The Forbidden City

On our last day in Beijing we explored the Forbidden City, because it had been “verboten” to us until now.  Preparations for the military parade had required it to close from Aug. 22 until Sept. 3.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420 to 1912). It is located in the centre of Beijing right next to Tiananmen Square, and now houses the Palace Museum.

It served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government for almost 500 years. When we first saw the outside of the city from a hilltop with our guide, he pointed out the homes where the “bad sons” and the “bad daughters” would be banished if they disagreed with their parents!Imperial Palace

The day was really soggy, and we were pretty low on energy. We blasted through the palace in a straight line and didn’t explore it much. The place was packed with people due to the pent up desire to visit it since it had been closed for two weeks.

We ended up in a coffee shop where the girls and I had the best milkshakes ever. We had a great view of an intersection, and the “organized chaos” of Beijing traffic. Apparently cars always have the right-of-way, even if pedestrians have a walk signal. Now I understand what a Chinese friend meant when she said, “Don’t pay attention to the signals.- you cross when everyone else does!”

Traffic here seems to be more about flow than about rules. Pedestrians walk out into the middle of the intersection, and just stand still as the cars weave around them. They proceed when it is clear.

Honking seems to alert other drivers that you are there, rather than out of rage like in North America. And everyone backs into their stalls in the tightest spaces ever – you won’t get that kind of skill in Canada!

I have a newfound respect for Chinese drivers, because it’s not easy to drive in a city of 22 million. Some intersections are incredibly huge with three or four lanes on each side. Pedestrians, cyclists, tuk tuks, scooters, and any manner of vehicle imaginable all turning and trying to get to different places, it’s incredible that it all works. Really, drivers in Calgary have no idea what it means to negotiate a cycle track when compared to Beijing!



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