We woke up to a bustling Beijing.
I noticed that the most popular mode of transportation for most locals was moped or bicycle. And these people worked with what they had! Bikes were usually outdated and rusted; but they worked. You would see rickshaws of every kind --mostly pulled by moped or bicycle. Families would ride on the mopeds together; dad in front, mom on back with baby in her lap. And no helmets! Anywhere.
For us, we decided to walk. Taxis are super cheap (10RMB for the first 2KM --which is just over a dollar or so), but our hotel was close to where we were going.
Where were we going? Forbidden City!
We walked through an expansive (and apparently expensive) shopping district, and decided to turn off into a smaller alley-way to get where we were going.
That was where we saw these for sale.
No, we did not try them. *shudder
[And just so you know what you are looking at, there are beetles, geckos, starfish, tarantulas, crickets (I think) and a bazillions scorpions. Those really big black things? Scorpions.
We kept going, turning here and there, then started walking down this really loooooong street. And to the left, we suddenly saw, across the street, Tienanmen Square!
Right next to us on the right was Forbidden City!
Surreal, man. It was surreal.
Now, before I go on, I have to tell you that Forbidden City is basically this ridiculous Russian Doll situation (Flight of the Concords, anyone?). You walk through this amazing arched tunnel under Mao Zadong's picture, and you come out into a courtyard. Across the courtyard is this enormous looking building with a pagoda-shaped thing on top. Underneath, you walk through another arched tunnel, and you come out into a courtyard! With another enormous looking building with a pagoda-shaped thing on top. Then you go through another arched tunnel... you get the picture. We went through two (three?) of those before even purchasing tickets to get inside. Once inside, there's more to see, but the same thing pretty much happens for 4 or more times. So, I will spare you the enormity of a step-by-step narration.
Sufficeth to say, though, it was so cool! And BIG. Very, very BIG. There were throne rooms to see, courtyards with sculptures, and even a very large garden. (Chinese gardens aren't like our gardens. When they say "royal garden" think royal. Towering rock formations, trees, pagodas, pathways, etc.)
Here's a glimpse (or two or three) of what Forbidden City contained (not in order; sorry to those who have been there before!):
Once we got to the north part of Forbidden City, we crossed the street and entered a park. We had homemade noodles (yum!) at a stand, and then we hiked up to a Buddhist Temple overlooking Forbidden City. We learned that all the dirt excavated from Forbidden City had been dumped north to create a huge hill. That's where they built a temple. The best part was being able to see the actual enormity of Forbidden City. The smog was not as cool. My biggest regret? Always obeying the signs that asked not to take photos of the Buddha statues (in any temple we saw the whole trip) because I seemed to be the only one not taking photos! Another point of interest: In all of the Buddhist temples we went to many people would be praying to the statue; it was a holy place. But then right next to the statues (like 10 steps) would be a huge counter with all kinds of trinkets and snacks for sale. I found it kind of funny:
After enjoying the view, we found a rickshaw guy to take us to Tienanmen Square. We got duped! He just took us through some of the old Hutong streets (old neighborhoods where most locals live) and dumped us east of Forbidden City.
But at least the ride was entertaining! Okay, maybe not in this video. Trust me, the live version was much better:
So, we walked to Tienanmen Square. Just so you know, Tienanmen is the largest public square in the world. It's incredible!
Afterwards, we headed south into some shopping districts and found the famous duck restaurant:
Duck, for information, is really good. You eat it in pancakes (tortillas, basically) with sauce and veggies, though. Not what I expected!
We ended the day by crashing at 8PM. Not good for jet lag. We woke up at 2AM and couldn't fall back asleep. Blah. I think we finally fell asleep around 5AM. Maybe?