Today was a long one.
You really can’t appreciate the sheer size of the central area of Beijing until you try to walk the entire thing in one day. Then your pounding feet, aching back, rumbling tummy and nicotine fits (no smoking in the Forbidden City, which houses the Imperial Garden) all band together to make you realize that this park and palace are really, really huge.
We started in Tianenmen Square, where I took almost no photos. Other than the famousness of the Square for the riots a couple decades ago, this square has almost no redeeming qualities save for it’s sheer size. It is a vast expanse of concrete block with a monument in the middle, tourists from all over the world (many/most of them Chinese), and hundreds of local bastards and bastardettes trying to sell you postcards, booklets, and thier services as a tour guide. It makes your feet hurt, and makes you crabby. So we left.
Directly north of the Square is the Forbidden City. Known to the Chinese as the Palace Museum, this many-block long walled compound is a collection of buildings and statues that date back as far as the 1400’s, and has housed emporers and fallen into disrepair over and over again in the intervening years. Now it stands as a cultural museum of sorts, and is currently undergoing a mammoth restoration project by the Chinese government in order to ready it for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Mostly, it too is a vast expanse of concrete with some decaying buildings dotting the barrenness. At least it has some cool history, though, and watching the work progress on the buildings is actually quite amazing. They’re doing a very, very good job. I think 2009 would be a fabulous time to come back just to see how it all turns out.
Then at the end of the Forbidden City, you suddenly find yourself in the Imperial Gardens, which in my opinion, was worth the entire walk. The combanation of cypress trees, rock formations, interesting plants, and historic buildings was completely fantastic, and even though I was hungry and my feet hurt, it really made me glad I had endured all the concrete today. Most of the photos I posted today on Flickr are from that area, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
And now, after about 7 hours of walking concrete and saying ‘No, thank you’ over 16.8 million times to people trying to sell me stupid-ass crap that I didn’t want, I’m going to head over to the local bar, sit my tired ass on the first barstool I can find, and say (for the first time today) “Yes, please sell me something.”