26 July 2007

Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square

Back in Beijing, Tracy and I decided it was time to start seeing the sites! We'd done our best to plan around the weekend, when tourist sites can be particularly busy, but we couldn't wait any longer to go into the Forbidden City.

On Saturday morning, we joined some serious crowds in the area around the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. While the early morning crowd was still in the Forbidden City, we went to an adjacent park, Jingshan Park, and climbed to the rock garden on top for a great view of Beijing. To the immediate south, we saw the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. To the west, we saw nearby Bei Hai Park. To the north was the area of the bell and drum towers, and the central business district could be seen to the east.

Against our better judgment, we braved the crowded and unrelenting afternoon sun to visit the Forbidden City. It's a beautiful maze of detailed buildings set on nearly 180 acres. We spent about four hours, and I don't think we covered even a fraction of it. The largest building, which most people recognize as the symbol of the Forbidden City, was under construction and completely closed. You can't go to Beijing without visiting the Forbidden City, but I really felt it was over-rated.

On several occasions, we wandered through the neighboring Tienanmen Square. Despite its tragic history, I thought it was really cool. There were always a lot of people using the large, open space. In the evening, families were out sharing time together and flying kites. Unfortunately, there was always a significant military presence in the Square as well. We even watched through a fence to see some sort of military training. It brought back not-so-fond Marine Corps memories.

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