We’re currently travelling, and experiencing hotel Internet speeds that are slower than my first ever modem back in about 1995. I thought I should post some quick updates on what we’ve done over the last few days, and what we’ll be doing. This is going to be quite brief, and no photos; it’s taken me 30 minutes just to get an email to send successfully, trying to upload photos would be futile!
On Sunday morning, we ticked a couple of compulsory Beijing sites off my list: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. (Clare has, of course, seen both of these on numerous occasions.)
Getting there didn’t work out quite as smoothly as expected: Clare had asked the hotel to write “Tiananmen Square” in Chinese script on a piece of paper, and had noticed that she’d been given a funny look… we pointed the taxi driver at this, and set off in the right direction, but the taxi pulled over before we got to where we expected to be, and refused to go any further. So we got out and walked. It seems that we’d been sent to Qianmen Street, instead of Tiananmen Square, hence the funny look.
On the plus side, we did get to walk up the recently-refurbished pedestrianised section of Qainmen Street, which was very pleasant. Through Zhenyang Gate Jianlou, through the subway to cross the road, then through Zhenyang Gate on the other side of the road, and pass through airport-style security to get into Tiananmen Square itself.
We decided not to bother viewing Mao‘s remains in his mausoleum, but wandered round the square heading vaguely north towards the Forbidden City, stopping to take the odd photo, and probably having quite a few photos taken of us, both by native tourists and by the incredible array of security cameras that were attached to almost every lamppost!
Through another subway to negotiate the road between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City; this is where the military parades happen, with banks of permanent seating for the officials, dignitaries, officers, etc.
The Forbidden City (officially called The National Palace Museum) is very impressive; I took lots of photos, but I think it’s very hard to do it just as there’s just so much of it. By this stage it was getting very warm, and neither of us were feeling our best, so we worked our way through round the shaded side, stopping every now and then for a sit down to admire the view and rehydrate.
It would easily be possible to spend an entire weekend doing the Forbidden City, if you wanted to see each building and gate, and visit the galleries that are inside them.
When we got out the other side of the Forbidden City, the original plan had been to get a taxi to somewhere near the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower, and from there head for lunch. Taxis weren’t easy to come by, though (we think they weren’t meant to stop in the area that we were), so we started heading in the right direction on foot.
Eventually, we found a motorised rickshaw that would take us to roughly the right area for a price we weren’t too unhappy with, so I got my first rickshaw ride, at least. He kept trying to offer us a tour of the Hutongs for some vastly-inflated price (we weren’t interested); he took a shortcut through some of them anyway.
After getting dropped-off vaguely where we wanted to be, we had a nice walk round part of the Lakes area (lots of upmarket restaurants, lots of picturesque lilies and lotuses in the lake), then into part of the Hutongs where we looked for, and completely failed to find, Hutong Pizza, which had been highly-recommended. By this stage we were very knackered and hungry, so we just went somewhere that Clare had been before for some late lunch.
We’d originally been going to do another “attraction” after lunch, but we decided we were ready to just get a taxi back to our suite, and catch up on our sleep for a while. Later in the evening, we managed to drag ourselves to the local 85C coffee house for a couple of coffees and an evening snack of some Chinese pizza (cream cheese on a pizza is a bit different), some cake that wasn’t as nice as it looked, and some supplies for our train trip on Monday. Then it was round to the local bar to see if any of our group were making the most of their last night, but it was fairly quiet and we decided we needed to get to bed anyway.