Forbidden City, Temple of HeavenAugust 28, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C
First day to explore Beijing! Despite only a few hours sleep we had a pretty busy day ahead, and decided to get out early. We're staying in a hutong, an old-school neighbourhood in an older quarter of Beijing, so it's actually mostly only locals around which is nice. Wandered around the first corner and found a place with good steamed dumplings for breakfast which did the trick quite nicely!
Our first destination was the Forbidden City which was apparently only 10-15 minutes walk away, so we headed that direction. That was a bit of an underestimate since Beijing is just huge, so we were walking for quite a while. At least it's surprisingly green with a lot of trees, and fairly orderly too. Wide footpaths and well organised roads, far more than basically any other Asian city we've been to.
Eventually we made it to Tiananmen Square, where we waited for nearly an hour to get through a security checkpoint! They were scanning everyone's ID (either Chinese ID card or passport), then putting bags through a metal detector as well. There's cameras and police here, which I think is fairly normal.
We had a quick glance at the square but headed north past it, through the Tiananmen Gate with its famous picture of Chairman Mao, and towards the Forbidden City. We'd already paid for our tickets so eventually we found the pickup point and headed in.
It's very nice, but it was just so crowded and very hot too. The large white marble squares are a massive heat trap, and we were both soon panting. Lots of locals in their flag-following tours, but lots of others just sitting around in the shade too. We explored some various areas, but then a bunch of shouting policemen cordoned off the area around the three main buildings - I overheard an English-speaking tour guide say something about an important minister coming to visit. Can't let him be disturbed by the riff-raff of course!
So we amused ourselves in other parts of the complex before coming back to the main buildings a bit later. Unfortunately, since the main area had been closed, the huge crowds were packed into a smaller area so it was probably worse than usual. Eventually we'd had enough and departed out the northern gate, the opposite end from where we'd entered.
From here we climbed a hill in Jingshan Park, where a nice pagoda and viewing platform gives a fantastic view back across the Forbidden City and most of Old Beijing as well. Quite a cool sight! Back down the hill, we figured our next mission was to get SIM cards, so I found a China Unicom shop about 20 minutes walk away. Again the walk was hard going but we eventually made it. Took about an hour to sort things out, including wait time and a painfully slow detour to an ATM where I got stuck behind a woman who'd apparently never used a machine before.
Finally online, we hopped in a cab and sped towards the Temple of Heaven, our final stop for the day. This is a Ming-era temple to the south-east of the old city where the emperor would pray each year for good harvests. The main building, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a three-tiered wooden pagoda, and was beautifully decorated with blue tiles.
Although the sun was setting and whole complex closed at 6pm, we hurried through and managed to see everything that we'd wanted to. Aside from the Hall, there's also another Pagoda and the Altar of Heaven which were all interesting. Far less crowded here, and we enjoyed it all the more for that.
With the light fading we headed for home, having our first experience on the Beijing subway. It's actually pretty easy, most of the annoucements and signs are in Mandarin and English, so it's hard to get lost once you know where you're going. Had dinner at a small restaurant around the corner from our hotel: two noodle dishes, a plate of dumplings and two beers was way too much food!
Collapsed into bed at around 8pm after a super long day! My step counter was at 32,000 before my phone ran out of battery, who knows how high it got!Read more