After all of the excitement of getting engaged at the Great Wall, we still had a lot more sights to see while in Beijing. We headed to the Forbidden City on a beautiful sunny day, which usually follows after a night of rain clears out all of the smog. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace for almost five hundred years, and is considered the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. It was also featured in the remake of The Karate Kid that came out this past summer.
Walking through the palace definitely gave us a sense of appreciation for how massive the Forbidden City is. At over 178 acres, it seemed like it would never end! One of the things that we noticed here was the amount of Chinese tourists that came visit. Everyone from the elderly to little babies were out in full force. I guess it makes sense that in a country of 1.3 billion people, a decent number of them will come out to see some of their most prized monuments, like Americans visiting Washington D.C.
After visiting the Forbidden City for much of the morning, Dana and I wandered around one of the small local neighborhoods in Beijing, known as a hutong. We really enjoyed our time in here because these neighborhoods are what used to be everywhere in Beijing before they began getting torn down in favor of gigantic shopping malls and office buildings. In a small recreational area there were permanently setup ping pong tables, and they were all filled with people of all ages playing quite competitively. In another area old men were playing Chinese chess.
We finished our tour of Beijing by going to see the Olympic venues from 2008. The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube were both really cool to see. I could only imagine what this area was like in the middle of when the events were actually taking place. I bought myself a cheap replica of the gold medal because I made a rule at the beginning of our trip that any time you can purchase a gold medal for less than $2, you have to do it.
Dana and I really enjoyed our time in Beijing. Despite being such a massive city, it never seemed too overwhelming to navigate. The people were all very friendly and hospitable. The only bad thing we had to say about the city was the pollution. It is a shame that the smog literally casts such an unwelcoming shadow on such a beautiful city.