Today I walked in Tiananmen Square and explored the magnificent Forbidden City.
But, before we get to that, there was a bit of stuff that happened after I checked in last night…
I arrived at the hostel around 7pm and was shown my bed in a 3 bed dorm (no bunk beds! yay!).
The room was empty but I was told two more people would be joining me in a few hours.
I set up everything and headed out to do a quick explore around the neighborhood and to find something to eat.
After walking for almost half an hour and almost giving up, I found exactly what I was looking for – Jianbing.
And I found it at a tiny little store right beside McDonalds of all places.
I had seen a video posted on Youtube about Jianbing before I left so this was something on the top of my list of things to eat.
It’s basically a crepe with egg, cilantro, onion, bean curry paste, hot chili sauce, and a crispy inner crust all folded together into the best thing you possibly chomp down on.
I chose to get no hot chili sauce cause spicy and me don’t agree. I had actually practiced the phrase for “I don’t like spicy” in Mandarin before I arrived here for this exact situation so I was happy I was able to put it to good use.
Anyway, the Jianbing cost a mere 10yuan ($2) and, like I said, it was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
Not soon after arriving back at the hostel, my two new roomates checked in around 10pm.
Two Canadians, eh?
Danika and Keaton are a couple of friends from Lloydminster, Alberta fresh out of school and starting their 3 month trip through Southeast Asia.
Since this was their first major trip I shared some things I’d learned along the way and we chatted for a while before we all conked out to sleep.
Which brings us to today…
Danika and Keaton didn’t really have a plan for today so I suggested they join me to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
First on the menu, getting there by subway.
Now, for me, the subway ain’t no big thang. I’ve visited enough cities now and used enough mass transit systems to feel pretty damn comfortable when I have to get around.
My two roomies – not so much.
I showed them the ins and outs of taking the subway and transferring trains and hopefully they feel more confident with the whole thing going forward.
Their plan was to take taxis around everywhere and considering their trip in from the airport cost them $75 while my subway/bus ride was $6, this will same them a bunch of money.
After taking three different subway lines we finally exited at the Tiananmen East station directly in between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
We visited the Square first as it’s exactly what you’d think it’d be – a square.
Let’s be honest though, you don’t visit Tiananmen Square for the great empty space and marvelous concrete cement.
You visit because of its’ significance.
It’s where that iconic photo was taken of a protester standing in front of a column of tanks the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by force.
Anyway, I was there. There were no tanks.
Time for the Forbidden City…
The Forbidden City is the former royal palace and now houses the Palace Museum.
For the most part you’re walking through the exterior of the palace which is sprawled out over several blocks.
Like, I’m not even kidding. The place is huge! It took us a good 90 minutes to walk the entire distance.
Now, this would be a good time to mention that it was cold in Beijing today with the temperature at a stifling -2C (that’s about 30F for my Americans out there).
Add to that, the fact that the buildings close proximity cause a tunnel of wind not unlike what you get in Chicago, and you get a very cold day.
I was prepared with my gloves, my toque (beanie for the rest of the world), and a scarf.
Danika – not so much.
Poor thing was without any of that and she was freezing her ass off.
It became a game of “let’s get through this quickly and get the hell outta here”.
But, like I said, the whole thing took about 90 minutes, so by the time we exited back out onto the street, she was pretty frozen and just wanted to get somewhere warm.
Now I had planned to also visit the neighboring Jing Shan and Beihai parks but had to pretty much call an audible and save them for another day.
Our next task at hand was to figure out how to get back to the hostel.
Ha, easier said than done.
For some reason, while the entrance to the Forbidden City is extremely accessible via subway, the exit is another matter.
There is no close by station and while there are a bunch of buses, we had no idea which one would take us to where we wanted to go.
So we walked.
Luckily I had my offline map app (maps.me) which showed me where the nearest metro station was so we just followed the little arrow on the map til we got to the station.
Ironically, the station we were heading to was actually the station right by our hostel and we were only a 10 minute walk away.
So, 10 minutes later we were back on our street.
We actually took a pit stop at a little restaurant down from our hostel for a little lunch.
We had a picture menu and I picked the noodle dish cause, well, noodles.
Danika, a vegetarian, and Keaton, a celiac had a harder choice but eventually we all ordered some lunch.
We crashed at the hostel for a few hours in the afternoon and headed back out again around 3:30.
Next mission, find this poor girl some gloves!
I knew the street I took the bus down last night had quite a few shops along it so I suggested we head down that way.
If we couldn’t find anything near then I was pretty sure there was a mall further down the street where I first caught the bus last night.
So we walked.
Oh wait – Jianbing!
Must get some more crepey goodness! Mmmmm!
And, where were we?
Oh yeah, and walked…
I guess I hadn’t realized how far the bus had actually traveled last night as we walked for quite awhile.
We chatted quite a bit so the time flew by and eventually we did end up to where the mall was.
We approached it and the first thing I noticed was the entrance doors looked dusty and dirty.
Sure enough, the mall is abandoned and closed for business.
Well, at least I was right about there being a mall there…
Anyway, we kind of laughed it off and we hopped on the good ol bus 107 to take us back to where we were.
We did end up finding a pair of (overpriced) mittens for Danika so all is good for the world.
By 5:30 we were back at the hostel and we all kinda felt pretty tired from the exhausting amount of walking we did today.
The evening was pretty tame as neither of them left the room and I only left for a bit to get a quick nibble to eat…
By 9:30 we had all crashed but not to worry as tomorrow is another epic day and we’re visiting the Great Wall of China!
More walking! Yay!
Bring! It! On!