Saturday, June 13, 2009

Forbidden No More

Day 459
After lunch I took the ultra efficient subway to Tienanmen Square.

The square was conceived by Mao to show thee enormity of the communist power. On June 4, 1989 forced pro-democracy demonstrators were violently forced out of the square. It is certain that many people died and more were injured, but China has yet to release the real numbers. The government just sort of pretends that it didn't happen. The 20th anniversary was just a week and a bit ago. I heard that the square was closed that day. It would be easy to do as you have to go to security just to get in it.

It was huge and lined with rather ugly communist buildings as well as a large picture of Mao opposite his mausoleum. I wandered around and took pictures of the monuments while I tried to figure out who was actually an undercover cop and not a tourist. After checking out the square I headed across the street.

I think that everyone has heard of the Forbidden City. It is the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in China. I had heard from friends that the speaker on the audio guide was Roger Moore, a former James Bond. I was highly disappointed to see that he had been retired. Instead I had a woman who paused for way too long between words. The guide was also electronically controlled. I couldn't pause or replay things. Also, it just sort of went off when I was in the area and I wasn't always sure what I was meant to be looking at, sometimes it wouldn't go off at all.

The palace was just stunning. The guide told more stories than facts. The first born sons were often taken away from their mothers, who seemed to always cry themselves blind. It's odd that the same story was so often repeated. There was one structure that was unfinished, but the plans had called for glass walls with fish tanks inside of them.

Some of the palaces had furniture, others clocks and porcelain. Several were about the concubines. In the garden I ran into Neils and Belen who I had met in Yangshou. It seemed like a world away.

As it grew closer to closing time I became more frustrated with my guide and getting it to work. After five hours I had only knocked off about half of the little red dots. If you go to the Forbidden City just skip the guide, its not worth it.

On the way back to the hostel I grabbed some dinner. After cleaning myself up I spent some more time with Alicia before calling it an early night.

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