Best of China:The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

With calves still burning from the previous day at The Great Wall, I set out for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City  with the sunrise. Whereas yesterday had been peaceful and scenic, today was the exact opposite. Just pure city and lots of crowds.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square was filled with statues,decorative gardens, and larger-than-life TV screens. Official buildings and museums outline the edge of the square. Although I didn’t visit these, they are a huge attraction and account for much of the constant crowds.

Monument to People's Heroes

Monument to People’s Heroes

Tiananmen Square- Gardens and Crowds

Tiananmen Square- Gardens and Crowds

Forbidden City

I’ve wanted to cross this site off my list for a long time,so I was ecstatic to finally be able to do so. Situated directly across from Tiananmen Square. A fun piece of trivia picked up: it’s called the Forbidden City because , in ancient times, only emperors and their closest officials were allowed to enter the city.

Entrance of the Forbidden City

Entrance of the Forbidden City

Inside it seemed like the city went on forever. There were rock gardens, life-sized marble statues, and even concubine quarters. I walked around for over three hours and still didn’t see everything there. It’s definitely an all-day excursion.

Entrance to forbidden city

Entrance to forbidden city

Wall inside the city

Wall inside the city

Mix of a turtle and dragon. A turgon?

Mix of a turtle and dragon. A turgon?

Rock Gardens

Rock Gardens

So, to quickly sum up my final thoughts on the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square; it was busy. Too busy to put on my “visit again” list but,nevertheless,being able to say I was here is more than worth it.

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Top-Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Travel Moments

In an attempt to become a more active blogger, I’ve started a new series . Every Tuesday, I’ll be posting a top-ten list about something related to the travel/expat world.

I was looking through old travel photos and they brought back many memories and untold stories . I’ve decided to share.

                                                                        1. Granada , Spain 

An interesting statue in the gardens of the Alhambra. ( Granada, Spain)

An interesting statue in the gardens of the Alhambra. ( Granada, Spain)

                                                                                2. Orlando, Florida 

Just after feeding the gators.( Orlando, FL)

Just after feeding the gators.( Orlando, FL)

                                                                3. London, England

Snapping street signs to find our way back once we realized we were getting  lost.

Snapping street signs to find our way back once we realized we were getting lost. ( London, England)

                                                            4. Seoul, South Korea

Performers relaxing before a flag ceremony. (Seoul, South Korea)

Performers relaxing before a flag ceremony.
(Seoul, South Korea)

                                                         5. Dover , DE

Stumbled upon this thing at the Firefly Music Festival. (Dover, DE)

Stumbled upon this thing at the Firefly Music Festival. (Dover, DE)

                                                                                       6. London, England

One of many failed selfies with my bff and travel buddy. (London, England)

One of many failed selfies with my bff and travel buddy. (London, England)

                  7. Toledo , Spain

This breathtaking view on a tour bus in Toledo , Spain

This breathtaking view on a tour bus in Toledo , Spain

                                                                                       8. Morocco, Africa

Watching a rug "show" in Morocco. Before taking this , the shopkeeper pointed to me said I looked like I knew Arabic. He tried several times to start a convo with me in Arabic and seemed very annoyed when I couldn't respond.  (Morocco, Africa)

Watching a rug “show” in Morocco. Before taking this , the shopkeeper pointed to me said I looked like I knew Arabic. He tried several times to start a convo with me in Arabic and seemed very annoyed when I couldn’t respond.
(Morocco, Africa)

                                                                                     9. Beijing, China

Found this fun little guy at the Beijing Zoo.

Found this fun little guy at the Beijing Zoo.

                                                                                      10. Beijing, China

A children's camp followed us around the Forbidden City before finally asking for a picture. You can just make me out in the back.

A children’s camp followed us around the Forbidden City before finally asking for a picture. You can just make me out in the back.

 

I would love for this an interactive type of tag so I tag EVERY READER to contribute their own travel moment photos or a top-ten list.

The Best of China: Learning Mongolian on The Great Wall

My days in Korea are filled with school, Skype sessions home, and more school. So, I was very much looking forward to a week of new sites and experiences. Luckily, if there is any word to describe my time in China, it would be new. Completely novel,unique, unfamiliar and – at times – baffling.

In eight days I saw four different cities, took a flight, and spent a night on a  train in the countryside. It would be impossible to share every moment so I’ll settle for recounting my most memorable parts of the trip in a new series called The Best of China. There will be a new post about my trip every week in August.

The Great Wall

On my second morning in China, I set out for the The Great Wall. After a two-hour ride from the center of Beijing, the bus pulled into a parking lot. It was pretty unremarkable at first; just concrete,a few dozen venders setting up their stalls, and a Subway restaurant.

Then I looked up. Through the fog, I could just make out the famous fortress.

Can you see it?

Can you see it?

That’s when it hit me. I was actually going to climb the Great Wall.

Despite others telling me I would miss out on the “authentic” experience , I bypassed the hour-long hike and took a scenic cable-car ride to the top of the wall. As I reached the platform,  two Chinese men leisurely standing around  began gesturing wildly. “Sit! Sit!”, they yelled. I looked around clueless and then saw the cable car quickly making its way towards me. I sat-or rather, fell-into the seat just in time. The safety harnessed snapped into place and in seconds, I was flying over lush, dense forestry and getting closer and closer to the wall. Now I could just make out the watchtowers and the sparse Chinese flags placed randomly around them.

The cable car ride

The cable car ride

Finally, I was there. My feet were planted firmly on the ancient Great Wall. Fortunately, there was still plenty of  it left to climb. Even after reaching the top, it was a strenuous walk up and down the jagged stone steps and many watchtowers. Even though it was overcast and there was a nice breeze, I still ended up drenched in sweat. Some areas were crumbling and others were well -preserved but all of it was steep.  So steep that women kicked off their heels and sandals and it wasn’t unusual to see people on all fours.

Stairs of the Great Wall

Stairs of the Great Wall

Most impressive were the venders, who trekked to the highest peaks with pounds of food and souvenirs strapped to their back.  I got the chance to speak to one of the venders , an older women who kept removing her glasses to wipe the sweat off her brow. She motioned to one side of the wall and , said “Mongolia” and pointing to the other side said , “China.”  Finally, she pointed to herself and proudly said “Me…Mongolia. Two hours.” She ran two fingers across her hand to mimic walking. This woman was telling me she walked two hours  just to get to the Great Wall. That’s not even counting the time  and effort it took her to climb up the wall. “Everyday?”, I asked her while handing her 10 yuan for some water and a photo she took of me. She handed me my camera and still smiling, just nodded. “Everyday.”

One of the many vendors

One of the many vendors

The trek wasn’t all bad of course. If you took a minute to pause and look around you , there were views like these:

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The Great Wall Black & White

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Great Wall

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Early Morning= Empty Wall

After three hours of  wandering, I raced a Toboggan back down. The six-minute ride offered the perfect opportunity to  reflect on the history I just experienced and marvel at the beauty of this place one last time. I closed my eyes; tried to imagine what it would have been like to build this wall. Or to be one of its watchful soldiers, running up and down the twisting stairs multiple times a day.

And yeah, I’ll admit it – I was singing the Mulan soundtrack in my head.