Today was the Forbidden City.
As I mentioned previously, it is a long walk just to get into and out of the Forbidden City. The hotel was a block and a half away from one of the gates, but it was a good 15 minute walk to get to the ticket office! Once we showed our passports, paid for our tickets, we were finally in the complex.
How do I describe?
Astonishing. Incredible. Mind-blowing. I don’t think I can do it justice. It is the largest palace complex I have ever seen. City is the appropriate word. It is vast in a way that no palace or fortification has ever been. A friend suggested Versailles if you include all the gardens but I’m not sure.
There were so many courtyards with beautifully appointed structures. A sea of golden roofs with rainbow accents everywhere. On the corners of buildings, there were little guardians. Per the guidebook, the more guardians, the more important the buildings.
We wandered the palace grounds. We found ourselves in the pavilion of mechanical clocks (which requires a $2~ additional ticket) but it was amazing to see the extensive collection of clocks. I love clocks to begin with but these were some of the most elaborate ones ever. I loved the rhino clock but my personal favorite was the hot balloon clock!
We did have a little pit stop to eat popsicles (Avenger themed pineapple!) while gazing out into one of the many courtyards. A nice respite on an extremely hot day!
I particularly loved the gardens near the exit of the Forbidden City. In particular, I was pleased at the bronze elephants situated there.
Afterwards, we wandered to find a cafe that had been recommended by the guidebook. It was incredibly hot that day and we needed a break. We found a little hole in the wall place with lots of people. Until the meal was over, we weren’t sure if it was the place recommended to us by Lonely Planet but it actually was. It’s just not well marked. It was my first meal of cold handmade noodles with delightful sauces. It was refreshing and perfect after wandering up and down the stairs at the Forbidden Palace.
After, a few hours rest, we decided to check out a shopping street called Nanlougu Xiang, nicknamed the Hipster Hutong, that was a short cab ride away. It was a single road with lots of little boutiques and fashion shops. It reminded a little of Tianzifang in Shanghai but less labyrinthine. We made plans to come back and eat some of the super cute things. Rose popsicles!
We ended the night at a restaurant recommended by one of the guidebooks as the best place to get Peking Duck in the city. The restaurant happened to be at the end of the block of our hotel. When we went there initially, there were many people waiting in line. We got a ticket and I think we asked if we could come back in two hours (shopping time). It worked out when we returned and we were seated immediately. (There weren’t many people waiting anymore).
We decided to go for the main event and just have Peking duck.
Again words cannot do justice to the Peking duck. I don’t normally like fatty foods but holy cow, the duck skin was one of the most delicious things ever. Cut thinly, it simply melted in our mouths. The dish doesn’t need sauces or anything. It is perfection in bites.
A good end to our second full day in Beijing!