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Beijing (Part 2) The Forbidden City

The blog is a little late this week.  We usually have it out by Saturday, but this week we had to work Mon -Sunday in order to have a Mon-Wed holiday the following week. We are looking forward to our 3 days off with MAry Anne and Boyd.  They leave for Thailand on Wednesday.

Our second day in Beijing started with an early breakfast at the hotel. This was a delicious smorgasbord of Chinese and Western style food.  I say western style because it’s the Chinese idea of Western food. For example they know westerners like to eat a lot of bacon so they put lots out but they barely cook it.  Given the recent outbreak of bird flu and the Jiaxing pork catastrophe, you figure they might go for brown.  But no Translucent bacon is the order of the day and no one seems to eat it.  Breakfast over, our hotel is about a block from the Forbidden City.  We have to walk however to the entrance at Tian’anmen square which is a hefty 4 blocks.  We were still a little sore after our five hour trek along the Great Wall, but we were pumped to see the home of all of the Emperors.  This whole place can only be described as huge.  A moat surrounds the entire city and each court yard within was gigantic.  Image

Here is the bridge that crosses the moat.  It is quite large and the locals come and fish in it.  I am not sure what they catch.   It’s probably not marlin or tuna, but they feel the need to have the largest fishing rods I have ever seen in my life.

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The city is also surrounded by  a huge rock wall.  There are 4 gates to enter, the main gate off of Tian’anmen Square in the south, two smaller gates on the east and west side and a gate to the north to exit out.  In order to get to the Emperor’s Palace soldiers would have to attack thru 4 separate court yards.  These are gigantic affairs that are equivalent in size to a Disney parking lot.  Each courtyard had its own huge high walls and giant gates that could be closed when attackers showed up.Image

Even though the walls were so high you could always see the roofs of the buildings inside.  This was because they were all so tall as well.

ImageHere is the entrance way.  They charge you 60 RMB ($10) to get in.  It is well worth it.

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During the times of non-war, these courtyards would be filled with merchants selling food and other wares.

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You can get a sense of the size of this court yard.  The big building in the back is not the Palace of the Emperor.  It was under repair.

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You can get the sense of the height of the buildings and gates.  Those gates were 20 ft high.

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Here is another building under construction.

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The doorways that connected courtyard to court yard were relatively small.  This would stop invading armies from getting thru too quickly.  This is the first of three courtyards before the palace.DSC_0733

We were there quite early so we beat most of the crowds.DSC_0734

There were lots of ramps for their horses to move wagons and carriages around.

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The doors were huge and heavy.  Once locked they would be very difficult to break down and open.DSC_0736

Here is the second courtyard.DSC_0740

Most of the buildings were closes to the public, but you could peer into the windows to see the ancient furniture etc.

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All of the roofs were pagoda style architect.  They were very ornate and beautiful.  The roofs are built not by construction workers but artisans.

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This little sweetie rented the costume so her parents could take a picture of her.  I couldn’t resist asking and she was delighted to pose with a tourist!

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There were large cauldrons everywhere in the square. Not sure if these were for fires to keep warm and cook or for water.

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Here we have the Palace of the Emperor.  He may have sat in that throne.

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There were a ton of tour groups going thru the Forbidden City.  They were all wearing their own coloured hats.

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Here are the gardens just by the north exit.  Lots of cool rocks.

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In some of the smaller courtyards it reminded me of every Kung Fu movie I have ever seen.  I had to do my Kung Fu Crane pose! DSC_0830

Here we are outside of the north exit after leaving the City.  You can see the moat on this side.  The whole city is about the size of Stanley Park.  We only had 4 hours so we didn’t get to see a lot of it, but  the city probably housed over a million people during its hey day.

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We checked Mary Anne and Boyd into a new hotel as the rate went up a huge chunk in the hotel we had booked for the weekend.   Kim and I left them and went to the Beijing South Train Station. As you can see it is a lot smaller than Shanghai’s Hongquoa Train Station. We travelled Second Class as it was much less expensive, very clean and lots of room.  It was a lot like being on a plane with the same little trays that fold down from the seat in front of you and the cute little hostesses dressed in 1960’s uniforms.  We had a nice ride home this time making about six stops on the way.  While the ride was pleasant enough we had to put up with the food that was sold on the train.  It did not have such a pleasant smell.  When you have a train that moves at 300 km./hr.  there is no way to open any sort of a window.  We were trapped inside a fishy smelling dinner car for four hours.  After a while our noses just shut down and it wasn’t too bad.  Maybe we should have bought a First Class ticket after all?  We arrived at the station and splurged on a taxi because we were both exhausted.  The subway would have probably been faster ,  but the taxi took us door to door.  It was worth it!

Our Beijing trip reminded Kim and I how much we enjoy travelling.  Going back to school and seven days in a row of work was a tough pill to swallow.  Look for our blog soon about Mary Anne and Boyd’s adventures in Shanghai!

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