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Wandering the Forbidden City and The Great Wall - Part 1 of 4

October 13, 2006

Today was designated as a cultural day, and there would be a lot to see and take in for this day. Morning took us to Tienanmen Square. The name Tienanmen literally means Gate of Heavenly Peace. The Tienanmen is the gate that separates the rest of Beijing from The Forbidden City. Tienanmen Square is the large square south of the gate. The square is 880 meters tall and 500 meters wide, making it the largest open urban square in the world. The Forbidden City, completed in 1420, was the Chinese imperial palace during the mid-Ming and the Qing Dynasties. No one but members of the imperial household could enter the palace without the Emperor’s permission, hence the name, Forbidden City. It is now known as the Palace Museum. The grounds cover 720,000 square meters. The Forbidden City has 800 buildings with 8,886 rooms.

Before we got off the bus to walk and wheel our way across Tienanmen Square and The Forbidden City, we were given these red and yellow golden hats to wear. Wendy, our national guide, had recommended that we wear these hats as we traversed these historical and important areas. The reason for wearing these hats was lost among the excitement of seeing this world famous landmark. Wendy also pointed out that Tienanmen Square is a primary destination for Chinese domestic travelers. She warned us that we could talk about sensitive subjects on the bus, but that perhaps we should not do so as we were wandering about the square.

Photo Beijing

Photo Beijing


Wendy had also told us about street vendors selling wares on the street. We would encounter such vendors throughout our travels within the cities that we visited. We were told to watch for quality of goods and quality of money when dealing with these vendors and warned that they could be aggressive at times. Our first real encounter with such vendors came when we started to wander about Tienanmen Square. Rodney seemed to enjoy this and bought a Beijing 2008 Olympics baseball cap and a few other souvenirs with his Chinese yuan currency. Next thing he knew, he was bombarded by a number of other vendors selling quite a variety of items and they did not seem to want to quit, being aggressive, but polite. Rodney was not alone in being bombarded and it was a bit overwhelming even to those of us with much younger minds and bodies. It got to the point that one of our fellow traveling attorneys asked them to stop bothering Rodney. But Rodney wasn’t quite finished buying, he wanted some postcards to take home. There was some question as to the quality of the postcards, whether he had a complete set and how much he would pay for them. Wendy, our guide, stepped in, checked out the cards and gave her seal of approval. One nice thing about the street vendors is that if you did not like the price that they gave you, they would offer a lower price, and bargains could be had in that way. We were finally able to move on and wander about the square a bit and then make our way to The Forbidden City. That would be our first of many encounters with street vendors throughout our China trip.

Photo Beijing


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