Forbidden China - The Beijing Experience: Day 3

Sunday, August 31st

Our alarms failed us this morning.  Or I guess my alarm worked, but Danielle's didn't.  Unfortunately, I don't remember hearing my alarm, so I slept through it (after I turned it off, it seems.  This, my friends, is something that happens at home, so why not in China??).  We were meeting for breakfast at 730a.  Danielle stirred at 708a and sounded the alarm that we were late.  Which set off the getting ready frenzy.

Now here is where I have to explain my situation for the rest (seemingly) of the trip.   My hair is not cute here.  Really not cute here.  But there are two reasons.  We both showered last night after the massive rain storm.  We were cold and walking through puddles of who knows what.  (We know what.  We just don't want to talk about it.)  So, a shower was necessary.  I had fully expected to shower again in the morning so I could get my hair to its normal, adorable self.  I am primarily an early morning showerer for hair purposes only.  But today, I woke up late.  I grabbed the straight iron and figured out a way to make my hair not look like a Dairy Queen (you know, all twirled up in various places...shut up...this is what we've called it for years).  But there was no product in the hair.  No Moroccan Oil.  No sculpting stuff.  And a hairspray which has not been vetted at home.  Just natural hair doing its natural thing.  Well...as natural as hair can be with the Ginger Spice color scheme going on here.  I say this because pictures will show this hair situation as the days go on.  Be gentle.

Breakfast was again, quite excellent.  We plowed through the meal and set off for today's adventure.  The Forbidden Palace.

Walking to the palace...
We are actually pretty close to the palace...relatively speaking.  It may be a 20 or so minute walk, but it's easier than trying to figure out the journey on the subway.  We really don't have a good subway stop near us.  And we are able bodied people.  We can walk.

You can get into both the Forbidden City and Tianneman Square in the same security line.  Oh yes, we have security here.  If you want to go visit the public square here, you have to go through security.  But we all know why.  And I'm not going into it right now.

So, security.  As we entered the security line, the realization that maybe Sunday morning wasn't the best time to go to the Forbidden City had crossed our minds.  The line of people waiting to go through security was long.  And I use the word "line" sparingly.  This was people jammed into an area which could have been orderly but wasn't.  This was people getting out of line or trying to push their way further into the line.  It was not a place for the claustrophobic person.  And once we made it to the front of the line, we had to go into a metal detector.  This was again, chaos.  There were some "lines" that had bag checks.  Others didn't.  Danielle and I made a wise choice (by accident...I'm not giving us credit for anything) and made it through the line quickly.  On the other side, we waited for Adele and Fay.  And we waited.  And waited.  And waited.


Tourists at the Forbidden Palace.
Fay, I think, has it a little harder than we do on this trip.  Adele, Danielle and I are the tourists.  We don't look like everyone else around us.  Sometimes, we are the attractions.  We don't blend in.  We are obviously not from here.  We have, on more than one occasion, been asked to take pictures with people.  Other times, people are taking our pictures without our knowledge (I can only imagine what social media site we are being posted on...with my bad hair).  But Fay is originally from Taiwan.  So she "could" blend in if she needed to.  But Fay doesn't have the the knowledge of the language.  And that is probably harder for her in many ways.

Adele finally made her way out of security.  Fay, a few minutes later.  Once we were all back together, we were off to the Forbidden City.  

We found our way in and around.  It would have been helpful to have a map, other than the map in our guidebooks.  But signs were plentiful and we wandered.  Into one temple and out of another.  We saw items from the Qing Dynasty and many jade pieces.  We also people watched to an amazing degree...

I love the Foo Dogs...
There's an interesting thing about men in Beijing...that we've seen.  I don't want to say all Chinese men are the same.  Nope.  Not generalizing.  But...there's an interesting thing about men in Beijing.  They are all for being shirtless.  I mean, it is hot and humid and sticky.  But...shirtless.  We walked around the city both yesterday and today and men have their t-shirts raised up over their stomachs in a halter top scenario.  And not just one guy.  Many guys.  But my favorite was the guy taking his picture in front of the Forbidden City.  Shirt off, happy as a clam while the picture was being taken.  But once the picture was taken...shirt back on.  Seriously. I have been laughing about it for days now.


Yep.  This is a thing.


As we wandered from place to place in the Forbidden City, we also encountered our first time in which we were a spectacle.  Now yesterday, I watched a guy take our picture from afar.  I mean, a blonde, a brunette and a redhead enter a street...I get that.  But at the Forbidden City, we were sitting quietly at a pagoda and I watched as a woman took pictures in front of the pagoda.  Before I knew it, she was sitting next to me and we were both smiling for the camera.
  
The pagoda where the photo incident happened.
A moment of quiet reflection.
The whole thing was actually kind of hilarious.  My theory was that this was the first time this woman had ever seen a white lady.  So now they have a picture for when they finally saw one.  Who am I to say no to that??  Plus, this was the same area as when we saw the toddler with a shirt on, but wearing no pants...or diapers.  Which...ok...

Again, I don't think there needs to be a sign for this, but...
We spent a bit of time at the palace...had an ice cream break, then changed focus to the square across the street.  It was time to visit Tianneman.  But first...we had to find it.

Ice Cream!!
Tianneman Square is right across the street from the Forbidden Palace, but it isn't as easy to get to.  Especially when you're funneled through a different exit of the palace.  And one not through a gift shop.  Seriously, we wanted to go to a gift shop, but the one we wanted was one we couldn't get to.  Jerks.  The problem with the exit we had to go through meant we also had to revisit security.  Which, as we knew from earlier, was not altogether pleasant.

So we figured we'd stop for food before going back into the scrum of people.  I'd love to say I knew where we ate.  I don't.  But we bellied up to a table in a hole in the wall place on the street probably parallel to the Forbidden City.  The menu had pictures and we pointed and smiled.  For ¥15 ($2.25-ish), we all had big bowls of noodles and rice and such.  The server smoked in the corner.  A kitten wandered in between chairs while we ate.  It ended up being kind of perfect.

Bellies full, we joined the queue for security again.  This time, it didn't take as long.  And we kind of knew what was going down, so we knew to find a line for a bag check instead of the line without.  This time, security was a breeze.  But we didn't count on having a hard time finding Tianneman Square.

Inside Tianneman Square
You could tell we had to go down a flight of stairs and underground.  But underground, there were several ways to go.  And the signs were all in Chinese, so...the first time we reemerged from the underground, we were on the other side of the street, but not in the square.  So we went back down.  And back through security.  Again.


Second time's the charm.  We made it to the square and took it all in.  The square is quite beautiful and open.  But the only thing you could think of was...the incident.  The creepiness the square gave off was palpable.  We walked around.  Took some pictures with other tourists (this time, a Middle Eastern guy, who has definitely seen white women before.  We are all pretty sure we are on some website somewhere.  You heard it here first.)

Looking across the street back at the Forbidden City.



We didn't stay long.  The weather was changing again and we wanted to get back to the hotel before we got soaked.  Again.  This was becoming a habit.  Both the rain and a pit stop at the hotel.  We had some time to regroup.  Mostly, we caught up on the only social media we had at our disposal...Instagram.  

The rain has been the most disappointing factor of Beijing.  Had the rain not been so pounding, we might have had a few extra stops every night.  But tonight the rain was almost as bad as it was the night before.  And our shoes from the night before were still not dry.  So we made the only choice we could in a situation like this...we ate at the hotel.  The hotel food was adequate.  It was hotel food.  But for about $5 per person, none of us really wanted to complain.

Everyone took pictures of the feet resting on the bench...

Like this!!

Some beer was being consumed...
Because of the rain and because we had a full day ahead of us tomorrow, we turned in early.  I could say it was still jet lag, but we all know I am not really a night owl...

Daily Stats - 19,715 steps, 8.48 miles


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