Monday, 26 September 2011

Beijing sightseeing

Tiananmen Square is vast but its scale is masked by the massive crowds, its like a permanent rally but with an ever changing crowd. The Q for Mao's mausoleum is at least half a mile long but no hanging around is allowed so it is a steady shuffle in & out. I was even less inclined to join the Q when someone whispered - its only a wax replica, the real body is hidden at a secret location.

99.9% of visitors in the square are Chinese, most are in groups of about 50, each wearing idential group hats & led by a megaphone armed guide. Its bedlam with a dozen megaphones blaring at their groups, the lampost speakers occasionally shouting something & two 50 foot long TV advertising screens, with music - its one of the few occasions when you can't hear the Beijing traffic.

Cameras watch everybody, police patrol on Segways (& tell Julio to stop filming) & stocky plain clothes police stand around rather obviously scanning the crowds. But all the visitors seem really excited & enjoying their visit.

The red walled Forbidden City really is a city within a city with over 9,000 rooms inside 800 buildings scattered over acres of ground, along endless lanes & alleyways leading off vast courtyards.

Its now considered a museum but was home to 24 Chinese emperors between 1420 & 1911. Its easy to see how they might never leave this enormous complex & having up to 3,000 concubines must have kept them pretty occupied.

Its fairly regimented visit but that's understandable with such huge crowds & once you enter you have to continue on the set route, that's at least a mile. Its China's best collection of ancient buildings although they do begin to look a bit samey after the first few hundred.

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