After a rough night of clubbing and drinking, I dragged myself out of bed early to go to the Forbidden city with my roommate, Chris. Chris is a tall, thin Canadian guy, who works in real estate. He’s a really cool guy with crucial exception- he’s a morning person. At 10AM, after I’d had less than four hours of sleep, while I was still hung-over, he came tromping cheerily into the room.
In his most energetic morning voice, he belted out, “Hey, man! Nice day, huh! We can go at 11:00 if you want. This is gonna be sweet! The weather’s great today! Blah blah blah! blah blah!”
“Umgh globblebrogear,” I responded as my head started spinning. “Let’s just go, now,” I continued. “I’m not gonna get much more sleep.” We headed out.
It was absolutely roasting outside. I was borderline delirious by the time we made it to the Forbidden Palace. Fortunately for us, a guy was selling “ice water” right outside the gates. In this case, “ice water” meant bottled water that was frozen solid. It was brilliant! They melted slowly over a couple hours, giving me a steady stream of icy water.
With my “ice water” in hand, I immediately started picking up, and soon there was a bounce in my step again. With a gi-friggin-normous picture of Chairman Mao looking down on us solemnly from above, we entered the gates. After circumventing some free-lance tour guides, we bought our tickets at 60RMB each, and went into the central part of the Forbidden City.
The architecture was stunning. It was absolutely the biggest and most ambitious traditional Chinese building I’ve ever seen in my life. It really would have been worth the trip to Beijing just to see the Forbidden Palace. Our timing wasn’t perfect, though, since much of it was being renovated. Still, it was a very, very interesting walk.
After walking for over an hour, Chris and I decided to sit down for a break. Within moments, a woman came up to us with her 6 year-old daughter, and asked if she could take a picture with us. She said her daughter had never seen any foreigners before. How could we say no to that? Immediately after she finished taking the picture, a couple of high school girls came up to us and wanted to do the same. We obliged and they ran off, after giving me their QQ numbers, whatever the heck those are. As the girls left, a middle aged couple was suddenly sitting next to us and their friends took a picture for them. Suddenly, a crowd of somewhere between 50 and a 100 people materialized, cameras pointed at us, happily capturing us on film.
While I’d like to attribute it to my dashing looks, all we were was a couple of random foreigners. Just by virtue of that, we were photo worthy. Unbelievable! Even now, I wonder how many houses in China will have a picture with me in it set out somewhere. It’s an odd feeling. With all of those people taking pictures of us, and more coming to see what was going on, Chris decided it was time to go. Just as we decided to go, I realized it was the perfect time to take a picture of my own, and get one of the crowd. As luck would have it, the crowd dissipated with lightning speed as soon as I picked up my camera. Oh, well. At least one of the people from the second group was nice enough to take a picture of us.
There was one other highlight to our trip. The Starbucks! They put a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. If I could chose just one picture to sum up modern China, this would be it:
The drinks were good, and cheaper than they are at home, too.