Our first morning in China I woke in our cosy bedroom to the sound of a man hawking the contents of his throat onto the street three floors below, the wet smack of his bounty on the pavement audible over the screech and rumble of nearby traffic.
Today was Arthur’s 30th birthday, and Beijing was kicking it off in style.
We spent five days in Beijing in total, and saw only a fraction of the sites. It’s a big city, with a long and complicated history, and there’s a huge array of ways to spend your time here. Beijing has six Unesco World Heritage sites (one less than the whole of Egypt, the Lonely Planet trills) and loads of modern corners to explore too. With no hope (or desire) of seeing it all, we decided to start off on our first day with The Big One.
The Forbidden City
It really is very big. And to be honest, that’s basically what you’re there to see.
It’s called the forbidden city because from 1420 to 1912, during its life as a working palace, you needed the emperor’s permission to enter. You couldn’t just wander in.
After picking up a tasty but messy second breakfast of giant vegetable dumplings at a hole in the wall stall, we set off from our hostel to walk to Tiananmen square. At one end of the square a looming portrait of Mao marks the entrance to the forbidden city. Continue reading “Imperial Beijing: the Forbidden City, and other World Heritage sights featuring extensive application of red paint (plus selfie sticks, soldiers, and bare bummed toddlers)”