My knee was still smarting from the previous night’s fall (in fact it continued to hurt for several weeks after) but we were here to explore China so as long as we had Advil and I could still stand up we got up early to seek out the Forbidden City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (the third we would visit in two days) was within walking distance and since it was a beautiful, clear sunny day we had plenty of company. The sidewalks were wide yet quite crowded. This was also a Saturday so the area was filled with both foreign and Chinese tourists.
On our walk we were “joined” by a young man professing to be an art student who could take us to an art studio where we could buy original art. We had heard about this scam so we politely said, “No thanks.” He persisted at which point we just ignored him and kept walking and he moved on.
We could see Tiananmen Square across the street from the entrance to the Forbidden City but we decided to forego visiting the Square. The line to pay our entrance fee was long and it took us about a half hour to get our tickets. There were lots of tour groups representing many nationalities queued up to enter the gateway to the City.
We were impressed with this walled city within a city and there seemed to be an unending series of gates to palaces and rooms.
Getting the opportunity to see the inside of these buildings could be a challenge. Chinese don’t queue – they crowd. You have to push your way to the front of the crowd to get a glimpse of thrones and opulent seating areas – a pickpocket’s dream location from what I could see.
We purchased a map to navigate the site and even with that in hand it was sometimes confusing to figure out exactly where we were located. This was a huge complex with beautiful artifacts that once housed the emperor and his wives, concubines and children. The complex also housed gifts that were given to the Emperor by foreign kings and political powers, obviously to gain favor with the Emperor. Some of these were housed in separate exhibits. One of the exhibits is the Clock and Watch exhibit. A separate admission is charged for this area but it was well worth the price which was relatively cheap. The huge and ornate clocks were impressive even if the way they are presented is less so. Lots of fingerprints on glass cases that don’t look like they have been cleaned in quite a while. Dimly lit displays are explainable because the artifacts may be sensitive to light but the overall rooms are drab and dark.
You can eat a small lunch within the Forbidden City where there are snacks shops and a small cafe. We shared an outside table with a British couple who now live in France. They were touring on their own as well and had started their journey from the other side of the City making their way to the area we had just covered. It was nice to share our experiences with other people and rest our feet (and my knee) at the same time. The Beef Noodle dish I ate was formidable and very tasty. Lots of cilantro – one of my favorite herbs.