We started our first trek together as a group. It's a cold day in China. -5°. Everyone is cold.
We took the subway to Tiananmen square. To enter the square we had to put our bags through a security device. Tiananmen square is the largest city square in the world. Lots of security officers are walking around and lots of cameras are visable on every light standard. There are a few statues and a couple garden areas, but there is very little to sightsee. The enormity and the history makes Tiananmen important to see. Vendors are selling wares ie; magnets, pictures, hats.
Next to the square is the Forbidden City. It is called the Forbidden City because common folk were not allowed to enter and were not to even look in the direction of the city when passing the entrances without facing discipline. Anyone who entered could only enter by invitation of the empire. 1412 to 1960 the forbidden city was occupied by the royal family. It is said that it took 14 years to build and over 1 million people. It is surrounded by a moat and city wall. Legend indicates that the Empire in Heaven has a palace with 10,000 rooms, so the Forbidden City was built with 9,999 rooms. The initial courtyard was a general greeting yard. The next was a meeting courtyard, then the Royal working courtyard with the empires sleeping quarters with numerous beds. It was said that the original empire was fearful that his enemies would kill him during his sleep so only his closest aide would know where he intended on sleeping that night. As we progressed through the courtyards, they became more elaborate towards the middle of the city then began to become smaller and smaller as the rank of the officials decreased with distance from the empires quarters. In each courtyard, somewhere was a copper urn, kept there for the possibility of fire. This provided easy, quick access to water.
We left Forbidden City and walked several blocks to a restaurant specializing in Peking Duck. Our tour guide, Ricky had ordered this several hours before as it takes over 3 hours to roast. The duck was served in a variety of ways, but initially on different plates - the crispy skin on one and the meat on another each cut into thin strips. Thin pancakes (rice paper), cucumber sticks, spring onion and a brown thick gravy were provided. We learned to make rolls with the duck. A variety of other vegetable, rice, noodle and combinations were served. As well, the remaining duck bones with a little meat on them had been deep fried. At the end of the meal we were provided with duck broth which was to assist with digestion. The very last dish was sweet potatoes in a maple sauce that we were to dip quickly into a bowl of ice water. This caused the maple sauce to harden and become crispy. All in all this was a delicious meal.
The restaurant had a courtyard that was open to the sky. We had a room to ourselves. We had the opportunity to watch the chef carving the duck and could see ducks hanging to be cooked for future meals.
Next we took tricycles (rickshaws) through a Hun village area and visited a private home and met some of the occupants of the home and they share some family photos. A local guide provided us with some history of the area.
We took the bus back to our hotel and were given instructions of events for the night (optional) and our start time for tomorrow. The optional event was a Kung Fu story telling theatre. I opted not to attend. I did check out the local supermarket and found some of the items as interesting as in the street markets. As I had mentioned in previous blogs, Chinese New Year, was February 8, however celebrations occur 10 days around the date. It appears the date is different in China (I have no explanation or understanding of this). Tonight fireworks began going off at 7pm and continued until after 11pm. I couldn't see them out my hotel room and I was to tired to take a walk to see them.