Scruffy Peasants and Forbidden Forbidden City

Monday, March 17, 2014
Beijing, Beijing, China
Last night when planning for a trip to the Forbidden City we noticed on the web site that it is closed on Mondays, this is a new arrangement introduced on 1st Jan and not mentioned in either of our guide books. So the Forbidden City is forbidden on Mondays!
It was fortunate we saw it otherwise we would have travelled into town, gone through all the security wondering why it was so empty, only to discover the reason . Fortunately we can spend tomorrow there before catching the overnight train to Xi'an.
So we had a "relaxing day" starting with a walk around the former residence of a lady called Song Qing Ling, a founder member of the 1911 Revolutionary Committee and something of an idol for true communists. She was certainly a remarkable lady, however her home has been "restored" which seems to mean knocked down and rebuilt so as to look the same. It has no character whatsoever. The garden is another reason people visit, but at this time of year it lies dormant and is being tidied up at the moment.
The house is next to a lake near our hotel so it was a nice stroll and good for "people watching".

Walking around the local neighbourhoods it is noticeable that there are fashionable, well dressed people, and older locals who fit the preconceived idea we had of the Chinese, a bit scruffy, bad clothes, probably getting about on a bike. It occurred to us today when we entered the metro system, it was mainly the "better-off", well dressed people there, with conventional jobs who are going to/from work, out for the evening etc. WE ARE THE SCRUFFIEST PEOPLE ON THE METRO, no wonder we have been offered seats, they feel sorry for us! So perhaps it's not that we are seen as elderly after all. A ticket for the metro only costs 20p so there is no real cost barrier to travelling on it, it is just the less well off live and work in the same place.

Last night we went to a local "transport cafe" type place called Mr Shi's Dumplings, and had 24 very nice assorted dumplings and three beers for £20. This evening we went to one of Beijing's smartest restaurants and had the best crispy duck in the whole world - £100 including wine. Both were really good value, we were definitely the scruffiest people in the second one but I am pleased to say they did not seem to mind. (We did not realise it was posh until we turned up at the door having squeezed passed the Lexus, Porsche and BMW's, each receptionist was wearing a fur stole!)

Prior to the meal we spent an enjoyable hour at the theatre watching a Chinese acrobatic performance which ended with a most hair raising motor bike display ever, five riders simultaneously driving inside a round cage.

Tomorrow we hope to do the Forbidden City before catching the overnight train to Xian which probably means the blog won't be updated for a day, I do hope you can wait until the next unexciting instalment of Gill & John go East.
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Dear john & gill
As the most prolific commenter on your blog I must say that I only read the whole thing today and, of all your recent holidays, I find this the most inspiring. I do need to know where you would have chosen to spend more time given that the goal is the destination and you have three weeks there.
Best wishes to you both



Thanks for this, it is good to know someone out there is reading it.