Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forbidden City

I know this is a few days late….sorry! We finally got internet on Sunday night (yay for wireless!), but since then, things have been hectic for me with school and whatnot.  But back to Saturday’s outing to the Forbidden City….

One of the entrances to the "Outer City"
So we had no idea what we were getting into when we decided to go to Tian’anmen Square on Saturday. It’s so different being here than a Western country because neither of us really do not know much about Chinese history and I haven’t read up on too much because I mix up all of the names of the dynasties and their time periods and whatnot.  I thought we would go to the square, walk around the Forbidden City for an hour or so, and then head to the famous “snack street” nearby to experience scorpions on a stick and fried cockroaches. WOW, was I wrong!!! When they said Forbidden City, they mean a real city! That place is HUGE! I realized it is a Chinese palace, so it’s like the equivalent of Windsor Castle or Versailles, which makes a lot of sense :)

Hello, Mao.

So I met Adam and Sarah on the bus (they had something to do earlier in the morning) and we rode up to Tian’anmen Square. The first thing you see is exactly what you think—the huge portrait of the man himself. (If you want to see him in the flesh, you can go across the street to his mausoleum. We opted out of that one). Because it was actually a gorgeous day, there were throngs of people and a lot of navigating, holding onto each other’s backpacks, etc. Once we got behind the square, I thought we had reached the entrance to the Forbidden City, but no. We walked through 2 or 3 massive buildings, just to get to the entrance! On the way, we passed the typical tourist fare—hats, tchotchkes, water, snacks, etc. Everyone was eating the same popsicles, so Sarah and I decided to check them out. The flavor was familiar, but we couldn’t quite place it …until Adam tried and immediately knew: “It’s banana! Like a banana runt!” (Cathy, he is absolutely your son!)
Sarah and I enjoying our banana popsicles. Best part: The women shoved Sarah right before this picture because there wasn't enough gate on the other side of them...?
We tried to buy a museum pass for the year from the ticket booth, but after some confusion, ended up with tickets to the Forbidden City, Clock Exhibition, and the Treasure Gallery, which was perfectly fine with us. We split the audio guide so we could socialize a little—Adam put on the headphones and proceeded to repeat everything the guide said so we would all know.  It got a little repetitive after a while, but many parts were very interesting! It’s kind of crazy that there were people who spend their entire lives within these walls.

We walked and walked and walked around tons of buildings….after some time, they all ended up looking alike! I’ll spare the history lesson (mostly because I would probably end up looking up the info on wikipedia!), but some favorites included the concubine choosing area, the place where an empress was banished because it was a fixed political marriage (and apparently she was ugly?), and the gardens. All of the different buildings and areas have awesome names: Hall of Supreme Harmony, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, and our personal favorite: the Hall of Continence and Confidence. Our conclusion is that continence could inspire confidence, right?

The Clock Gallery was incredible—the Chinese imported tons of clocks from the West (mostly British and French) and then made many of their own as well. It seemed that the timepiece was not nearly as important as the ornate designs and decorations.

The Treasure Gallery was interesting, but I think we were all pretty exhausted by that point (aka no pictures). Much of the jewelry was jade or pearl, both of which are plentiful in China. I liked seeing the portraits of the emperor and empress wearing the jewelry that was on display. It gave me context for everything at the end of a hot day!

Adam snapped this as they began to pose...hahaha!
While we were walking out of the Treasure Gallery, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and held out her camera. Naturally, I reached for it, expecting that she wanted me to take a picture of her with her friend. Nope! She wanted to be IN a picture with me. Gotta love being different, right? Haha. Adam thought it was hilarious, so he took a few of his own. Then he posed with the girl as well!! This was the 2nd time during the day that this happened...earlier, I was sitting on a bench and Sarah was standing next to me, when the woman beside me got up and motioned for her to sit down. Before we knew it, her daughter was standing behind us and she was snapping a picture. I think it's like being from a rural or distant area and visiting Washington D.C. -- you might see someone or something you've heard about, but never seen in person. But honestly--me? Exotic? Seriously? (Keep laughing...!)

When we got home after a trek to Carrefour (grocery shopping!), both of us had very achy feet. Solution? A foot massage in the building next door! This was my very first massage, and it was wonderful!!! First, we soaked our feet in a bucket of HOT water with tea for 10 or so minutes. Then, someone came over and started with the lotion and creams or whatever. She spent a good 30 minutes on each foot. Heaven! I think the business was in their apartment because there was another woman with a baby who looked to be in her pajamas and someone else hanging out eating these mini apple things. She offered me one and I said “apple?” in Chinese and they all burst out laughing. Ohhhhh man. They loved us and kept motioning and talking in Chinese, but the only thing we got out of it was more mini-apples. Adam and I both agreed that everyone who comes to visit should probably get a foot massage after long days of walking around the Forbidden City or the Great Wall (ps: we’re going on a 6km hike to the Great Wall on Saturday and then Adam, Sarah, and I already have plans to return for massages!).

End of the day: no Chinese food! Although I like a lot of the food, it felt great to finally cook! A lot of the food here is salty or drowning in oil, so both Adam and I appreciated making our own food a lot more. We got a bunch of vegetables and basically just sautéed them and then I made salmon because it was the sole recognizable protein in the grocery store (and I love it!). It was delicious! We were even able to have leftover veggies in eggs on Sunday morning.
SIDE NOTE: I went to the produce stand/store today and everything was incredibly fresh and inexpensive. The only recognizable protein this time: Tofu. I stir-fried it tonight because that’s all I know how to do, so if you have any [easy] tofu recipes, please send them my way!!

Enjoy the pictures below!
AMAZING sign in one of the palace parks.

Ancient fire hydrant. These are located all around the buildings and were filled with water in case of a fire.

Animals guarding on top of a building. The more numerous the animals, the more important the building.

Another palace guard :)

Happy but tired (and ready for foot massages!)

1 comment:

  1. Loved the adventures! Stace and I are going to need to reference the blog for every time we leave your apartment. So happy you finally cooked your own food! I will definitely get you some good tofu recipes. Please go ahead and schedule appointments at the foot massage place. Didn't it tickle?