Lounging in the pool, while the guys still snooze!
After lounging around in the pool and hot tub for about an hour, I went back upstairs to find the guys were finally up and milling around. They were very surprised that I had gone to Tiananmen Square by myself, and that I had returned, gone out again, and came back all shaved, showered, dressed and ready to go out again, while they were still groggy from just waking up! Hey, you can accomplish a lot when you get up early! (why is it then, that I can only seem to accomplish that feat when I'm on vacation?) Once everyone else was ready, we went down to the Hotel breakfast on the second floor, and discussed what the plan was for today. Breakfast was expensive, but it was all you could eat, and we could charge it to the room, which helped us protect our diminishing cash reserves.
Back to the Forbidden city, photo taken from Tiananmen Square
Plus, we found that if we ate enough at breakfast time, we didn't need to take a break for lunch, which saved us time and money. Waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, cereal, fruit, you name it. Dave found jars of chocolate spread and peanut butter to put on the waffles. Delicious! We had those every day after that discovery. We went for seconds, and then thirds. After breakfast, we were ready to walk to the Forbidden City!
We walked there, since it was so close, and I led the way, since I had been there just a few hours earlier! The streets were now teeming with people, and the City and Square were especially crowded. We took the underground passage to the square first. Lee bought a kite for his nephew from one of the roaming street vendors.
Inside the garden area, walking towards the main city gates
We had wanted to visit Mao's mausoleum (MAO-soleum?) but it was closed for renovations. (Much of Beijing
is getting a facelift, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics)
We battled the crowds to get into the Forbidden City entrance, which was wall to wall people now...I'm glad I took so many pictures when it was empty earlier! We walked through the front garden area, until we got to the place where you buy tickets to enter the city itself. Lee and I both opted to pay about $5 extra to rent an audio tour guide. It would turn itself on and narrate stories about different parts of the city as you walked by them.
waiting in line....again...to get the earpiece!
It had little red lights on a map on the box you wore around your neck. The light for the area you were at would blink as it told it's story, then the light would go out for that particular attraction. This way, you could tell what places you still needed to see. It was a big place, easy to get lost in (As I soon would find out!) You bought the tickets in one line, then they gave you a receipt to get in another
line to get the audio device. That was OK, but then you had to wait in still ANOTHER
line, to get the ear piece!! Ridiculous! The windows for the audio boxes and windows were side by side...I just held my hand out to the window next to me and requested the earpiece...but was told I had to get in line again! Why not just give them both out together? made no sense to me! So, after waiting in three
Inside the Forbidden City
..we were now ready to enter the city itself. (fortunately, there was no line for that!) As we walked in the main entrance, Lee's box started talking to him. And mine didn't! At the next stop, same thing...2 spots, nothing! I started to walk back to the main gate with the intention of exchanging it, when suddenly it went on. Ok, so I kept it, and walked back in. But after that, it only worked about half the time, and it didn't really tell me anything all that interesting when it did! Waste of $5 if you ask me. By now, the guys had gotten way ahead of me, and it would be a couple hours before I saw any of them again! I just walked around, taking everything in. The City is actually a huge place, with many rooms, courtyards, statues and exhibits.
ornate bridges over the moat
Took plenty of pictures, naturally, and saw as much as I could see over the next couple of hours, with or without the malfunctioning audio device! If it wasn't for the 100 RMB deposit I had to leave (about $13) I would have thrown the damn thing away. I was somewhere near the end of the city when I heard "WALT!" behind me. It was Dave! The 3 of them had fanned out to look for me, each searching a different part of the city. (apparantly, I was in Dave's "quadrant") They had all agreed to meet at a certain souvenir shop at 1 pm, hopefully one of them would have found me by then. Well, it was still 20 minutes to 1:00, so I continued to look around! Dave was close at my heels so I wouldn't get "lost" again. Just like the Marines, no man left behind! We found Lee and Doug at the shop, and after returning our audio devices, we headed on out!