Thought I would take a walk down to the Forbidden City (on the northern end of Tiananmen Square) today – I left the hotel and made my way back towards Tiananmen Square. Along the way I met a local guy, David, who had spent time at UQ in Brisbane as part of a cultural exchange – he said he would take me to the side entrance of the Forbidden City and so I agreed. We ended up leaving the main road and walking down one of the side streets – this was amazing! I got away from the commercial sights and was able to see how people lived their every day in Beijing. Local vendors selling everything you need from tiny roadside shops along with hot food prepared in front of you as you waited, and some more upmarket looking places – it really was a busy with everyone going about their daily tasks. We stopped a few times looking down the side lanes and into some backyards and man, life sure is cramped in Beijing!!
We got to a small shop and David suggested I come in and view some of the art – I thought about it and decided I would, after all, he had shown me a side of Beijing I otherwise would not have seen. It was only a small shop about the size of my bedroom, with traditional Chinese art covering all three walls. I did see a couple of pieces that I had been chasing earlier in the year for the spare room at home, and so ended up buying them. Now I know I didn’t need them and hadn’t planned on purchasing anything like it, but I thought for what I had just experienced, it was worth the money. It turns out that it was a University shop selling artwork done by students and lecturers raising funds for exhibitions and funnily enough, they will be in Brisbane in March for an exhibition at UQ and plan to contact me.
I left the shop after exchanging email addresses with David and made my way to the side entrance to the Forbidden City. You could not enter from here, but the gate was still impressive. I made my way further around through the many pain-in-the-ass vendors and entered the courtyard through another side gate. Wow – they made sure that no one was ever going to get in here quick, with four inch thick timber gates and a very high and thick outer walls. There was another gate through which lay the Forbidden City – as it was getting close to my checkout time at the hotel I decided to not go in and instead took the walk back to towards Tiananmen Square through two massive squares within the walls. The sheer size of the place as well as the amount of effort these people went to in order to protect their emperor was mind blowing. Just unfortunate that I did not have the time to take the tour inside, as I’m sure it would have been even better. I exited through the Tiananmen Gate and moved through the large crowds of people, and made my way back to the hotel.
Later on, I checked out of my room and was able to leave my bags in the hotel lobby. I headed out looking for some Peking Duck for an early dinner – the hotel concierge recommended a place three blocks away in Wongfujing Daije (a mall) and so I set off. When I got there I found the store was closed and so continued looking for another place – then I got a strange feeling – I was lost. I had taken so many turns, I had forgotten which way I had gotten to where I was. That was a bit freaky as I can usually find my way around ok – lots of people, strange place, nothing seemed familiar. I did manage to find my way back to a place I had been earlier and so once I got my bearings I thought I would head back to the hotel and eat there.
I decided to head to the airport at about 7pm and so got hold of a taxi from the hotel. The roads out were amazing – overpasses, underpasses, all bordered by large apartment or office buildings. The driving kept me entertained for most of the journey and then I saw something I would never see anywhere else - people on bicycles with no lights riding down these freeways alongside the cars. Crazy!
At the airport and back into the queues of people waiting to pass through immigration. The guy I got was a prick – I think the authority had gone to his head, the way he spoke to myself and others. He said I needed to fill the departure card out in pen, but the pen didn’t work and so I told him in no uncertain terms. I really wish they knew how to treat people as people and not as cattle. Anyway, I made my way to check-in and found that the plane had been delayed two hours to a 2:40am departure. I was lucky in that I was given a pass to the lounge and so, unlike all those other poor bastards, I was able to spend my time eating, drinking, reading and on the internet.
I did fall in love with Beijing and will be going back for a longer stay one day.
View down the side street that David took me down
Same street, looking the other way
A lady wahsing dishes at the back of one of the shops
Mode of transport
A Beijing "ute" with a load of coal
Side gate to the Forbidden City
One of the ramparts - amazing detail
In one of the squares looking towards the main gate
Once used to defend the emporor - intricate detail
Looking through the wall to the outer square
The gate to the inner square
Outer gate looking across to Tiananmen Square & Chairman Mao's Mausoleum
Tiananmen Gate with a 500 year old statue in foreground
Tiananmen Gate in all it's glory
Wongfujing Daije where I went searching for Peking Duck but ended up getting lost!!
One of the two pieces that I purchased from the art shop
Looking towards the radio tower with mountains beyond