Forbidden City, the Square, and Food
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 2 of 7 › view all entries
So, we work up early to visit the Forbidden City, which a lot of people did not like; but ended up understanding once we got there. It was great to be able to beat the crowds. The Forbidden City is everything that you hear about and is much better than the Summer Palace. It was also great to have a guide that knew a bit of history; but before I start listing some interesting facts let me just tell you do go, even if it is a tourist trap it is worth it.
There are however a lot of people, even Chinese visitors, so you have to remember Chinese do not have personal space, so if you are in the way then they will push you away. This is especially important, when viewing the inside of the main palace if you are expecting a nice stroll up to take a few shots, then forgot about it. The crowd of Chinese tourist around the main entrance is like a rapid river, so you cannot fight the flow. It is worth to see; but the above is just a warning. Inside I can only explain it is like the Great Chamber of the Mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings. It is a vast room that I believe our guide said could hold a thousand Chinese solders side by side, with still room for them to move.
Here are some interesting facts I learned about the Forbidden City:
- The entire palace is feng shui, which literally is supposed to protect the emperor, by keeping his chi (energy) in balance. This also means that there is a meaning to almost everything since nothing was built for the emperor, without keeping the above in mind.
- 9 is a royal number in China, so the nail post in the doors will total 81 (9 x 9)
- The wood is from the south of China and was carried here by the ancient canal networks.
- The ceramic roof tiles and other ceramic decorations were made in Beijing
- The palace never survived the 150 year rebuilt mandate (for safety) since it was always burned down before that.
- Some of the copper pots can be dated back to the first emperor Qin and this is known because each pot was marked for the emperor that it was built for. These pots were part of an elaborate fire protect network, which obvious was not very good. It was however fire protection in the feng shui sense. There were over 300 copper pots currently in the palace.
- Qing Dynasty (last Dynasty) also believed more people signified a more powerful empire. This is interesting because it is almost similar to the current state of China.
- The palace is apparently really cool to see during the summer (rainy) months since there are 300+ dragons shooting water out of the mouths. However, the summer months are apparently very miserable do to the heat and humidity.
After the Forbidden City we went to Tiananmen Square, after going through security. It is amazing just how much security that they have and we were warned ahead of time do not talk politics, while we were there. Apparently, there are not just the uniformed guards; but also guards in civilian clothes that know better English, then our guide (and myself), who has great English. Here is the first place I really noticed the Chinese watching us, which we were told might happen. Remember, this is not bad; but China is still pretty closed off and homogeneous, so when they see tourist they cannot help; but watch. Another thought that I have, is amazing how exciting tourist can get at viewing this square, even thorough we all know it is for propaganda purposes. We still get excited to see it; but I guess as you can tell from the photos I am one of them, so I am just saying that as an observation.
We then had another wonderful lunch and then headed off to a silk factory.
After this factory, I went off on my own and this is the first time I realized that as much as I really enjoyed the tour I could have traveled Beijing myself. It really is tourist friendly and a safe city and I am assuming country. I guess some of this is because of the preparation they went through before and during the Olympics, which means the rest of China might not be that tourist friendly.
Anyways, I found the famous "food street" or Wangfujing Dajie (Dajie means street) and loved it. It is so cool just to walk down and actually some bugs on a stick and scorpion on a stick, both of which are good. However, I believe they are mostly there just for the crazy tourist like myself. I am not the only person to eat them thorough and I doubt I would have tried the scorpion if I had not met a group of European (Western) travelers, who was trying some, while I was walking around. I am glad I met them since it was really good and I got a photo to prove that I did not chicken out. :o)
It was then getting late and I had to return to the hotel, for a dinner buffet that they had planned. This involved taken the subway to the outskirts of the city, which was one of the reason I wanted to travel on my own, to experience this. This is after all suppose to be an Asian introduction tour to prove that I could travel on my own there too. The subway was extremely well marked, again perhaps because of the Olympics; but I believe even if the signs were only in Chinese I could have still figured out how to get there. However, like any subway system it is best to know where you are going before you start since you do not want to try moving against the flow of people anywhere, in a subway, especially in China.
My only bit of confusing was when I ended up working my way back to the surface. I thought it was because the last line I wanted was closed; but it was because that line was a surface train (Line 13). After I got to my final stop, a few miles from the hotel I had another adventure. We were told early on that if we take a taxi to look, especially at the license plate for a "B" at the beginning (legitimate taxi); but the first guy who found me was not. This does not mean I should not have taken it; but it does mean that the price is not fixed and easily displayed, so I went back to the station and found a legitimate taxi and had no problems.