(Unfortunately, our memory card failed us, and we could not get all pictures of the Forbidden City, so there will be only two pictures from the phone here until we manage to fix it.)
We wake up early to visit the Forbidden City. We have in mind to get there at opening time to avoid crowds, but we are not used to pack without making noise—to avoid waking up our roommates—so we fail and get out of the hostel one hour later than expected. The next day we will have everything prepared before going to bed.
Just going out of the metro for the Forbidden City we discover that there is already a river of people building in the direction we have to go. The entrance of the complex is still far away. Everybody looks at each other confirming this is going to suck. We keep going packed and hot for thirty minutes until we realize that the line was only for a security control to enter Tiananmen Square. This is not yet the entrance! Some days later we will discover that you could even enter the place from another spot without lines. Awesome.
Already inside the plaza we ask some youngsters to take us a photo with the picture of Mao behind. They are laughing at each other while suddenly one of them asks Irene to take the same picture with her. So Irene poses with the boy too. We’ve been told this is common here. We move on.
We cross one of the palace entrances to get to a huge plaza also full of people everywhere. Here is where we finally can buy the tickets to enter the Forbidden City museum. And of course, there is not one but about twenty lines of people getting tickets. Officers with megaphones yell to the crowds constantly to distribute the lines. Or that’s what we thought since they only spoke Chinese.
After the tickets, we decide to buy a small guide book because we could not access Google drive the past night. Bad planning, we could have saved some dollars here. At the place where we bought the book, there is a display talking about the construction of the Forbidden City. Someone finds it really interesting and starts taking pictures with a tablet. People really take pictures of everything here.
Finally, we are ready to go. We head to the entrance passing by a mother hanging her child over a trash can. She is helping the kid to pee in the trash. Also common here from time to time. We move on.
The Forbidden City is really big. We will spend five hours visiting but still won’t see half of it. Everything inside the complex is divided in spaces by a grid of walls and palace buildings—topped by amazing and elaborated roofs with several layers of colorful beams and rafters. Each space of the grid has a theme that is represented by a building, a square or a garden. You can enter inside of some of the buildings to see expositions of jewels, ceramics, porcelains and lots of objects related to the life of the emperors. Overall, the expositions are interesting but not very well maintained and illuminated. The glass panes used are old—with marks and bubbles of air all around—and people here are eager to leave fingerprints everywhere. The doors of rooms and buildings have curtains of sticky plastic that at some point in history was transparent.
It is time to close. Speakers all around invite the crowds to move to the exits. Big squares that were previously covered by people are now visible and enjoyable. We spend some minutes taking pictures until the guards start yelling to rush people out.
Once back to the square where we entered and bought our tickets we realize that the exit is barred because of some military event. Some squads of uniformed soldiers are marching the square while yelling from time to time what it felt like a train whistle. To get to the metro again everybody is forced to walk for 20 minutes exiting the complex from the east to then go south. Merchants and taxis are taking advantage of this and are spread all over the way.
Back to the hostel, we eat some noodles in the first place we find that is not too scary, prepare things for tomorrow and go to bed.