Breakfast was lovely with lots of options. Then we were off on our adventure at 9am. We headed to Tiananmen Square and saw the People’s Congress, Mao’s Mausoleum, the Chinese Museum and, most importantly, the Forbidden City. We took a lovely group picture with the whole gang and then the Forbidden City welcomed us with a downpour of rain that soaked us to the skin, but was over in a flash. Jessica created a slicker out of a garbage bag, which was very creative. We walked through each of the courtyards, which were super beautiful. The buildings were so colorful and intricately detailed. We tried to look at the throne and almost lost our lives in the process. People were pushing and shoving like crazy. We got to see the area where the emperor's wives lived as well as their private gardens. In the gardens we were convinced by some students to view an art show…otherwise known as a tourist trap to buy paintings.
After the Forbidden City we went to the Hutong area, which was originally built during the Yuan dynasty under Kublai Khan. The alleys were tiny and we wove our way through them to have lunch in a courtyard home of a local family. It was super yummy! We especially liked the garlic sprouts. They told us a little about their lives and home, which was very interesting. Apparently, the homes in the Hutong do not have toilets…yikes! (The government is rebuilding the houses and updating them.) The family even had some lucky crickets!
After lunch we all hopped into rickshaws and jaunted around the Hutong. We learned about the houses and that the house color as well as the pillars indicate what class the family is part of. They dropped us off for a traditional fan dance, which we both participated in. Thanks to our cheerleading training, we were the stars of the dance. We rode in the rickshaw back to the Bell Tower, feeling a bit like the folks in the Amazing Race.
The Bell Tower was used to let people know what time it was. We climbed the 73 very steep stairs to the top of the tower. There were all kinds of interesting informational signs that were very helpful. The most interesting was one that described how the bell maker’s daughter jumped in the vat of boiling copper in order to save her father’s life.
After the Bell Tower, we were off to the Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Pandas. They were so cute. Our favorite was one that was chillin’ up in a tree.
Back to the hotel for a shower and then we were off to our Peking Duck dinner. The food and service were both delightful, but there was tons left over. Our favorite part was the Peking Duck and the beautifully arrayed fruit platter.
We are pleasantly surprised that we’re not feeling jet lagged!