Friday, April 29, 2005

Beijing to the 1st timer - Forbidden City

The next blistering windy morning, we hit Tiananmen Sq and the Forbidden City. At Tiananmen, I'm struck by this awesome sight of long (really really really long) queues of predominantly Chinese tourists waiting in snaking queues to go in to see the corpse of Chairman Mao! Not exactly Communist supporters or fans of the man, we skipped the queues and joined instead the queues into the Forbidden City. The ticketing queues are incredibly long (we waited at least 40 minutes) - did not help with blatant queue-jumpers - remedy: tell them off immediately in a loud voice (rest of people in queue will support u) and queue-jumpers will back off (remember, all Chinese want 'face').

No visitor can ever forget the grandeur of the Forbidden City as he enters the main gate.. if ur a follower of Chinese period drama serials and movies (like 'moi'), images of the yellow roofs, the red walls, the awesome dragon-paths etc. will hit ur senses blind.. I felt a certain familiarity with the images and yet a growing sense of incredulity as I approach the main halls.. fantasized for a moment of being an imperial concubine entering the palace for the first time and clawing my way to being the Empress... unfortunately, brought down to earth too quickly by hubby as being unlikely to qualify as one of the 3,000-harem - hmph!

The FC is reputed to have 9,999 rooms (one short of 10,000 which wld hv signified heaven). We spent at least 5 to 6 hours at the FC, wasn't counting but surely we should have covered at least half?. Most tour contingents do not go into the right-side residential palace built by Qianlong for his retirement fronted by the 9-Dragon Screen, cos' an additional entrance fee is charged but it is worth the fee - place will be less crowded with tourists and u can wander at will. Most of the other rooms in the FC are either locked or have barriers placed at the main entrances, so one can only look from outself after elbowing many others to get a vantage position. But the Qianlong residential palace has one of the residential areas opened and u can actually go into the rooms and see clearly the carvings on the door mantels and paintings on the wall and ceiling. Incredible shit!

They say that a Chinese (local or overseas) will never forget his roots (or fail to be proud of his Chinese history) after he visits the FC. It is true.. I have started reading the history of Chinese dynasties (from the Qin to the Ching) and stories of imperial court intrigue is well.. intrigueing! Between hubby and me, I think we kind of bought up the English editions of the books on the subject of this imperial court history available at our little tourist bookshop back at our hotel.

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