Beijing, China: Day 3 – The Forbidden City

On our third day in Beijing, we decided to see the Forbidden City. In the 1500’s, this palace complex was built for the Ming emperors. The name stems from the fact that people could neither enter nor leave the palace without permission from the emperor. This changed in 1912, when the last emperor of China was forced to abdicate. In the 1925 the palace was converted to a museum, and in 1987 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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If you saw the blue sky pictures from our earlier Day 1: Temple of Heaven post, you might notice that special pollution controls had ended, and air quality was getting closer to normal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tiananmen Square

Our morning started with a trip to Tiananmen Square, just to the south of the Forbidden City. We had stopped by this area on the first day, but this was the day we planned to go in.

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As it turns out, we had just bought the boys some soda and ended up with a fairly nice photo of our American boys in the square. We don’t normally let them have much soda at home, but one of the ways we convince them to walk tens of thousands of steps while on trips involves lots of “treats.”

The picture even managed to throw off one of our friends who saw the picture on Facebook and thought we may have taken the boys to the Epcot Center (places of the world exhibits) in Orlando. On reflection, we realized that our 1-week trip to China was probably(?) cheaper than a 1-week trip to Orlando with a classic “kid-friendly” Disney itinerary; travel costs in China can be quite inexpensive once you’re there, while Disney experiences are definitely not cheap. Definite consider that before necessarily dismissing all international travel with kids as “too expensive.”

The Forbidden City

After buying our tickets and getting through the gates, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the palace complex.

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The boys were particularly fascinated by both the giant cauldrons and the statues that were scattered all around the complex. The boys asked how many people could be fed from the cauldrons, but were surprised to learn that they were actually used to store water that could be used if there was a fire.

As we explored, we enjoyed looking at all the buildings.

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The gardens and water features were also quite nice. When John got tired, Jeremy put him on his shoulders.  Lots of people stopped to point, stare, and take pictures.  Given that Jeremy was already significantly taller than most of the people, seeing a white kid even higher in the air was quite a spectacle.

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We did pop into the museums, but in general, found the outdoor sights much more interesting.

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All-in-all, quite pleasant.

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As we exited from the North Gate, we entered a park and climbed to the top of the hill to get a nice view.

While there, Jeremy found a really interesting sign in the men’s room.  Someone needs to work on their translation skills…But, I guess the message is still quite clear.

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Afternoon Explorations

From here, we decided to walk to one of the famous hutongs, or historical areas with narrow alley ways, but overshot a bit.  While exploring the hutong, we found a nice restaurant and had some really good fish and a bunch of other delightful dishes.

After lunch, we continued to Wangfujing Street, got some milk tea, and popped into a toy shop.

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James had read about “scorpion on a stick” and “grasshopper on a stick” in one of his books and was determined to try it.  Unfortunately, once he saw it, he chickened out.  Usually I am an adventurous eater, but this was even beyond my comfort level, so we decided to skip it.  I thought about trying the starfish, but got no encouragement from anyone else, and couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

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John decided that “potato chips on a stick” were much more appealing.  I think we all agreed on that!

By this point it was about 3:00pm and we were all getting tired.  The boys were anxious to buy some toys, so we went back to the toy stores by the pearl market and let them pick some things out.  On the way, we reminded them of our signals – rather than simply beaming in excitement – if they were interested in something.  Bargaining is quite intense and quite foreign to American boys.  The last thing you want are tears and, “But mom, I really, really want it!”  That’s a great way to get a horrible price.

After completing our purchases, we walked back toward our apartment, had some delicious dumplings at a place around the corner, then spent the evening simply wandering around our neighborhood.

As it turns out, traveling to China with kids was a great idea!

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