Beijing Day 3 (Tuesday) – The Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square

Once again, an early day, more early morning web-surfing, a cup of joe at my disposal.

8-tiananmen Eventually we set off to The Forbidden City once more. We looked at the crowds of people milling about beneath the large, forbidding red walls, taking in the groups of Chinese tourists with thei matching caps and tiny flags, the street-cleaning people on their powered motors, small families of foreigners, and the key attention-grabbing feature: the mol… er, portrait, that’s right, of 毛泽东 (Mao Zedong) on 天安门 (Heavenly Peace Gate).

To detract briefly from the boring descriptions of our travels, let’s talk a bit about Mao Zedong. Why is he so revered? Yes, he defeated Chiang Kai-shek and thus allowed the Communist Part to come to power… but honestly, the man to thank for modern China, which has had absolutely amazing progress in the last 30 years, is 邓小平 (Deng Xiaoping). The Tian’anmen Square incident on 1989 notwithstanding, 邓小平 had previously been against the two most disastrous movements in modern Chinese history –大跃进 (Great Leap Forward) and 文化大革命 (Cultural Revolution) which set back modern progress by years, possibly decades. The man behind these two movements? None other than 毛泽东.

Tip: Buy nothing in these tourist attractions. The price of food might be similar to a more upmarket eatery… with 1/3rd the quantity at 1/10th the taste. Since it’s best to arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon, bring some snacks and fluids along for sustenance.

9-marching soldiers Before entering into the actual area, soldiers are seen marching along and doing drills. Touts are fewer than before and now work more discreetly, perhaps as part of a government initiative to crack down on touting in light of the Olympics.

Walking into the Forbidden City is like walking into the set of a cultural period film, the closed off areas (for renovation) and crowds of tourists notwithstanding. The areas that are closed off have pictures of the items within on the barriers as a poor replacement.

It’s a city in itself, and just walking through all the areas takes hours. Impossible to see in 2 hours as certain scams… I mean, tour groups… attempt to do.

Tip: Either hang around tour groups (their guides will explain things) or spend a little bit of money for an automatic guide. Without knowing the history behind it all, all the architecture and items tend to blend into one another.

10-tiananmensquare We left around 5pm, as that’s the closing time (as of most tourist attractions in Beijing) and walked to 天安门广场 (Heavenly Peace Gate Square a.k.a. Tian’anmen Square), surrounded by 人民纪念碑, the flag pole (lowering time: 7.00pm), 人民大会堂 (Great Hall of the People) and 北京博物馆 (Beijing Museum, currently demolished and under construction with only the façade remaining with the Olympics countdown intact).

Next, we walked to 前门站 (Front Gate Station on Line 1) to take the subway home.

Dinner at 1001 Nights(一千零一夜) which serves authentic Middle Eastern food with belly dancers providing the entertainment. It was pretty decent, even though I seemed to be the only one enjoying the mutton dumplings and salty lassi.

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