After our last breakfast buffet feast and checking out of our hotel in Beijing, we drove to the Forbidden City. As ambivalent I was about the Great Wall, the Forbidden City was freaking amazing
The entire complex is gigantic and we were only able to explore a tiny piece of it. I learned several things from our guide: 1) that I have a preference for Ming Dynasty artwork, 2) that turtles and cranes are symbolic of long life in China.
Our guide also has two pet turtles that are over 20 years old. We bonded over my love of turtles when I told her I also have a pet turtle, Lizzie, who’s about fifteen years old.
I love turtles.
One of my favorite sections of the Forbidden City was the north gardens. The amazing architecture and rock formations our guide explained had been dragged up from the bottom of a very far away lake.
Our guide also told us stories about the lives of the people who lived within the Forbidden City. I could truly feel the history while walking through the walls and over bridges and while climbing the steps to the different buildings.
In short, I loved every moment of the Forbidden City.
Earlier in the week we’d been told it would be impossible for us to drive by Tiananmen Square because our passenger van was too large. The significance behind this is that the Chinese government doesn’t want large groups of people being able to gather in the square. Naturally, as a journalist, I was disappointed because we were so close to a piece of history I studied in ethics class as an undergrad.
But fear not! Our driver had us covered.
On our wait to the train station, our driver suddenly called back and we were told he was going to try to take us by the square. We cheered and gathered anxiously with phones and cameras as we rolled by Tiananmen Square.
Side story: the previous day, during lunch with the diplomat, he’d brought up his belief that tanks are far superior weaponry to the THAAD technology currently in South Korea. I couldn’t help but mention that tanks can be stopped, and proof of that was right down the street. I had a bit too much tact to say ‘#TankMan’ but that was more or less my point.
After the excitement of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we prepared for the bullet train to Xi’an.
One of the things I expected when I visited China, and one of the things post people asked be about when I returned, was the mass amounts of humanity stuffed into relatively small pockets of space. The only time I ever felt that way was on the train platform. In all honestly, it wasn’t even that bad. There wasn’t nearly as much shoving as there had been at the airport.
But I’d been expecting crowds like this everywhere in China and was surprised by the reality that it just wasn’t the case.
The train ride was pretty fun, I regretted not buying food at the Chinese McDonald’s before boarding because the train food was only partially edible and not filling. But alas, I was on a budget and you live and you learn!
The view was awesome! I felt like I was seeing more of China than I would have in an airplane and it didn’t make me carsick like a bus ride would have. The train was smoother than the trains I’ve been on in the states and there was more space to get up and move around.
However, the seats were simultaneously more and less comfortable than a plane. They were super narrow through the shoulders but offered decent leg room. You also get to keep your luggage with you on the train, which I guess could be a blessing or a curse. But all in all, it was a better experience than flying and we didn’t have to go through security like you do at the airport.
We arrived in Xi’an after dark, and boy am I glad our ‘trip leaders’ knew where we were going because that would have been madness otherwise.
The new hotel was very lovely and our day ended with a new buffet including a chocolate fountain!
After filling our tummies my roommate and I headed for the pool – which we basically had to ourselves! It was nice to relax after a long day with a swim and a dip in the sauna hot tubs (we actually first climbed into the children’s pool because it was heated, but were directed back to the dressing rooms where the actual heated pools were).
My roommate and I also discovered that not only were we on the penthouse floor, we were also in a special section marked ‘Red Level.’ We felt extra classy in our stylized bathrobes ordering custom pillows and wine from room service.
Living the high life in Xi’an!
Next: the Terra Cotta Army!
My name is Hunter and this the blog of my worldwide adventures. The purpose of this blog is to show that you can be a traveler, not just a tourist.