Part 2 of the “must-see-locations” in and around Beijing: the Forbidden City.
As the Spanish guys slept at a friend’s place in Beijing we agreed to meet at 10.30 in front of the Forbidden City. Niu Qiyangs father organized something that we could skip the queues and get in for free. Of course the Spanish guys were being Spanish and postponed their arrival again and again. We didn’t want to wait so I went in and Niu Qiyang back home, telling the others who to ask for to get in.
The Forbidden City is a huge (the biggest in the world) palace area with hundreds of buildings, some big, representative ones to show off and some smaller ones where people actually lived in. Additionally there were temples, opera houses and all kinds of other buildings that were now decorated according to their former use or museums for various exhibitions.
Another clash with the Chinese culture appeared when I saw several parents letting their children pee wherever they stood. It didn’t matter if it was in the crowd directly in front of the biggest palace or not if the boy needs to pee, he should do so! Also the way Chinese tourists try to visit places is a bit different to the European one. It feels a bit like in a big summer sale where nobody cares for anybody else as long as they gain an advantage from it. People were pushing in large crowds in front of the buildings to get in or get a picture from the furniture. While it is hard to get to the front of these crowds, it’s even harder to get out again because everybody is pushing to the front. I tried it once and decided that there is no point of trying it just to take a way too dark picture of a room.
Instead I went to the Clock-Museum in which they showed a collection of old, mechanical clocks which did amazing things. An elephant which could move tail a trunk and walk pulling a trailer. A small person that wrote Chinese characters. Lots and lots of small figures that moved in all directions. Unfortunately I missed the demonstration of some of the clocks but instead I saw videos of some of the things they did. A pretty astonishing thing considering that is all mechanical movement.
I also met the Spaniards with their friends shortly but they left quite quickly again to get food outside of the Forbidden City, so I spent the rest of the day alone again. After I saw nearly everything I went back to the entrance in the south to get out, while nearly all of the tourists go north and exit the city there. The advantage was that only a few people were still around and all the spots that were crowded before or I couldn’t even reach were completely empty. On my way out a Chinese guy approached me, asking where I was from, what I was doing here, joking around a bit. At some point he asked me if I wanted to go to grab a coffee…not really sure what to think of that, if it was genuine interest or some kind of trick, I declined politely saying I would meet some friends soon. He got my contact details anyway but until now I didn’t hear back from him.
I walked a bit more though the city, found a market where you could buy spiders and caterpillars to eat but didn’t buy any and went back home. After dinner the 4 of us went to a bar to meet 4 of Niu Qiyangs friends. We ended up drinking beer and playing games until 12 or so when the Spanish guys had to leave to catch their train to somewhere else in China.