The Forbidden City seen in Empire of the Sun is as grand as reflected therein but to walk among those ghosts and that history is a must do. It’s particularly nice if you go when it’s close to closing time as I have with other sites in Huay, Vietnam and in Nanjing, China and any place where Chinese tourists are as you will have an opportunity to photograph these auspicious occasions with few to no people in them. Entrance into the Imperial Palace also known as the Forbidden City or the Palace Museum is 60rmb/yuan.
What is the importance connected to this place? Well it was the home of emperors from the Ming to the Qing dynasty and both a ceremonial and political site for well over 500 years as it has been here since the early 1400s. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is the largest preserved collection of wooden structures in the world. But for me, it’s grandeur was startling. I could almost picture the monks and emperors and concubines residing there. Golden robes and all. I looked at my feet and realized I was standing on history the significance of which is hard for a westerner like me to even grasp as my country is a toddler in comparison. It was the stones beneath my feet rather than the architecture as at this point as I had seen so many building facades throughout Asia just like this. It was its sprawling grandiosity that made me marvel. It was the question that circulated through my mind – will people 500 years from now still visit this place and stand where I’m standing staring in awe? I think the answer is yes. And the other question which creeped in as well was “Is there any chance the emperors who created this palatial anomaly standing where I’m standing and thinking centuries from now this place will be visited by millions of people?” I think the answer is no. I mean after all it is the Forbidden City where people like me were never invited in!!
At this time, you should also head over to the nearby Tiananmen Square. This is the place Chairman Mao announced that China was now the Republic of China under communist rule and his revolution ended emperor controlled dynasties. Mao Se Zhung is responsible for a very difficult time in Chinese history but the last two or three presidents have stabilized the country since his coup. We should also remember that it was here back in 1989, when tanks rumbled through Tiananmen Square and hundreds of protesters screaming for democracy were gunned down by the military.
After my ride on the time machine, I went to a massage place and had something done for the first time which apparently is common here in China (and no it wasn’t a happy ending but was certainly an interesting thing we should all try). And that is an ear cleaning. It’s not anything like what I expected i.e. like some warm fluid poured into the ear or something, it was an actual cleaning with all these undefinable instruments including a few that vibrated – presumably to break up the ear wax – but in any event, it was calming and felt different from anything I have experienced before but really good nonetheless. Speaking of “happy endings” though, it seems a lot more discreet here than it is in places like Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines but it does exist. One of my friends was actually offered one and the masseuse said not to worry as such activity could be billed to the room. Not sure that counts as discreet!
Before long, the climb and the whole trip to China for that matter caught up with me. I was physically and mentally exhausted like never before in my travels around the world except that night in Rome after traveling through 6 countries in 72 hours. As such, I ordered a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut with all kinds of different toppings including corn and I’m not sure if it was just because I was tired of Chinese food or what but hands down best pizza, I’ve ever had!
That’s all for now from Beijing – a surprisingly quieter city than Shanghai and the other Chinese cities I’ve been too.