.

I have convinced the owner, Kelvin, to let me monopolize (I mean "borrow") his computer while I am here.

But the topic of conversation at the moment is the proper way to eat roasted melon seeds. And I have just received a stern lecture. Apparently the female workers here have been giggling about how I tend to suck and chew on the whole seed, instead of just cracking it open to get at the meaty part inside. After the lesson, I was told that "Americans. No do." I think she means we have no cultural aptitude. Hmm... perhaps the fact that I order BEER in a tea house should have been the first clue?

Entry Forbidden!
Yesterday, I walked for what seemed like miles. Past Tiananmen Square, past the portrait of Mao hanging on The Gate of Heavenly Peace; past the Front Gate; until finally I came face to face with the imposing Meridian Gate. All of the time I thought I was already in the so-called "Forbidden City." In fact, I had not yet entered the former Imperial Palace. And guess what? After all that walking, I would STILL not be allowed in, as they had closed the gate only 15 minutes earlier. (Note to self: Read guide books before beginning the walk next time!)

But today I started early in the morning, and allowed myself plenty of time to wander in the footsteps of the Ming, the Qing, and of course, The Last Emperor. I'll spare you the details, but just watch any Chinese "Ghost Story" movie, and you'll know the type of place I was in. I could almost see the swordsmen flying from rooftop to rooftop, or balancing at the top of bamboo trees. And the thought of "raising the red lantern" in front of my favorite concubine's room for my choice of evening foot massage also crossed my mind. It must have been GOOD to be Emperor!

Breaking the rules
So after the 3-hour walk though the Forbidden City (now re-named the "Palace Museum" by the Communist Party, by the way), I walked to the only "mountain" in Beijing. It was created by all of the dirt that was removed from the moat that surrounds the palace grounds. I trudged up hundreds of stairs to find the view that my guidebook promised would be "the best in the city."

But, guess what? After climbing all the way to the top, I found that all of the paths to the viewpoint had been cut off for "renovation." (Damn those 2008 Olympics!) But I had already climbed to the top, so I felt I was OWED a reward (My American sense of entitlement). So I managed to "not see" one of the DO NOT ENTER signs, and tucked under a fallen rope. Shortly, I found myself with a decent view of the whole city below. To be honest, the pictures sucked - due to the bad weather of this week. But at least I was smart enough (sneaky enough) to get what I came for. But within a few seconds, I heard banging on a metal sign, and a security guard was shouting at me. What was he saying? "Have a nice day?" "Hope you get a nice picture?" "Very clever of you to break the rules?" No... it was clear that I needed to get back in line with the masses. ButI'm giggling as I type this, 'cause it was a LOT of fun!

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Near Meridian gate, Forbidden City
Near Meridian gate, Forbidden City
photo by: Deats