On this episode of "American Asian Lost in China", we find our intrepid hero at the Forbidden City and Tower of Buddhist Incense (tho my drive tells me it was basically the royal summer house... Unless I misunderstood him... Which is a possibility. His Beijing Chinese to my ear is kinda like Boomhauers English to other English speaking ppl).
7:30 am Beijing local
Out of bed and into the shower... GAH!!! Waters freezing for f*cks sakes!!! Guess they don't believe in morning showers. Had breakfast delivered. Noodles, bumplings, and some other... stuff. Wish I knew the English names for all these tasty Chinese foods. Oh well. Met up with my driver at around 9:30ish. I like my driver dude, he's an older guy with sort of a sage like air about him, seems to know at least a little bit about everything. Reminds me of Obiwan Kenobi, too bad he just stares at me blankly when I call him that.
Get to the Forbidden City. This place is stoopid big! *ahem* 720,000 sq meters with 9000 bays of halls and rooms. 10 meter high walls 3,428 meters long with 4 corner towers. A moat 52 meters wide and 3,800 meters long. The shear opulence of the place is hard to comprehend, especially considering that it was much grander during the time of the dynasties when an actual emperor resided there. So, trying to write everything I learned of this place is just not conceivable so I'll just say that I found it amazing that all this was built basically for one man! Oh, and having 3000 wives sound like fun at first, but can you imagine all the nagging? Plus croaking young from VD (which apparently is how most of the emperors died) just kinda ruins the deal a little. Anyway, trying to get good pics of the various rooms was all but impossible with the usual pushing and bulldozing of people all around me. If someone wants to see, they simply push and squeeze their way up, so you can imagine how insane it gets near the front when everyone is fighting to get up there. Reminded me of roller derby. I almost lost it and threw an elbow or two a few times when someone would try to elbow me aside and basically try to muscle their way OVER me. Wish I had a taizer.
Lunch! Kept it simple, dumplings!!! Pretty damn good if you ask me, but Obiwan said they where prolly the worst in Beijing... And the most overpriced he'd seen. Not surprised since we got em at a little Restaraunt in front of my next destination, the Royal Summer Palace! Once again, stoopid huge. Really pretty though. Que the pushing and bulldozing! Now add some "stopping in the middle of doorways or walkways for no particular reason and holding up traffic behind you". I really think people do walk they way they drive. It got to the point where I was tempted to just run into people if they where going to be that oblivious to other ppl or their surroundings. Common sense and common courtesy apparently are endangered animals. I talk about it a lot, huh? You'd be pissed off too if you got a bruise on your ribs from this crap, and I don't bruise easy. Back to our story!
Basically hiked up another mountain again to get to the temple at the top, figured hey, prolly the only time I'll ever be here in my lifetime, so I should take as full advantage as I can, right? Musta hiked a total of about 15 miles or so today. Once again, ticket booths everywhere. Seems if there any conceivable way to say one place is different from another and of enough note, then their gonna make you buy a separate ticket for it. Least they weren't that expensive. Main gate was $60 RMB (RenMinBi pronounced rénmínbì) which, for those of you playing the home game is about $10 US, and inside tickets where $10 RMB. Downer of the day was that a lady working a booth bitched me out. Here's the story. This place has no maps, neither posted around the facility, or as brochures. There are a few signs here and there that have Chinese and English on them, but I think they might have planned and written by someone who spoke neither. Vague is an understatement. I wasn't the only confused English speaking Chinese illiterate wondering around that place. So I get to another booth thinking I had to buy another ticket. I see the sign that says "blah blah blah $10 RMB" and present my money. Lady looks at me and says exit in Chinese. So I ask where is the entrance, she looks at my and points at the sign (which I had seem too) and says exit again. I tell her I understand that, where's the entrance then. She yells exit at me then and calls me stupid. I just shake my head and walk on. Maybe misunderstood something somewhere in my wondering, but again, there are no signs telling where your going or how to get there. I wonder on a bit and decide that was about as far as I felt like going, so I turn on the digital compass in my watch and make my way back to the front gate taking a different path. I wanted to see if maybe there where things I might miss if I backtracked through places I've already been. Traveling is fun :).
Dinner! Mr. Wong takes me to a place that has what is reputed to have the best duck in china, and after sampling the food, I'd have to agree... Tho I haven't tried any other duck in other place in china yet. But he said reservations where extremely hard to get. I have a feeling he spent a small fortune greasing the wheels to get us in tonight. There where a couple Ferraris parked out front and apparently we were seated next to a pretty famous Chinese Diva. Anyway, the food was incredible! The duck was perfect. Lightly crispy skin that melted in your mouth. Super tender and flavorful meat. Non of it overcooked. Amazing blend of sauces and garnishes. Hell, even the goose liver... sticks where really good. Back to the bat cave! Who knows what tomorrow will bring.