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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think. " -- La Bruyere

306--China: Beijing, Searching for the Forbidden City
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 19 2005 - 18:21 PST
cherie writes: Flashback December 2004
Winter in Beijing is freezing. I was soaking up the warm rays in Thailand just a few days before I headed to China so I wasn’t prepared for the extreme difference in winter temperature. How could China be so cold when it was less than 3 inches away from Thailand on my map?

Winter in China helped me understand why people in cold climates are often grumpy. When temperatures are below zero it physically hurts to smile. It’s the kind of cold that makes your bones ache and your head scream. My blood felt like it turned to slush.

Our biggest miseries didn’t stem from the cold in our limbs—but rather the nagging ache in our minds: Amidst all the confusing squiggles of the Chinese language will we ever find a hotel? If so, will we be able to find the train station again?

A strange Chinese woman grabbed me and Scott when we got off the train in Beijing, and pulled us into her van. I didn’t freak out; I knew it wasn’t an abduction. Scott and I are exploring China without the help of a guide or tour. Unfortunately our guidebook is missing some essential Chinese phrases. Most of the time Scott and I get around by a game of charades.

The Chinese lady scooped us up at the train station and took us to her dilapidated hotel. It was dirty and gross but we had no choice but to stay and pay. Luckily, she pointed out a major attraction that was right across the street. What good fortune! Scott and I assumed that it must be the infamous Forbidden City since it was enclosed by massive walls and charged us an entrance fee.

We marveled at the Forbidden City for an hour before we realized it wasn't the Forbidden City. The photo on the cover of our guidebook gave it away. Our hotel was across the street from Tian Tan, or the Temple of Heaven, which is actually three times larger than the Forbidden City.

Two kilometers away the the Forbidden City waited for us. Now called the Palace Museum, it is a fortress of 9,999 rooms that was built in the Ming Dynasty. From within her walls 24 emperors have governed China. In 1924 the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was thrown out by China’s republican revolution.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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I thought I was in the Forbidden City until I realized I was staring at the same view that had made the cover of my guide book.

I thought I was in the Forbidden City until I realized I was staring at the same view that had made the cover of my guide book.

I still don't realize I'm actually exploring Tian Tan, or the Temple of Heaven.

I still don't realize I'm actually exploring Tian Tan, or the Temple of Heaven.

Built in 1420 by the Ming Dynasty, the Temple of Heaven is surrounded by a wall just like the Forbidden City.

Built in 1420 by the Ming Dynasty, the Temple of Heaven is surrounded by a wall just like the Forbidden City.

It appears just like what I imagined the Forbidden City to look like.

It appears just like what I imagined the Forbidden City to look like.

Wait--I've seen this scene before in my guide book!  This isn't the Forbidden City!

Wait--I've seen this scene before in my guide book! This isn't the Forbidden City!

Scott wonders where we are.  It turns out we are at the Temple of Heaven, which is three times larger than the Forbidden City.

Scott wonders where we are. It turns out we are at the Temple of Heaven, which is three times larger than the Forbidden City.

Where ever we are it is cold.  Want to buy a hat?

Where ever we are it is cold. Want to buy a hat?

People dancing in the Temple of Heaven.

People dancing in the Temple of Heaven.

Who needs a nightclub to dance!  This is heaven!

Who needs a nightclub to dance! This is heaven!

Beware of women with swords.

Beware of women with swords.

Women fight off the freezing Beijing winters by mastering their sword play.

Women fight off the freezing Beijing winters by mastering their sword play.

An energetic old man plays ring-toss with Scott.

An energetic old man plays ring-toss with Scott.

He catches the rings around his neck, and doesn't even expect a tip!

He catches the rings around his neck, and doesn't even expect a tip!

A crowd gathers to watch Scott learn the new game.

A crowd gathers to watch Scott learn the new game.

Applause erupts as the old man makes another perfect catch!

Applause erupts as the old man makes another perfect catch!

I think that look works for Scott.

I think that look works for Scott.

Meanwhile, musicians fill the air with Chinese melodies.

Meanwhile, musicians fill the air with Chinese melodies.

Each of the instruments is wonderfully strange and unique.

Each of the instruments is wonderfully strange and unique.

Music makes the spirit soar.

Music makes the spirit soar.

I don't know what these rocks are, but I imagine that they're something important.

I don't know what these rocks are, but I imagine that they're something important.

Monuments near Tiananmen Square.

Monuments near Tiananmen Square.

The Forbidden City is about 2 kilometers from the Temple of Heaven.

The Forbidden City is about 2 kilometers from the Temple of Heaven.

Cherie at the entrance to the Forbidden City.

Cherie at the entrance to the Forbidden City.

China's flag waving proud.  The largest star represents communism, while the four smaller stars represent the social classes of the Chinese people.

China's flag waving proud. The largest star represents communism, while the four smaller stars represent the social classes of the Chinese people.

Are you sure they are going to let us in?  It is called: the Forbidden City.

Are you sure they are going to let us in? It is called: the Forbidden City.

On guard.

On guard.

Maybe I could be a Chinese guard?

Maybe I could be a Chinese guard?

Scott says: "It's just as cold inside!"

Scott says: "It's just as cold inside!"

The only thing this little girl can do to warm up is cry.

The only thing this little girl can do to warm up is cry.

Winter is a great time of year to explore China.  You may have to battle cold, but at least you don't have to battle crowds.

Winter is a great time of year to explore China. You may have to battle cold, but at least you don't have to battle crowds.

Even this turtle, a symbol of longevity in China, has frost on his toes.

Even this turtle, a symbol of longevity in China, has frost on his toes.

Temple roofs are blue, while imperial roofs are yellow.

Temple roofs are blue, while imperial roofs are yellow.

No detail has been overlooked in the Forbidden City, which was renamed the Palace Museum in 1950.

No detail has been overlooked in the Forbidden City, which was renamed the Palace Museum in 1950.

The closer you look, the more intricate the detail.

The closer you look, the more intricate the detail.

Don't slip on the ice!

Don't slip on the ice!

A man smiles at my antics.

A man smiles at my antics.

Within the walls of the Forbidden City, 24 different emperors governed China.  Now there's a Starbuck's Coffee inside.

Within the walls of the Forbidden City, 24 different emperors governed China. Now there's a Starbuck's Coffee inside.

Strange rocks give the place a feeling of a magical fortress.

Strange rocks give the place a feeling of a magical fortress.

You might find these rocks on the moon, or in Beijing. (Notice Scott in the bottom corner.)

You might find these rocks on the moon, or in Beijing. (Notice Scott in the bottom corner.)

As the day draws to a close, people head home.

As the day draws to a close, people head home.

The sun prepares to meet the horizon.

The sun prepares to meet the horizon.

The warm hues of dusk paint the sky.

The warm hues of dusk paint the sky.

The lights go out on the Forbidden City.

The lights go out on the Forbidden City.

Guards patrol the gates at night.

Guards patrol the gates at night.

Scott and Cherie meet the first Chinese person (in China) that speaks at least a bit of English.  Although we try to persude her, she can't join us for the rest of our trip.

Scott and Cherie meet the first Chinese person (in China) that speaks at least a bit of English. Although we try to persude her, she can't join us for the rest of our trip.