Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade
winds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!
( Mark Twain )
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
BATTLE IN BEIJING
Even after our miles and miles of walking yesterday we were right back at it this morning. After a good nights sleep on the surprisingly comfy bed at our new hotel we ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant. After last nights awful dinner there, we normally wouldn’t have risked it, but i’s included with our room, so being the frugal travelers that we are, we gave it a try. We were very pleasantly surprised--it was a nice buffet with plenty of choices!
Fortified with a healthy breakfast, we walked from our hotel to The Forbidden CIty North Gate. We got there just in time to join several thousand other tourists, mostly in large groups wearing identical hats, and following a tour leader waving a flag and speaking into a LOUD speaker----lovely!
Looking across to Tiananmen Square--it's VERY smoggy this morning!
The crowds waiting to buy tickets--this should have been our first clue!
We plowed our way through the crowd to the ticket window line--not too bad, we thought. I took a few photos of the entrance while David stood in line, and soon he found me and said “that was the wrong line”. It’s a little hard to tell which line to stand in when we can’t read Chinese! Off we went to find the right line--and thankfully it wasn’t a long one. Soon we had our tickets in hand (senior discount again!) and we followed the thousands and thousands of other tourists through the gates.
The first entrance gate:
David waiting in line for tickets:
The Forbidden CIty was one of the sights we have both really looked forward to seeing. I’ve always loved fiction set in China, and was excited to see this great treasure to help bring them to life.
The sad truth: The Forbidden City was, to date, our most disappointing travel experience in any country we’ve visited. Having said that, we have no regrets and we both feel very lucky to have seen such a treasure.
But the CROWDS! The crazy, pushy, rude, shoving (almost to the point of being violent) screaming crowds were just unbearable. I fully understand that it’s soooo NOT politically correct to say this, but elderly Chinese women are the worst.
There, I’ve said it!
Now on to the good stuff:
The architecture is lovely, the small details are amazing. The decoration of almost every inch is incredible. The garden areas were lovely--absolute design masterpieces.
Moat inside the first gate:
Looking towards a main reception hall:
Looking down into an interior courtyard:
Detail, carved post:
Intricate stairs and walkways:
Detail, carved area along the steps:
Crowds pushing and shoving to get a look inside the building:
Detail of carved and painted ceiling area:
Interior of one of the few buildings I actually got to look in!
Interesting guard lion--very detailed:
Pretty wood fretwork:
The pictures below are of the beautiful garden area:
Even the exit was mobbed--we were VERY glad when we walked out of the gates and into the streets surrounding the City:
The Forbidden CIty is HUGE! We only saw a small portion of it, as many of the buildings and areas are closed to the public. We whizzed through in about 2 hours--and then we were just DONE. And done in, and done for!
Am I glad I went? Absolutely! Would I ever go again? Nope--not unless I had the entire Forbidden City to myself. Well-----I just might share with my family and a few special friends. But only if you promise not to shove, push, elbow and/or step on me
After leaving the South Gate exit area we walked along, trying to go the opposite direction of the thousands of other exiting visitors. We had an idea to find an interesting street that I’d from the taxi during our Monday transfer between hotels. I was pretty sure it was in this general area, so we walked for several blocks, hoping we were going in the right direction. Even though I had some street names written down, we weren’t able to find them on our map. Then it started to rain, so we gave up, hailed a taxi and soon we were back “home”. That $2 taxi ride was worth every penny!
It was definitely past time for lunch, so we found a small restaurant near our hotel and had a quick lunch of a stir fry, vegetables and rice. We relaxed and laughed about our visit to The Forbidden City. Thankfully, we are both pretty resilient travels and can put this in perspective and move on. Just like everyday life--not every travel day is perfect!
Snake wine--we didn't!
It was mid afternoon by now, and we decided to explore Wangfujing Street, a main shopping area just a few blocks from our hotel. We checked out a few shops, and found a new tripod to replace the one we lost in the park. We also checked out a couple of big shopping malls--they are very different here. We went into an upscale grocery store in the basement a large mall and bought some snack food--Seaweed Flavored Pringles, and they aren’t too bad!
We came upon a pretty Catholic church, where we watched a wedding photo session in progress. We went inside to look at the interior, it was built in a gothic style, but seemed quite odd after seeing so many cathedrals in Europe.
Wedding photo shoot outside the church--the pretty bride:
Handsome groom--note the yellow shoes!
Looking at the church and entrance from across the street:
By now our feet were tired so we headed back to the hotel for a rest before dinner. Oh, it felt good to put my feet up for a while! We have really put on some miles this trip.
After relaxing for a couple of hours, we walked back to Wangfujing Street and walked through the back alley snack street area. There was a small stage set up at the entrance where a costumed and made up young man was performing Chinese Opera--quite dramatic!
We walked along the busy, noisy lane until we found our pre-dinner snack--Fresh Deep Fried Scorpions!
A few words of explanation are definitely in order, so here’s the “back story”----
Our young neighbor Nathan has been fascinated by my bug collection on our kitchen windowsill. Somehow we got into a discussion about people in other parts of the world eating insects, and China was one of those places. Don’t ask me how--but one thing led to another--and before I knew it I’d promised my favorite young neighbor boy that I’d eat a bug in China! And I always keep my promises............
It really wasn’t too bad--it was quite spicy and fried VERY crispy crunchy. It would have gone down much better if I’d had a cold beer handy, but I hadn’t thought about that ahead of time. A couple of Tums sufficed as a “palate cleanser”!
Of course, David took a video of me enjoying my delicious (ahem!!) evening snack, I’ll try to post it for you all to enjoy and gag over! And be sure to watch both videos--I “shamed” David into eating one, too.
After that little adventure, we continued on through the market and into a different area where we’d noticed a night food market setting up. It was really interesting, and there were even MORE insects and disgusting things available for dinner. Delicacies such as deep fried tarantulas, grasshoppers, BIG larvae, the usual assortment of stir fried innards, and even snake! NATHAN: DON’T EVEN ASK! I’m not eating anything else weird!
We did try a couple of different steamed buns that looked fairly harmless, and I bought a sugar dipped fruit kabob for desert. The fruit is dipped in boiling sugar syrup which hardens into a crunchy sweet shell--it was delicious! It almost (but not quite!) erased the memory of that deep fried scorpion!
David buying steamed dumplings:
We made our way back home, enjoying the nice evening air and the fun energy of Wangfujing Street. After another long day with miles and miles of walking, we’re turning in early tonight.