Today I went to see the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It was a very large palace, with three throne halls, a garden, and numerous buildings flanking it’s sides, most of which were on the east side of the throne halls. I spent over four hours wandering around the palace grounds, enjoying all of the pavilions, architecturally splendid structures, an exhibit on calligraphy paintings, imperial treasures, porcelain pottery, and very intricate and beautifully crafted clocks. I’m sure I missed some sections of the palace grounds; I tried to cover everything, but without a map, I couldn’t be sure if I had actually walked everywhere I could, so once I felt satisfied, I left through the north exit and headed toward the Imperial Gardens (now known as Jingshan Park).
The park was designed around a hill which had a temple on top with a Buddhist statue inside. From the top of the hill, you could see the Forbidden City laid out toward the south and the river to the west. The park was well maintained, however many steep pathways were closed to the public. I walked toward the north of the park and stumbled upon a government controlled tea house. They offered a traditional Chinese tea ceremony where I, the customer, gets to enjoy six different types of tea (a milky tasting tea called ‘Black Dragon’, ginseng tea, jasmine tea, rose flavored tea – which tasted splendid, black tea aged five years – that tasted like tobacco and whiskey -, and a dried fruit tea – which tasted like a juice and you could eat the fruit bits after drinking the tea). I enjoyed taking the break to try the tea and wish I could’ve bought some, but I must adhere to my “no souvenirs rule” while on this travel.
After finishing the tea, I walked back through the main entrance of the park, heading south, through an old street, past the moat surrounding the Forbidden City, toward Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum. I soon found out that the mausoleum closes at 12:00 each day and that I would have to see it tomorrow. I headed back to that street full of seafood restaurants just south of my guesthouse, that I had been to the previous two nights, though I didn’t feel like seafood. I stopped at an agreeable looking place and ordered a beer and pepper chicken with fried rice. The rice came out and the pepper chicken soon followed. The chicken was soaking in pepper; there was more sliced pepper than chicken; in fact, there was more bone than chicken. It wasn’t long before my eyes were watering and I had to wipe my nose; although, it the food never entered that Thai-level of spiciness, which makes your eyes, nose, and anus run simultaneously. I finished my meal and then went back to guesthouse for sleep.