I arrived at 5 something am at Beijing city airport ..
.. ready to see the city.
I headed towards the Forbidden City via Qianmen Emperor’s avenue.
This quiet pedestrian avenue was once part of Beijing’s old market district. In front of shops are statues reminding of the former market.
I also saw the ideal shop for people who collect fans 😉
This led me to Tiananmen square.
The square is barren, with 0 shade, so I quickly crossed it to make my way to the Forbidden City, following a large crowd.
Mao and I look alike… 🤔
Passport numbers and identification cards are used as tickets to enter the Forbidden City.
At this point, it was very very hot and I was essentially swimming in my nautical costume.
The audioguide is location-based. It just starts talking when you arrive somewhere where it has something to say, but then it remains silent in other rooms. It also does not give the same name for the room as what is shown on the map. Confusing!
(The chinese audioguides seem to be newer than the foreign ones so I suspect they work better).
I made a terrible mistake by drinking this. Guaranteed not to recover from central Asian food now. 😅
The main point of entering this room was the air conditioning but it wasn’t plugged in (chinese tourists faffling with it above).
Not sure what this cow means.
Lots of large bronze buckets everywhere, which were used against fires.
Jade carving (I think)
Concubine Zhen’s well:
She was the Emperor’s concubine and a supporter of his reforms, and therefore was favoured. But the Empress was jealous and ruined the reforms and eventually drowned the 25 years old in the well. (Well, this is what I understood)
This anatomically impossible kneeling statue of an elephant is meant to show that even they bowed to the Emperor.
Imperial gardens. Everyone was hot and sweaty.
The sewage system:
I’m not sure if I’d seen everything but I was desperate to escape the Forbidden City.
I headed towards Jingshan park.
A street vendor was selling melon but after buying it, it quickly found it’s way to a bin. (Bye bye lunch)
A Pair of lions act as guardians of Jingshan park (and other important place). The male lion holds a globe under it’s paw, signifying the Emperor’s power over the world, whilst the lioness holds a cub, showing He is fertile. (I didn’t know this at the time but I’m guessing that makes me a cub)
Jingshan park was a lot quieter than expected, especially when seeing the large flock of people that leave the Forbidden City. It is known for its pagodas, which are placed at the top of a hill and have a view overlooking the Forbidden City.
Me trying yet another local drink.
There was a lot more shade here so I took a break.
It was a pleasant walk up.
View from the highest (and busiest) pagoda.
It was very nice to sit and relax here but you could hear the noise of dozens of tourists and guides shouting through loudspeakers at the bottom of the hill, right outside the forbidden city.
At this point I discovered that I had used up all my portable battery + most of my phone battery so I hurried to Beihai lake.
I went down some small alleys (possibly hutongs) after taking the west exit of the park.
Beihai lake has a small island in it known as ‘Jade island’, with a white pagoda at the top.
It’s not the most impressive building and it was far more fun to explore the rest of the island.
On the island, they played soft traditional music, making it wonderful to relax in (unfortunately I had my battery curfew).
I needed my travel companions for this.😓
The way back was slightly painful because I decided to cross a bridge and walk along the forbidden city.
And I reached the South gate where I realised I had missed the sundial, symbolizing that the Emperor had the power to grant time to his people.
The route to the hostel became one big detour due to all the security precautions in place (barriers, 1 way routes etc).
(A lot of walking into the subway, passing a security check, only to walk straight back out again)
I tried a grape based drink that every one seems to drink here (and actually is quite nice) only to see it was 7 times cheaper in McDonald’s.
The road to the hostel:
After over 35000 steps for the day, and just 4 hours sleep in the plane, I was happy to take a nap.
At night, I searched for food. The road was bustling with life.
The water vats become colourful fountains at night:I took a popular yoghurt drink before falling asleep.