Monday, October 7, 2013

Forbidden City

We visited the iconic Forbidden City on our first day in Beijing. This and the Great Wall are both must-dos if you're visiting Beijing. My sister said many Chinese will save up to make one trip to Beijing in their lifetime so they can visit the Forbidden City. 

If you want the Wikipedia explanation of the Forbidden City, go here. The deb-o-pedia version is as follows: The Forbidden City is the ginormous palace/mini-city where the Chinese royalty of ancient days lived. The emperor and his wives and concubines and dowager empresses all lived in this city. They were not allowed to leave, and the common people were not allowed inside. The only man allowed in the city was the emperor, so all male servants were eunuchs. 

You may think that we are standing in front of the same building in all these photos, but actually the Forbidden City is made up of SEVERAL similar-looking entrances. Most of the outer buildings are "where the emperor met visitors" or "where the emperor waited to meet visitors" or things like that. The inner rooms are his and his concubines' living quarters. 

And it was big! This is just one courtyard between buildings. This palace was seriously the size of a small city. It's probably the largest "castle" by square footage, even though everything is one-story. The buildings are built up on platforms, but there is only one level to each. 

Okay, the last two pictures are the same building. I just really liked both. It was also a beautiful day. 

It was also really crowded, and naturally, we were part of the attraction. That's me with my first fan. By the end of our trip, I wasn't as amused by the attention. 

Tons of people took pictures with us or of us, especially Daisy. I'm sure you can see why! She's so stinkin' cute in her little Chinese shirt! 

We paid extra to see the crown jewels and go off onto this side pathway. Part of the area included this stunning tile dragon mosaic. It was absolutely gorgeous. I recommend the crown jewels part, because it was a peaceful, shady, non-crowded part of the city that was very delightful. 

This is one of the headpieces the empress wore. So intricate! So pretty! So heavy-looking!

Because the concubines couldn't leave the Forbidden City, there were many pretty gardens and grottos and pagodas for them to hang out at. Each concubine had her own room, which were all free-standing houses, but were basically one long room. Every room in the entire city had a throne for the emperor that only he could sit in. 

You could spend a long time in the Forbidden City. We spent a couple hours. The crowds definitely deterred us from staying longer, because they're just very pushy in China. There are no queues. Everyone just bunches around whatever they want to see, and you literally push your way through. So, we were done after a couple hours. The above photo is of the northwest corner, which is just after you exit.  

Daisy was exhausted that day. She NEVER sleeps in her stroller, but jet lag got the best of her. This was good, because we went to lunch in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and I wouldn't have wanted her awake to touch anything. It was sketchy, but had delicious food. I actually can't even remember what we ate, but I remember it was good. 

Travel Tips and Take Aways:
  1. Be prepared for people to take pictures of/with you. If you start to allow people to take pictures with you, a crowd will gather. You must walk away, or they will never stop. 
  2. If you have little ones and enough people to carry strollers up and down stairs, then bring a stroller. It's a lot of walking, so consider that if you're planning on wearing a carrier. We had 3:1 ratio of adults to baby, so we were fine carrying the stroller up and down stairs.
If you're planning a trip to any of the places I've written about, feel free to contact me with specific questions, and I'll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. 
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