Day Five (Monday)
What a delight to wake to a brilliant blue sky! After hearing from friends who had been here before that the smog in Beijing is terrible, we were thrilled to have a day of clear, cool fresh air! We set off to the Forbidden City and Tianamen Square. This is easily accessed off the subway, although the crush was intense! When the subway stops, people tend to not wait for people to exit, and everyone just mashes into everyone else! We are getting more comfortable with the whole idea of joining the teaming throng, and just crowding in! There isn’t much time at the stops, so forget about being polite and just get on the darn train!
Seeing the Forbidden City was a dream come true for both of us; several times, we just stopped and caught our breath thinking about the history that is within its walls; it is a massive place, several city blocks square, with uneven paving stones and stairs, which made walking a bit tricky. The entire place is surrounded by a huge wall backed by a mote, which helped to protect it during the days of the roaming hordes.
Right across the highway from the Forbidden City is Tianamen Square, which is framed by the Government Buildings. It reminded me of Washington DC, with the wide open spaces surrounded by important buildings. Everywhere, there were marching guards in their long green coats and lots of cameras mounted high up on standards all along the promenade.
While we highly value our freedom in the West, there is something to be admired about all this order. Not once have we felt unsafe during our stay. There are lots of security and cameras in the subway as well, and everything is just spotlessly clean. It is a treat to be in a city that is completely graffiti free and orderly.