What a hectic day for us this was!, in the sense that I arranged for us a full day of activities from 7 a.m until quite late at night. A really enjoyable and efficient way to see Beijing, even though we finished knackered at the end of the day.
This day experience usually begins at Tiananmen Square and then continues to the Forbidden City. But due to some disruptions with disorderly tourists the day before, the area was partly closed and more safeguarded than usual. Michael suggested to change the schedule of activities and visit Tiananmen Square for later in the day. So here the itinerary we followed:
The entrance to the site was packed, and at this point, I started to have the feeling that all places in China are going to be like that during our visit. It seemed that the whole 1.4 billion Chinese were out and about holidaying. Fortunately for us, Michael, our local guide, had already arranged our entrance tickets, so we only had to wait briefly while he went to collect our tickets.
The Forbidden City served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors. From the Ming to the Qing Dynasties, from 1368 until 1911. The 0.75 km2 complex, is separated into two sectors. The southern Outer Court, where the emperor performed his duties. And the northern Inner Court where he lived with his family.
The site carries out a south-to-north itinerary. As we entered, the south Meridian Gate, also called Wumen, where everyone starts to walk, we followed the west part of the complex rather than the central, where most tourists go through, so we had a much pleasant walk with fewer people. We covered 1 km taking into account of the zigzagging, to the north Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen). While we strolled through the fascinating Forbidden City, we could almost touch the mysteries life of the Chinese Emperors, while walking through the red and yellow colourful decorated buildings and gateways.
The Forbidden City is called as such because no commoners were ever allowed to enter, those with special permission were allowed access. It was not until 1924, with the last emperor leaving the palace, and after five centuries, that the Palace became a museum and since then and now has become is one of the most visited attractions, not just by Chinese people but for people from all over the world.
Surrounded by a moat and a 10-meter-high wall and including its 8,999 rooms, this is surely must-visit of royal architectural wonders, deluxe halls and old hidden treasures that can surely please most contemporary travellers.
Michael kindly provided us with the guide comments about this site, please see below:
We also had scheduled to go to the Coal hill but since I planned a full day, we did not have the time for it. We simply checked it out from far as we left the Forbidden City (It is shown on the last shoot the video above). Michael told us that the Coal Hill is, in fact, an artificial mountain, built-in 1421 with the earth leftovers of a Mongolian extraction.
Hutongs Area – Ron Yard Hotel
After we visited the Forbidden City, we went to check out a lovely hotel boutique hotel, my favourite one from all the ones I visited, a great choice for tourist superior and boutique. Ron Yard Hotel is located in the “old” Beijing, in a small alley at huguosi street, hutong area. It is a pleasant and well-kept traditional house, ideal for a relaxing stay. The staff was welcoming and happy to show me around the property.
I loved the decoration, the lovely courtyard where sometimes local musicians play beautiful melodies. The hotel cleanliness and relaxing ambience of all the areas were spot on!. I visited a couple of rooms, the Standard and the Classic Suite, which are located around the courtyard. They are tastily decorated with a calm atmosphere and great amenities.
I can recommend it fully, .. well if you manage to get availability, as it has only 30 guest rooms
We then enjoyed the ride around the hutongs and Xicheng central area, which ended at the Hou Hai Lake. We then walked through the Yandai Byway, a well-known shopping street 232 metres long. It was restored by the government in 2007 as an embodiment of traditional folk customs, vendors-trading, calligraphy and other aspects featuring the old Beijing. After we walked by the Drum Tower and Bell Tower on our way to have a traditional lunch at a family home.
Local Family Experience – Old Beijing & Mask Painting
Lunch was homemade, plentiful and delicious. The lady of the house cooked plenty of options to cater for me as vegan as well as for Felipe who is not vegan like me, but who is allergic to eggs. I feel very well feed with this lovely meal but mostly grateful for them to look after our dietary requirements perfectly.
After lunch, we were given the choice to have a calligraphy lesson or have a mask painting activity. We chose the latter and truly enjoyed trying our artistic skills!
Great bonding mum and son, as we normally don’t this type of activities at home, it was good fun.
Right after our local family experience, we went off to visit Tiananmen Square. The Square has an area of 440,000 sq. mts and is positioned at the centre of Beijing. Michael suggested me to start our walk from the east side, to avoid the crowds and he was not wrong, as we enjoyed this short visit without being surrounded by hundreds of people.
We strolled through the square passing by various monuments: At the north end, we checked the Tiananmen Tower, which was built in 1417, where big ceremonies took place to announce who was to become emperor to the commoners.
At the centre of the square, we then had a quick look at the Monument to the People’s Heroes, it was built in 1952, ‘ The People’s Heroes are Immortal’ words were written by Chairman Mao and carved on the monument and at the south of , we checked the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao Zedong; which is divided into three halls, the Chairman Mao’s body lies in a crystal coffin. Another place that is possible to visit is the National Museum of China which opened in 2003 and holds a display of Chinese History and Chinese Revolution.
Nowadays, the square is a relaxing place for the public, who come here leisurely to fly kites and enjoy the walks. Thousands of visitors, locals and foreigners come to the Square every day.
We finished the walk on the west side of the square, with boiling weather, but happy to be there learning more about China. At we left we observed hundreds of people queuing. I was feeling the great value to have a local guide that knows the in and out of the city.
Sidecar Experience – Regents Plaza
This off beaten track tour allowed us to go through the narrow hutongs as well to pass by the modern landmarks of Beijing. It is a different experience than travelling in a car. We stop at narrowest alleys, then through the forbidden city, the drum and bell towers and the National Grand Theatre, which is impressive and beautiful, it is also known as the “Giant egg”.
We ended the tour at the Regent park Deluxe hotel, where we had dinner with some colleagues from the travel industry. One of the best views of Beijing can be enjoyed from this hotel! Amazing deluxe option.
“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” “Your life is what your thoughts make it.”Conf.
With love and dreams forever.