As the city came into view through the clouds my heart sank, Beijing was blanketed in gleaming white snow. Not quite what I’d been expecting in November.
Earlier a couple of us decided that instead of the usual shopping trip to buy all things fake at the market we would like to do a bit of sightseeing. It was discussed and we planned to get up early the next day and go and see the Great Wall. That unfortunately was not meant to be, the snow kept falling getting heavier and thicker by the hour. That night the concierge called us to tell us that as the roads up to the wall were now closed the tour had to be cancelled.
We decided to meet the next morning anyway to see if anything had changed, it hadn’t. After a quick change of plan we were off in a taxi and heading for our first stop on our new itinerary, the Summer Palace.
As I hadn’t planned to visit the Summer Palace I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I was not to be disappointed. The first thing that hit me upon entering was the vast lake and the sheer size of the site.
The palace dates back to the Jurchen led Jin dynasty of 1153 although a lot of what is seen today dates from the Qing dynasty of the 1700’s. Much of the Summer Palace was destroyed at the end of the Second Opium War in 1860 by the British and French forces. Between 1884 – 95 the Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt parts and enlarged the Summer Palace to celebrate her 60th birthday and this is mainly what I’m seeing today.
The buildings are very interesting to see and dusted with the snow looked even more beautiful. There wasn’t a great deal of information in English so a lot of the time we weren’t really sure what we were looking at but at least we could appreciate the architecture.
The grounds of the palace are large and we only covered a small part of the site with the time we had, the snow and ice also made it difficult to get around. I’m hoping to go back in the warmer weather and maybe take a guided tour next time.
Time was very short as we’d spent longer than planned at the Summer Palace so we decided that our next stop would be Tiananmen Square and hopefully the Forbidden City.
To get in to the square you need to pass through airport style security but it was quick to get through and we were soon standing right in the middle of it.
Tiananmen Square is one of the largest city square’s in the world and standing in the middle of it really gives you a sense of how big it actually is.
Located at its north edge is the Tiananmen Gate which separates the square from the Forbidden City.
Along the southern side of the square is the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party until his death in 1976. The building stands on the site of the Gate of China, the original main gate of the Imperial City. On the western and eastern sides of the square are the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China.
Also on its southern edge is the Monument to the People’s Heroes, a ten story obelisk to the martyrs of revolutionary struggle during the 19th and 20th centuries.
After walking around the square we made our way over to the Tiananmen Gate so we could enter the Forbidden City. The gate is a very impressive structure and is what you see on TV when they show those huge military parades.
Walking through the arch you come into a smaller square where in front of you are the main gates to the Forbidden City. To our huge disappointment we found the Forbidden City was closed on a Monday so we couldn’t visit.
I managed to get some pictures from the outside but would have really loved to have seen it properly. I will be back to see this again.
Nothing had really been on our side on this trip, the weather, road closures, and the wrong day, but I was pleased with what I had seen and one thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get back and see some more of what the great city of Beijing has to offer.
To see more of my photo’s of Beijing go to www.pinterest.com/mrbelltravels