on July 15, 2006
As you approach the Forbidden City, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not just any palace. It is an expansive maze of buildings, courtyards, and built for the exclusive use of the Emperor and his family. When I say it is a maze, I really mean it. With the modern conversion of the palace into a tourist site it has become an even bigger maze with the map showing all the corridors, but many of the corridors closed off with no indication on the map that they are. We walked on the side corridors for almost an hour trying to find the gardens marked on the left side of the map (I think they were the Ming Gardens), but never located them. Not sure if we just failed at navigating or if they were behind the closed doors. It certainly made me feel like part of the palace was still forbidden.We had less than 2 hours to explore the Forbidden City. That is barely enough time to see everything that lies just on the central axis. Even though during this visit some of the buildings were under renovation. It was kind of funny to see the buildings hidden using a barrier that had the building painted on it, as it is supposed to look after renovation. It seemed almost like you were actually looking at the real building and not just a life size picture.My favorite part of the Forbidden City was the Imperial Gardens, the garden we actually found. Somehow I did not see them my first time I visited 2 years ago. Now it seems impossible that I missed them, so I am thinking I do not remember them the first time because we were rushed even faster through the Forbidden City. The garden is full of plants; including ancient cypress trees, stone mosaic pathways, Chinese style architectural gazebos, and elaborate rock gardens. Walking the somewhat deserted paths of the gardens is where I felt the closest to the place’s history of being the place reserved for only the privileged few. Relax in the peacefulness of the gardens before you exit the Forbidden City and struggle through the mass of street vendors eager to sell their wares to any passing tourist. From my experience in China I found the exit of the Forbidden City the place where the street vendors are to put it nicely most persistent.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009