Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

10:32 I woke up today, with incredibly sore calf muscles - not just achy, as in, if i cross my legs the pressure on them actually hurts them. I say i woke up with them, well actually i was aware of them being sore all night because every time i turned over they were mega sore and my legs shook.
Going down for breakfast I taught the guy doing eggs how to do a fried egg with runny yolk - because all his other eggs he'd attacked the yolks with chopsticks and I wanted to dip my bacon and toast in the yolk.
He seemed amused by that for some reason. We joked later that day that I'd show him scrambled eggs tomorrow.
After breakfast we went to tiananmen square which means peaceful heavenly gate, it has Chairman Mao's mausoleum with very detailed statues of soldiers of the red army on one side facing the forbidden city, and a government conference centre which holds half a million people on another side with the Chinese museum opposite. Currently there is a political conference going on, so lots of security and lots of searching of the Chinese, we Brits got through quickly with no fuss. There was also the memorial column to the soldiers of the wars.
I asked Jade her thoughts on Mao, on generally the thoughts as with my limited knowledge I do actually know that he killed millions of people. She told me her grandparents like him because they were quite poor and when he came to power he gave them land and money so they had more. It sounds like he did plenty for the very poor people, despite the bad things he also did. She also tells me that she knows very little of the student protests here. We've all seen the tank coming down the road and the man standing in front of it to block its way. She never seen that. YouTube and Facebook are blocked here, even google is.
Tiananmen square is the place to come if you want to protest about something. But you can only protest if the government approves what you are protesting. So really, you can't protest at all- it is illegal to say anything that would disrupt social stability. In fact I heard a story on the news that a student posted on a social networking site (no idea which) that radiation from japan was making it's way to china. A friend of his reported this on some sort of blog of his, then people started texting it around- a snowball effect. The first 2 guys have been arrested for causing disruption of social stability! Even an American journalist was apparently beaten black and blue secretly for reporting something that put China in a bad light, even if it was fact.

After the square we went under the pedestrian subway to the forbidden city, I nearly got mown down by a squad of about 8 soldiers marching through the underground which I genuinely didn't see and only leapt out the way at the last minute as they didn't appear to be moving for me! I did see the first soldier flinch as I jumped. He was probably thinking as he marched towards me "oh god there's a tourist in the way. She hasn't seen me. Oh please move! I can't go diverting round you! Move move!"
We went into the forbidden city again and Jade told us lots of things about it which I didn't know from the audio guide.
10:58 Interesting fact, the cobbled area in front of throne room used to be gardens, but because people tried murdering the emperor he ordered stones- 6 metres deep! In case anyone wanted to try tunnelling in!

There are 9999.5 rooms. A whole room is denoted by 4 pillars. One room has 2 and is therefore technically half a room.
In heavenly paradise there are 10,000 rooms. So to respect the gods they built half a room less!
The doors have 9 knots, 9 being the supreme number, no one else can have 9 related numbers.
Between the doors there is a big step, this is believed to keep ghosts away and keep you safe because ghosts can't jump.

16:09 We went for Lunch at a family run restaurant, Jade ordered us some great food and we stuffed ourselves.
Afterwards we went down a famous Shopping alley where they sell scorpions on sticks, they fry them, but they are raw on the stick and still alive and moving even though the stick is stuck right through them. The stupidest question someone in our group asked was "well doesn't that hurt them having the stick right through them?" I'm thinking, well yes it probably does, but not half as much as being fried and then eaten! What a daft question. They were also selling seahorses, large black scorpions, big spiders, starfish, centipedes, silk worms and even baby birds all on sticks to eat. Yuck! I confess I did not try them and if I was offered the choice of eating a tomato or a scorpion it would be a close run thing as to which I'd choose!
They also did strawberries on a stick covered with toffee, now this I did enjoy and was a great idea.

After we had wandered down the very interesting and very busy alley of weird and wonderful things we caught the bus to the Temple of Heaven. I decided i needed the toilet at this point and went, as you do, to crouch city, as i was washing my hands i saw reflected behind me a lady who had come in and who had decided not to close the door! I was amused by Karl Pilkinton in An Idiot Abroad who discovered a public toilet with no doors at all, but this place had doors yet this lady couldn't be bothered using it!
The temple of heaven is a round building in the same style and colouring as the forbidden city, except instead of a yellow tiled roof (the yellow tiles were reserved only for the emperor and if anyone else used them then death could be the punishment.) they had blue. There was also an area which was a mound of stones, it was 3 step layers high and there was a central round stone surrounded by 9 stones (note the 9 again and multiples of 9), then 18, then 27 and so on. When standing on that centre stone and stamping your foot you heard the noise echo back, same with talking. Just that precise point had this effect.

When we came out we were pursued by someone wanting to sell me not just one pashmina, but 3 for 100. I didn't even glance at the items as i left to indicate any interest at all, I was just followed!!
We were also followed by people wanting to sell us wooden 3D puzzles or models of the temple. We must have passed at least 10 people all wanting to sell us the same things, and after the 10th one you'd just love to say to them, I didn't one from the last 9 people and haven't change my mind yet! By the time we exited the temple area as more people came towards us I did a 90 degree turn to my left and trotted off and around them. This amused one lady seller hugely who gave me a grin and a chuckle, and as I looked back I gave her a wave and she was still smiling.
We seemed to spend ages walking back to find the bus stop and only arrived back at the hotel in time to go straight back out on the same bus for dinner!
The place we had dinner at was actually very close to the hostel I last stayed in when we first came to Beijing, and once again was very tasty. We had peking duck, in peking! (its called beijing now of course). You get brought the whole duck, the skin is cut of in slices to get started on, then the duck meat. The skin is thick with fat though, and is a little bit much and not too crispy. You get the duck head cut in half too, of course we all fought over that treat. You get your pancake, put your veg on, then dip the duck in the sauce before putting that in the pancake. I was exhausted however and couldn't wait to go to bed.

Before going out for dinner I went to reception to try and book a massage as they were offering a full body 1 hour massage for 300 yuan - about 30. It was to be just what I needed as every bit of me ached, calves, back, arms, shoulders. I was so disappointed when they said they had stopped the service just this month.
So instead, on my return to the hotel at around 930, I ran a bath and then did some laundry before my much needed sleep.

Best thing- cheap and very delicious honest food twice a day every day!

Worst thing- the disgusting habit of hacking up and spitting. Truely the most disgusting sound.

Most beautiful- still the forbidden city
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