Today started with an early departure and a long day of incredible scenic locations. After a big breakfast we were on our way to the Forbidden city in the heart of Beijing.
The Forbidden City was built as a home for the emperors during the Ming dynasty and calling one mans home a city was no exaggeration. At 180 acres, the Forbidden City is almost twice the size of Vatican City in Italy. The palace served as a place of governance for over 500 years, but in 1925 it was turned into a museum.
The entire tour took us about an hour and a half. We passed through many different courtyards surrounded by buildings that all served different purposes for the emperor at the time. At the end of the tour, there was a large garden that easily took up an entire square acre. Everything was incredibly detailed and I even saw a man hand laying small stones into the walkway to match the pattern of the rest of the walkways in the garden. There were also very large rocks with holes in them all over the garden. They were symbols of status back then, so of course, the emperor had the most and the largest.
As soon as we left the Forbidden City, our group was approached by a man who had the deal of a lifetime. He was selling Rolex watches for just $10 and he promised they were real as long as we did not touch them.
After our run in with the salesman, we took a rickshaw tour of a preserved part of Beijing. The housing style was four or five houses surrounding a courtyard. Spacing was very cramped, but we got to look inside one of the houses and it was incredibly well decorated. The woman who owned the house told us that the property in that area sold for about $44,000USD per square meter. This seemed shocking for a place that had dirt roads and community toilets, but this town was only about one mile from the center of Beijing and the houses needed to be preserved throughout the years.
Then we headed to a nearby restaurant for another family style lunch and we learned how to count in Chinese. From lunch, we went to the Temple of Heaven where our group took a Tai-Chi class. we learned a string of fluid movements that turned out to be quite relaxing after a long morning of walking around.
To close out our day, we walked over to the Temple of Heaven. The structure served as a place for the emperor to go in order to pray for rain in times of need. It was incredibly tall and was built without using a single nail or screw. The outside was also painted with incredible detail and vibrant colors. The entire existence of the structure and how well it was painted was unbelievable.
The Temple of Heaven may have been a place to go to pray fro rain, but I was glad that I got to see it shining in the sun.