"" Writer's Wanderings: China--Forbidden City

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

China--Forbidden City

Our next stop is the Forbidden City. Mao never set foot in it because he did not want people to get the idea he might be trying to make himself emperor plus the City represented the feudal system he overthrew.

The Forbidden City is huge. Large courts were for receptions and ceremonies to crown the emperor. We visit the side corridor areas where concubines stayed. There is a birthing room but nothing recognizable to my eye having to do with labor and delivery. We stop at the Couples Tree for a “Kodak moment.” Couples need to touch the tree at the same time to promote eternal happiness.

There is major reconstruction going on throughout the complex to prepare for the Olympic tourists.
This is the worst place we have been for crowds. Thousands of Chinese tourists crowd together to see the various rooms. I find myself pushed and pummeled as I try to see into one of the buildings. Before panic sets in I escape. I clutch my bag and maneuver through the mass of bodies all elbowing and shoving to get to the front. I’ll look at Bob’s pictures.

The crowd doesn’t seem to bother him.

To Bob’s delight, the promised Peking Duck luncheon is served in a restaurant at the top of the Silk Market. He has wanted to return and show me around as well as purchase some “Rolex” watches for our boys. This is the best meal of the trip thus far. The duck is succulent. Two chefs stand at one end of the room and carve the roast ducks. Thin slices are brought to our table and we learn to roll the duck, scallions, and plum sauce in a pancake like moo-shu pork. Delicious! Wish Bob wouldn’t hurry me.

As soon as I have the last bite, we rush off to the Silk Market below us. There are seven floors or more—like a department store. Each level has many rows of booths where all sorts of electronics, clothes, toys, jewelry, etc. are sold at whatever price you can bargain for. Of course the big draw is the “authentic replica” merchandise. Bob finds three “Rolex” watches for our boys for Christmas. Hope no one mistakes them for the real thing on the street. Our best find was a memory card that I needed for my camera. I’ve never filled a card before. We find one that is 2 GB and bartar our way to $25 US for it. I’m delighted when I discover it works!

Our group has been joking that most people get off a ship and kiss the ground. We are all so excited about getting real food and clean air that we expect to board the ship and kiss the deck! I’m sure we’ll all meet up in the grill for hamburgers.

It is a 2 ½ hour drive from Beijing to the Sapphire Princess in Xingang. Along the way we make a “happy room” stop. I stay on the bus. The outside of the building doesn’t look promising enough to even attempt a “happy” moment.

As we near Xingang, the air gets thicker and thicker with smog. It is obviously an industrial city and, we soon discover, a huge port. There are three buses in our caravan and none of the drivers know how to get to the ship. After circling around a few times, we pick up a dock worker and he tries to help us out. We end up on an access road that goes nowhere and back up to the main street again. Following the main street, we finally stop and ask someone else. It is so frustrating. We can see the ship but can’t find a way to her and we all know REAL food is waiting for us.

We arrive at the Sapphire Princess about 5:30 p.m. Goodbyes are said to Fred, Duan, and Maggie. We feel a little sadness in parting. They have done such a good job of taking care of us. Embarkation is easy. Much of the paperwork was taken care of at the hotel before we left and we already have our cruise cards.

I open the door to the most wonderful room I have ever seen on a cruise ship. When we booked, the only available room we could get was a junior suite and it is everything the brochures promised including a wonderful balcony with room enough for a party of four. The sitting area has a full sized sofa which I suspect is a pullout bed. And there are two TVs! Lots of storage space and a tub/shower in the bathroom.

We freshen up and head for our 6:15 dinner seating. One of the three other couples at our table is missing tonight. We learn that there are still people arriving by bus to the ship. We probably weren’t the only ones who couldn’t find their way to the ship’s berth. After all this waiting for real food, I discover I’m not very hungry. What’s wrong with me? I order a bowl of soup and a salad. Our waiter looks dismayed but he obliges. The salad tastes wonderful. I had been reluctant to eat anything that might have been washed in water on land because of contamination. I’m beginning to relax. I feel like I’ve come home.

The ship leaves port after dinner and we head for Nagasaki, Japan. Our first port of call.
Other China Posts:
Tiananmen Square
The Great Wall
The Summer Palace
Wuhan to Beijing
Chinese Farmhouse
Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges and Lesser Gorges
Fengdu—The Ghost City
Cruising the Yangtze
Chonging—The Yangtze River
The Big Goose Pagoda
Evening in Xian
Beijing to Xian
Timid Tourist in China-Travel Day
China-The Trip of a Lifetime

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