The scale of this place is hard to understand until you visit. We tried to get there early ‘before the crowds’. HAH. Nice one. I shudder to think what it’s like on weekends or holidays. At least I had a loooong sleep by the time we went for it, so I no longer felt disembodied and definitely felt like I was in Beijing. And like the travel was worth it!
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but will add two things first:
1) I had my picture taken at least four times in the square and surrounding area. Four times that I noticed. Most just took the photo, but one guy asked – we thought he wanted us to take his photo, but no, he wanted a photo with us. Suddenly there were like, 5 people taking a photo of the three of us. It was hilarious and I wasn’t expecting it at all – especially since it’s a very touristed area. I didn’t think I (we) should be all that novel, though it occurred to us that it could have been tourists from other, less-Western-touristed parts of China. Maybe? Who knows. I thought maybe I should start charging, or offering to give autographs too.
2) It was while walking around the square and surrounding streets I first noticed babies and small toddlers in pants with no crotch and no diaper (except once). Kind of like chaps. Training pants for squatting? Maybe so. There are plenty of children being aided in their squatting ‘round town (I’ve noticed more of this in Shanghai, aided by observations of Dunc’s colleagues when we’ve been out and about together). Hello culture shock, nice to see you again.
On the approach to the Forbidden City / Square. We were staying near the exit to the city, so we had to walk around it and through the main approach into the Square, then back track to actually go into the City itself.
We went in search of a place to book bus tickets to a section of the Great Wall we wanted to visit. Turns out the Beijing Hub of Tour Dispatch is a string of small shops selling tours. But when we asked about the Simotai section of the wall, the answer was just ‘no’, so we gave up and went back to visit a gate in Tian’anmen, eat lunch, and go to the City.
We spent five hours exploring, including a few side trips to buildings that charged extra. This is the hall of ceramics, almost immediately after entering the City. Totally worth it; lots of beautiful pieces in a beautiful setting
Hall of Watches and Clocks – from China and the world, especially England. Mostly ‘watches’, including this one which I thought was quite becoming for me.
Hall of Imperial Treasure (and Jewelry? Something like that)
View from the exit, across to Jingshan park. We survived!