Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We began our day in the hostel cafe, talking for a bit with Dave, who was sitting at a table with his computer. Cam came down soon after we started eating; Will eventually joined us. Kevin and Liam had left earlier that morning to explore on their own.

After breakfast Cameron, Will, Shannon and I headed to the Forbidden City. The wall surrounding the city is formidable, the moat wide, the footprint expansive, the inner buildings large and numerous.

6 meters deep, 52 meters wide, perhaps full of ravenous dragons

We walked through a side entrance and found a wide, long open square: to our left, the main entrance on a busy street which faced Tian’anmen Square. Before us, another side entrance. To our right, an intimidating rust red wall surrounding the actual entrance to the city itself.

An inner wall in the Forbidden City. The emporers didn't joke around when they built this place.

After buying tickets we got a tour guide, Betty, to walk through with us. She had a great sense of humor and put up with our ridiculous questions and antics.

Just inside the inner entrance to the FC

The Forbidden City consists of nearly 1,000 individual buildings on a plot of land that measures 7,800,000 square feet.

The emporer needed this much room to house his ego.
A walkway between some of the buildings on the outer rim of the city

It’s gargantuan. Idiotically so.

Lost? Take a right at the red wall with the painted doorway. They're all like that? You're screwed.

Some of the buildings housed the concubines, of which there were 70. There was one building, which could comfortably house a family of five, that served as the emperor’s changing room.

Some huge building only the emporer could use for something super important, like brushing his hair.

That’s it. He changed clothes and checked his hair and got all dolled up in this building. That’s it. Stupid.

Details on the windows. Screw the people, give me ornate window pulls!

We met up with Liam and Kevin in the Hall of Clocks, an exhibit located in a large building within the city. High ceilings and rows of clocks were inside; these clocks were gifts from visiting dignitaries, and we were able to see a demo of three of them.

These clocks each cost more than my entire college education.

After the demo we decided to go our separate ways and regroup in an hour at the hostel. I wandered, taking pictures at my own pace.

Details on one of the pillars outside a concubine's building. Fancy!

Nearly an hour later I returned to the hostel, took a short nap, and then we all headed south to Tian’anmen Square.

Posing it up in Tian'anmen Square at dusk

This area is just to the south of the FC and is marked by two enormous gates and important government and historical buildings, including the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. It was along the northern border of the square that the infamous showdown between the protester and the army tank took place.

This is the southern section of the square, perhaps a fifth of the length of the entire area.

After walking from the NE corner to the SW corner, we attempted to find a bus depot to look at Great Wall tour prices.

High-end shopping area decorated for Chinese New Year

We couldn’t find it, so instead walked along busy streets lined with stores. Will, Cam and I then took the subway to the Silk Market, and Shannon and Kevin went back to the hostel.

Upon reaching the Silk Market, I headed upstairs to buy gifts. Once I’d completed my mission, I walked from the market to the hostel, marveling at the city at night. It was a hour and twenty minute walk, and my body was tired when I finally made it back.

The street right in front of the Silk Street Market building

Liam, Kevin, Shannon and Dave went barhopping after our group spent a while outside the hostel shooting fireworks. Will, Cam and I stayed back and talked with Brett, an older Australian; Cam and Will entertained us with magic tricks, and we went to bed a bit after midnight so we could wake up early for our Great Wall tour the next morning.