Saturday October 11th: Early wake up call since we had a long day. We met up with Violet after breakfast, our guide for the next three days. Our morning started with a walk to the Forbidden City (FC), which took about 25 minutes. We arrived at the east gate and circled south to the main entrance. Instead of going directly in (a mistake, which I’ll explain later), we headed south to Tiananmen Square. Both Reenie and I were amazed at the size of the square. I had read it was the size of 90 football fields. I also read other sizes, but in any case, it was incredibly large. Decorations remained from the Olympics and we saw a group of school children touring the area.
Heading back to the FC we encountered crowds of people. While the National holiday had ended (on the 8th?) many people still remained in Beijing for the weekend. The crowds packed into FC. There must have been 10 lines of people squeezing into 2 final lines to get through the gate. I saw a few people panic because everyone was pushing. Had there been any problems I’m sure some would have been injured. I recommend that anyone visiting the FC to go there first thing in the morning and visit T. Square another day, as we would have avoided the crowds.
If I thought T. Square was large, I was even more amazed at the size of the FC. It seemed like we walked forever going through the various parts of the city grounds. We learned that the gold knobs on the red doors signified the lucky number 9, as most of the doors had 9 rows across and 9 rows top to bottom. Also, there are apparently 9,999 rooms in the FC.
We visited the small jewelry museum (lots of beautiful jade) and then headed out the north end of the City, probably spending 4 hours total.
By this time, we were hungry for lunch, so Violet took us to a place for a hot pot lunch. The card I have reads “Beijing Full Blessing Catering” 38 Dianmennei Street. Across the street, according to Violet, was another hot pot restaurant that busloads of tourists go to. Most tourists apparently missed the restaurant we dined in. Each table had a steaming hot pot with a spicy broth, depending on how spicy you like your food. We ordered lamb, beef, cabbage, straw-like mushrooms, and celery leaves. I like spicy food, but ordered mine mild. It was certainly mild but after several bites of food, the heat kicked in. Reenie and I enjoyed our lunch (226 RMB for 3 of us).
Reenie wanted to buy some bulk silk, so we took a taxi to the silk market. She shopped around, as there were many stalls and she wanted a particular color and thickness of material. She bargained and purchased some. She also bought a watch, but Violet said she paid too much. I agreed! I looked around but wasn’t in the mood for shopping. Too much to see in Beijing and I’m not a shopper anyway, except get me in an Italian ceramic shop and I go crazy!
After a short rest at our hotel, we walked to the Wangfujing night market. Wow! I loved seeing all the various foods and bugs. There were probably 30 food vendors, most selling the same items. Since we had a large lunch, I dined on some of the street food, to include some skewered meats (lamb) and a crepe that was filled with cabbage, vegetables, sliced meat and some hot sauce. Reenie wasn’t ready to try the foods but did have some fried ice cream.
Nearby on the pedestrian area of Wangfujing, we shopped a little before heading back to the hotel.