For five-hundred years the Forbidden City was a huge section of Beijing that was strictly off-limits to common folk. Occupied by emperors who rarely left it’s grounds, it used to be instant death to try and pass through it’s gates. Now it costs a mere 60 yuan, and several hours of your time. I honestly found it to be quite touristy and hoaky, although my view was tainted by the fact that it was our last, and exhausting day of walking, and that because of the 60th anniversary party of the country, it was obnoixsly crowded.
The “city” itself is a maze of walls that has been reconstructed into a two mile long walking museum. Each alcove is outfitted with artifacts behind glass, restored rooftops with fancy imagery, and some buildings that are actual museums specific to a subject. I particularly liked both the calligraphy and the ceramics museum.
Even though it seemed like an endless maze, only about half of the grounds are actually open to the public right now. It would take a very long day to see everything, especially if you wanted to include Tiannamen Square. (If you do both the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square, they are three miles long as the bird flies, never mind how much walking around you do inside the City to see all the little sites and museums.) Luckily there were tons of public restrooms, and little “hot lunche” being sold inside the City walls. Little boxes full of rice with veggies and chicken on top. They kind of reminded me of airplane food, but they were fun to eat outside in the northern garden.
One mistake we made was starting at the north end of the Forbidden City and working our way south. Since we had spend the morning at the Lama Temple, geographically at first this seemed to make sense. But because of the massive crowed control they were doing because of the influx of Chinese tourists for the 60th anniversary, we were walking against the flow all day, and couldn’t get into Tianneman Square and had to take a tuk-tuk ride around to the south gate. Maybe I’m not a good haggler, but I thought that the tuk-tuks were far more expensive than taxis. Then again, they are pedaling your around as opposed to just driving, and they can do crazy things like go up over the curb and yell at other tourists to get out of the way.
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