(Ed. note: Okay so after having been scolded by both Lynne (“Bossy”) and Terry (“You sure wrote a lot”), I will make no further comments on the guest blogs.)
Now that we have verified that Geoff knows the meaning of the word final, on with the blog!
Passing through the Main Gate of the Forbidden City, one comes across a series of Temples named along the lines of “Temple Of Heavenly Peace”. You pass through each one until you get to the North Gate. Actually, you don’t pass through them, you look into them and then have to go around them – one of the disappointing things about the FC. The other was that most of the fittings have disappeared, either due to the Boxers, the British or the Red Guards. So this is typically what is left inside now:
You can get an idea of the life of opulence the Emperor and the Court lived. We got the sense that there was a lot of ceremony interspersed with long periods confined to one of the many smaller palaces within the FC walls. The role of one temple was a rest stop and changing room for the Emperor as he was carried between two other temples – exhausting work! Or he could visit the Concubines’ Palace (500 concubines), which was guarded by dragons……
The place was full of animals guarding the grounds. Here’s two more:
Notice the level of decoration on the building behind. The number of animals on the roof edge indicates the importance of the building (in this case, the Temple Of Heavenly Peace). Every lion has an upturned lion cub under its front left paw. The place has been torn down and rebuilt several times since old Genghis’ day – most notably in the 1490’s by the Ming Emperor Yongle. It’s also burned down several times, so they put these all over the place as fire extnguishers. The audio guide we were using made a point of saying that British soldiers scraped the gold off it during the Boxer Rebellion…..
No blog post can do justice to the size and grandeur of the Forbidden City, so we’ll leave it here and head back to the hotel. Just so you can see how “forbidden” it was, here’s the moat on the way out.
At this stage we came across a rarely mis-translated sign (way fewer in Beijing than elsewhere, we found). This was in a public toilet. Apparently, it is part of a campaign to make people be “nice” to each other. We don’t think they meant the bit about the pool, because the Water Cube was miles away! You are the best!
Back to the hotel, which had an interesting array of Mongolian art (mostly horses and saddles, with one picture of a sheep outside the bedroom – don’t ask). However, this was in the lobby:
Look closely and you will see that it is one tree stump lying on its side with a herd of wild horses individually carved into it (carved, not glued on). Feeling peckish, we decided it was time to sample the world famous Peking Duck. We happened to pass THE place to eat on the way home, so we decided to make a reservation for eight o’clock “No reservation needed, sir!” Sure enough, come eight o’clock we had to barge our way in past a door keeper saying “No reservation, no table!” Anyway, once inside we ordered the duck, which is carved at the table. You eat it sliced, wrapped in a very fine tortilla type of bread, with lots of spices. The two pieces on the plate are the two halves of its head…..
A lot of the old Beijing is now gone, replaced by the Stalinesque architecture beloved of Communist countries. One major architectural crime was the demolition of the city walls in 1964 to build a ring road. Here’s pretty much all that’s left – the South Gate seen from Tiananmen Square (a little smoggy).
However there are still some “hutongs” (alleys) left. They house lots of people, but use communal showers and bathrooms. We both checked out the communal toilets (out of anthropological interest), and fled. Here’s a hutong. As a former Telus employee, Martin could not but help admire the overhead wiring work.
No Cregg-Guinan walkabout would be complete without the discovery of a cheap drinks place. A bit pricier here at Y5 for a 600ml Nanjing beer, but what the heck, we’re on holiday. Much hilarity from all the staff and customers when the Canadians ordered beer but no food. Here’s our local, on the left, with the main cop shop on the right. By this stage we were both choking on the Beijing smog. Martin’s lungs are still not over it (he who never gets sick!). It later transpired that we were there in the middle of a sandstorm, which had deposited clouds of fine particles all over the city. The sand had been blown down from Inner Mongolia, which seemed appropriate given where we were staying. And we had been remarking about the amount of left over construction sand lying in the street……
Tomorrow, on to the Great Wall. How many bricks do you think there are in a wall 5,600 kilometers long, sixty feet high and sixteen feet wide? And for the life of me I can’t see why they built it IN the mountains…….