Tuesday, April 2, 2019

China memories, part 3 : the Forbidden City and Beijing

We set out in the morning intending to visit the MAO-soleum... only to discover that Tiananmen Square was closed off. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

We walked from the hostel to the north side of the Forbidden City first so that we could enjoy wandering through the neighborhoods. We stopped in at a dumpling shop -- another location from the chain in our 'hood -- and with some smiling, patience, and pointing, we ordered 3 veggie dumplings for 4.50 -- 67 cents.

As we walked around the walls of the Forbidden City to Tiananmen Square, we politely declined lots of offers for rickshaws, rides on the backs of motorcycles, and a ride in the back of a small "pickup". This fellow, stacking shared ride bikes to redistribute them, offered to take us to the Forbidden City -- "Entrance -- far!" for "five dollars". Might have been worth it just to see where we all fit!

The skies were hazy -- we had been warned that because it was quite cold, we could expect lots of smog. But in the morning it just looked pretty.

We got to Tiananmen Square, saw that it was fenced off, and decided that we'd go visit the Forbidden City instead. Apparently, many groups had the same idea. How adorable are these people in their knock-off Burberry bucket hats?

We queued up, got to the entrance, were told we needed to go buy tickets at a different window (oops), but soon had that sorted out. Then we were in ... and, wow. This is a big place.

Lots of groups of school kids drifted across the courtyard between the Gate of Supreme Harmony (above) ....

... and the Hall of Supreme Harmony (below).

We didn't have any plans, other than to wander around marveling at the architecture, watching the crowds, and relaxing.

I was surprised that the vast majority of the halls were completely empty, and the few that had anything in there were rammed with people peeking in.

Full disclosure : I know next to nothing about Chinese history, so was really just admiring the carvings and the architectural detail. Oh, and the gift shops, which were pretty funny.

I loved looking at the different guardians on the rooftops -- the more guardians, the more important the structure.

Lots of lovely detail wherever I looked, like these carved marble posts on a bridge:

these dragon-headed water spouts around the courtyards:

... some of them even had arms pushing them away from the upper stories:

this guy looks extra muscley:

These beautiful carved and painted doorways -- I love how they blend the color with white as an intermediate shade:

the lovely ceramic caps on the edges of the rooflines:

At some point we bought 2 cans of beer (!!!) and set on a bench watching the crowds move around. It never felt really rammed except near the halls, but I can imagine in summer it must be packed.

We saw some funny statues:

some beautiful carved staircases:

wandered through an exhibition about the history of archery:

admired some ceramic decoration:

some beautiful wood carvings:

and the amazing carved marble ramps up to each hall and gate, up which only the emperor could travel:

The garden was our favorite part, even if it was the most crowded -- and if we somehow took almost no photographs there!

And then there's this poor guy -- guess they didn't know which way the knees were supposed to go...

We left the palace and wandered over to Wanfujing, where there are a lot of big western shops, luxury car showrooms, and, when we were there, a big design celebration.

... and, of course, a SNACK STREET. This was our first visit to a snack street, and it was crowded with locals who all seemed to be eating MEAT ON STICKS and gawking at the foods on offer.... like these "scorpions on sticks", a signature feature of this snack street.

This was disturbing enough -- until I noticed they were still wriggling. Poor little beasties.

We browsed the stalls, snacked a little, got ripped off by a vendor who charged us 20 rmb for a veggie roll when we didn't notice the sign that said 10. Oh well.

We walked around, snacked a bit, popped into a hand-pulled noodles place, and then headed out. We then went in search of the fabled Beijing Tiki Bungalow -- but not luck. The spot where they used to be is now a strip of very new buildings, so new the windows hadn't been unwrapped yet. So no joy there.

We stumbled across another shopping street where we admired these ice cream roses:

and this amusing, banana-shaped "caution, wet floor" sign -- FUNNY IN ANY LANGUAGE!

I also found a perfect, small Chinese paper cut of the Great Wall.

Also spotted another qirin -- probably my favorite statue so far:

Not sure if it's the horns or the little mustache. Adorable!

When we got home we tried one of the decorated jars of baijiu liquor we had picked up earlier ... almost undrinkable! Talk about firewater! But the jar is nice...

Then to bed, where we slept like logs.

Read part three, the Great Wall at Badaling

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing opportunity and trip! I’m much like you and don’t know anything about China’s history, but this just looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!