Roaming Around China’s Capital

Beijing, China: Part 2 of 10

Our second day in China was scheduled for some historic visits to the famous Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

The group gathered at 10 A.M and took bus 41 (or was it 48? Haha!) which went somewhere near the Forbidden City (or so, we thought). We got off at a stop in Chang’an Avenue (Dong Chang’an Jie), right in front of Beijing Hotel. Chang’an Avenue is one of the major streets in Beijing. It runs from east to west in the heart of Beijing passing between the Forbidden City and the Tiananmen Square. Since the program was to start the next day, we were totally on our own. It was quite difficult to ask for directions from the locals. Most of them do not understand English and some of them would literally just stare in blank, maybe not knowing what to say to the tourists. I learned that day that when travelling in Beijing, or in any part or China for that matter, to always have in handy the names of the places written in Chinese characters.

While still trying to figure out the way to these historical landmarks, some of my co-delegates met an English-speaking Chinese (a student, according to her) who was also leading a French tourist to the Forbidden City.

We thought we were lucky to have met such kind soul in the middle of a huge, non-English speaking community. After several minutes of walk, she guided us to a small art shop where she and her friends sold us some Chinese artwork. It sure was some kind of a strategy to get customers to their shop since after visiting their art shop (with Comm. Hanny and Mike buying their overpriced stuff), we were led to the South Entrance of the Forbidden City, which was obviously not where we were suppossed to be. We had to take a golf-cart to the main entrance.

The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of 24 Chinese emperors who reigned between 1420 and 1911. The whole palace is 960 meters long and 750 meters wide. It is said to have 9,999 rooms (the space between four pillars). Now, it is known as the Palace Museum and is one of the most visited attractions in Beijing.

We started exploring the buildings on the left of the entrance. Some of the palaces were under construction for the Beijing Olympics, so we proceeded to only the major palaces like the Hall of Preserving Harmony, Hall of Medium Harmony, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Imperial Palace, Hall of Unity, Hall of Earthly Peace, and Palace of Heavenly Purity. We also walked through the Imperial Garden. After hours of walking and visiting those palaces and the rooms inside them, we decided to head back to the Meridian Gate – the entrance where the group had decided to meet.

Since there wasn’t any sign of the other members at the Meridian Gate (we thought that it would be useless to wait for the others since the Forbidden City is a very huge place to visit), we walked some more to the other end of the palace passing by several souvenir stalls, the Zhongshan Park, and the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen Gate), and then we crossed the Chang’an Avenue (Dong Chang’an Jie) through the underpass to reach Tiananmen Square.

…with Vice Aris, Loren, and Edwin

Gate of Heavenly Peace

Too bad Mao Tse Tung’s Mausoleum was under construction, again in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. We weren’t able to see Mao Tse Tung’s body (giving us more reason to go back to Beijing 🙂 ).

The Mausoleum at Our Back

While at Tiananmen Square, a Chinese approached us. She claimed that she was a student for an English course and that she was volunteering for tour guiding. She told us that she wanted to bring us to the oldest building in Beijing, now a pharmacy, which was a few buildings away. As she was explaining to us on what we were to see at the pharmacy, we realized that she was one of those youngsters who would lead tourists to a certain area to buy whatever products they were selling (yes, the same with the one who lead us to the art shop before visiting the Forbidden City). In the end, we decided not to go with her. So we stayed at the Beijing Olympics Countdown Clock and waited for Ivan, one of our SSEAYP batchmates who was in Beijing too.

When Ivan arrived, he recommended us to visit ShichaHai and walk around HouHai. SichaHai is one of the protected areas of old Beijing dating back to the Jin Dynasty.

It is one of the areas that I would love to go back to when I visit Beijing again. Being part of the old Beijing, the culture is very much present. Also, a few meters away is the Lotus Market, which houses modern restaurants and really great bars – indeed, a meeting of the old and new! I badly wanted to do a rickshaw tour of the hutongs nearby, but time didn’t permit me to do so since we had to go back to Tiantan Hotel for dinner.

I thought that the visit to ShichaHai was the last for our second day in Beijing, but no… Mike, Edwin, Melvin (who just arrived that day), and I took a quick tour of WangFuJing, Beijing’s most famous shopping street, after dinner.

It was a full day for us, I must say. 🙂

Click here for a deatiled Beijing map.

China’s Forbidden City

Hill of Accumulated Elegance at the Forbidden City

Related Post: The Forbidden City: Restored



  1. […] Temple of Heaven was constructed in the 1400s by the same Yongle Emperor who constructed the Forbidden City. This Taoist temple is the place where the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors went for their annual […]

  2. […] haven’t really expected the whole thing to be as grand as it was. When I was in Beijing last year, I personally saw the Beijing National Olympic Stadium, otherwise called as the Bird’s Nest, […]

  3. […] Having visited the Forbidden City last year (during its restoration period), I took a photo of one of the doors which looked like this: […]

  4. Erin said

    Hi! I’m the Community Manager of We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about China, and we think that yours is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from blogs like yours (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at
    Thanks! 🙂

    • pamalfaro said

      On ERIN: Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading my posts about China. You’re welcome to highlight excerpts from my blog. Just let me know which ones. 🙂 You may email me at for ways of tapping my hobby. Haha. Thanks again Erin!

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