It’s the final countdown!!
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
142Trip End Jun 18, 2011
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After getting soaked on the Wall I woke up the next day feeling really rotten, so we decided to take it easy for the day. Having said that we also had plenty of stuff to do so we went to visit one of the main sites in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven Park. Used by Emperors for centuries to pray for good harvests for the coming year and to hold different religious and imperial ceremonies, the Temple of Heaven Park gets packed out by millions of visitors every year. Apart from the hordes of tourists the park is also used by countless Beijingers as a plce to do their exercises, have picnics and play chess in. By the time we arrived the sun was shining fiercely and I could feel my skin starting to go crispy. The park complex is huge and houses dozens of temples, but in all honesty I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Tom went for a look round while I sat down in the shade for a while. The next thing I knew Tom was tapping me on the head and telling me to wake up. I opened my eyes to quite a shock; a crowd of about 20 Chinese women had crowded around me while I was having a nap and were all staring at me. Apparently they don’t see many white girls sleeping in the middle of their park! But that wasn’t what surprised me, what surprised me was that a young girl about 7 years old was sitting about 6 inches away from my nose and staring intently at my face. She must have been having a real good look at me because when I woke up she nearly jumped out of her skin; I felt like some kind of museum exhibition… “And here we see a sleepy girl from Wales, snoring next to a temple in the middle of Beijing”
The following day we had the very last of our sight-seeing to do and we had certainly saved one of the biggest until last; today we were visiting the Forbidden City. Before we left home we watched a brilliant film called The Last Emperor and since then we have been dreaming about visiting the City. Smack bang in the middle of Beijing, the Forbidden City was built to house the Emperor, his family and officials and to act as the Chinese seat of government. Quite simply, it is the big-daddy of all palaces! There are courtyards within courtyards, temples within more temples and miles and miles of rabbit-warren lanes and alleys. There are 980 buildings within the city and 8707 rooms. Many of the paths and bridges were reserved solely for the Emperors use and there is even a whole hall dedicated to housing the Emperors favourite clocks. There are rooms for writing poetry in, hallways for walking along when it rains outside, special bedrooms for spending your wedding night in, banqueting halls by the dozen
The penalty for a foreigner trying to enter the Forbidden City used to be instant execution, no questions asked, but luckily nowadays all you have to do is pay the £4 entrance charge. As we approached the entrance gate we had another one of those moments when you just think: “Wow I cannot believe I’m actually here”! The City was teeming with tourists and we had to push and shove our way to the front of the ticket queue. I also paid to hire an audio tour which had a little electronic map on the back; the tour was great, really interesting and full of quirky stories, however it would automatically turn itself on and off whenever it felt like it, so it meant that I was constantly jumping out of my skin when the woman’s voice came booming into my ear out of nowhere! One of the most interesting stories I learnt about was concerning a huge sacred stone carving. At the time it was carved the Emperor instructed that the carving could not be broken into smaller pieces for ease of transportation and then reconstructed at the palace, instead he demanded that the marble had to stay in one huge piece. Now this piece of marble is 17 meters long, 3 meters wide, 1.7 meters thick and weighs about 250 tons and considering it was made hundreds of years ago transporting it was going to be one hell of a headache
We had a wonderful time at the Forbidden City even though we had to put up with stupid tourists putting their grubby mitts all over the exhibitions. We already felt like we knew lots about the Forbidden City, but having the audio guide meant that we came away knowing even more. However, by the time we got to the end we were well and truly jiggered. We turned to each and just knew that we were finally at the end. Suddenly the weight of the last 11 months hit us and we couldn’t walk another step. Back at the hostel we enjoyed some ice-cream and a nice cold beer but before we knew it the day was over and we were facing our final day of the trip. Where has the time gone?