Monday, April 2, 2018

Forbidden City or Bust!


You can probably already guess from the photo that opens up this posting whether or not we made it to the Forbidden City, the highlight destination on our sightseeing itinerary today, which was an ambitious one - Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, National Museum of China, Temple of Heaven, and Niujie Mosque.

My plan for the Forbidden City got completely foiled by the fact that I did not proper planning....at least not enough to know that the place is closed today. Somehow, it never dawned on me that the place is classified as a museum and there's a de facto operational rule, pretty much for many museums around the world, that museums are closed on Mondays. Guess what today is?

Flashback to how the day started.  We're on our own schedule so we get up when we get up which seems to be pretty early these days.  I guess we were all so keen to get going today, excited to be in Beijing!

Bro, with surgical mask on, ready to tackle the smog of Beijing!


Our hutong alleyways were coming to life and there plenty of small eateries to grab breakfast from but for some reason, no one was keen to have breakfast.  So, once we were out of the apartment, it was right to the subway station to catch the train to Tiannamen Square.



The hutong neighborhoods are basically like *pocket* neighborhoods, sandwiched on all sides by main roads.  The closest metro station for us is located along this road but we couldn't immediately tell which side of the road we were on so we actually walked past this very convenient pedestrian flyover.


As we walked along the road, I could see the rays of the sun obscured by the smog.  Yes, if the air wasn't so polluted, you would see blue skies.  This should be a warning to anyone that the world, not just China, needs to wake up and collectively drill back on the usage of gas powered vehicles.

By the time we saw the entrance to Andigmen station, we were too lazy to walk back to the flyover so we had to figure out how to use the intersections.  Note to self.  Easier to walk back to the flyover. 


So far, I've taken a back seat to Bro and SK doing the ticket buying duties and as far as I'm concerned, they're doing such a good job, why interfere? 😁


The last time I was in a Beijing metro station, it seemed so modern and new.  Now, it feels very much well used though just as efficient and cheap as before.  It's also immaculately clean.


We exited the Tiananmen Square station and followed the exit signs to get above ground.  Last time I was here, we arrived on foot so when we were above ground, nothing looked familiar to me.  We then also had to go through a security check which was something that we did not have to do on my last visit.  Things have changed.

We were in a small crowd of other tourists all heading for the Forbidden City.  I thought that was odd that there were so few people.  So far, every tourist hot spot we've been to has been a mob scene of mainly Chinese tourists.  Considering this place would on the top of pretty much every Chinese tourist's must-see agenda, it was strange to only see a few people around. Perhaps we were early.

As soon as I saw the portrait of Chairman Mao, I knew we had arrived at the entrance to the Forbidden City.


We walked past the line of guards and passed through the entry arch into a large courtyard. 


By China standards, there was literally no one here.  That should've been my first clue that something was off.


As we approached the ticket counters, we noticed the gate to the next courtyard was closed.  Again, perhaps we were early so I looked around for a posted sign indicating the visiting hours.  It was then that it dawned on me that the place is closed on Mondays.  A quick check on the internet confirmed my suspicion.  Damn!  How could I have gotten this all wrong?  So, I had to quickly figure out where to go to next and I knew that the Temple of Heaven was nearby.  Bad news is that we would literally have to walk to the other end of the Forbidden City to exit.  That's a walk equivalent to 10 football fields! 


We tried to see if we could leave by taking one of the exits near the ticket counter but those only led us to other sights to see, within the palace complex.  So, with no other choice, we walked and walked and walked....for what seemed like an eternity.


Package delivery trucks outside the Forbidden City.  Couldn't figure out why they were here.

This place is HUGE!!  But eventually, we did make it to the exit which fronts a main road.  I suspected there would be a metro station nearby but I didn't know exactly where.  Bro spotted on on his map so we started walking in that direction.  All the while, I was keeping my eyes out for a taxi because I figured it might be more convenient for us to just be driven there.  We managed to flag down a taxi and when we showed him we wanted to go to Temple of Heaven, he told us it was closed and offered to take us to the Badaling Great Wall instead.  We said no as I already have paid for us to visit the Simitai section of the Great Wall tomorrow.  So, we kept walking.   We then managed to flag down another driver and he told us exactly the same thing about the Temple of Heaven - that it was closed today and also offered to take us to the Great Wall.  By now, I was suspicious so I Googled the visiting hours for the Temple of Heaven and by all accounts, it was open today.  So, a third driver came by and because the traffic was so bad, he waved us to board the car - before I had a chance to tell him where we wanted him to take us.  By the time I was able to show him the name of our destination, he had already driven a couple of blocks.  He also told us the place was closed.  Suspecting that he, like the other two, was not telling us the truth, we had him stop and let us out.  We didn't pay him.  By now, we were a few blocks closer to the metro.  In the end, we took the train.

Hopefully, the taxi drivers were indeed not being truthful and the Temple of Heaven is open.  Otherwise, our sightseeing day will get even more off track!