We finally made it today, although not as early as we'd planned. It was super hot and humid and very crowded, but you can't visit Beijing without seeing the place. It really is magnificent; a whole complex of buildings and courtyards that only opened to the public in 1949. Before then, it was the preserve of Royalty only, and it has been the symbolic centre of Chinese culture since it was completed in 1420. Twenty four emperors ruled over 500 years, until the last one abdicated in 1912.Once you're in, you can wander about freely and most of the buildings are open. It almost doesn't look real though as it's colourful and well kept. It looks almost Hollywood-esque, but this is actually the real deal.
Its named the Forbidden City after one of the gates. Only certain people were allowed to approach it, all others having to stay a minimum of 20 paces away.
But they were quite organised, especially when it came to fires. On each roof is a collection of roof guardians. These animals are associated with water and so apparently protect buildings against fire. but just in case they got it wrong, these giant iron vats held water to throw on fires, and in winter they were covered with quilts to stop the water from freezing.
And this stone carving was something else. Carved out of one bit of stone in situ, they sprinkle it with water to stop it cracking. Can't remember any facts about it but it's big and pretty cool.
We stayed all afternoon but moved at snails pace because the complex is so big and the weather so hot. But that proved to be an excellent people spotting opportunity, Chinese families just doing their thing in the crowd.
Some really don't dress for sight seeing though. Look at these shoes.
And as usual, things go on to keep the place ship shape. The cleaning people just get on with it, using giant chopstick things to pick up litter. And I'm not sure if these mops were white when they started out, but they were washed and black and drying against the last Emperor's fence this afternoon.
A really entertaining aspect of Chinese tourism are the misspelt signs that abound. Either misspelled or not quite right. Perhaps its just the translation of characters to Latin script that is the problem, but we now have a growing collection of corkers. This is the top one from today.
When it got too hot, we went back via Tienanmen Square to the hotel to chill in the air conditioning. It was still hot at 2100 when we went out to eat. Will def do the bike thing tomorrow.