Japan & China, Day 8: The Day We Visited the Forbidden City and Saw Kung Fu

Day 8 - Thursday, 9/18/14

Francisco lied to me this morning. He had forgotten to set his clock back, and he told me it was 6:30 AM when it was actually 5:30. :-P I am pretty sure I could have gotten more sleep, but oh, well.  Our pick-up time was 9:00 AM, so we had ample time to peruse the substantial breakfast buffet. It was a beautiful thing, especially the pancake station, which featured raspberry sauce, peanut butter, cinnamon sugar, syrup, and fresh whipped cream. I stocked up here every single morning we were in China.  Yes, it was a very carby but delicious breakfast.
We also had some fresh dragonfruit.
Since we were up early, we had time to do a bit of walking around the neighborhood.
Traffic was heavy as usual with a lot of bikers mixed in with the cars. I thought it was interesting to see familiar magazine titles for an Asian audience and Pizza Hut advertising breakfast.
We met Sandra near the front of the hotel at 9:00 AM. Her English wasn't very clear and she was dressed rather unprofessionally (showing up for "work" in sweats), but she kept us unmurdered and unlost, so I guess that's what matters, LOL.
Our first stop was Qianmen Street, a famous pedestrian street in Beijing. It is very close to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, so we were in this part of town for much of the day. Walking up, my first impressions were that it was very...gray.
There were a lot of shops, and Francisco and I stopped in a few as we walked around the area, but overall, they were pretty unimpressive and the goods seemed of relatively low quality. There were some tunnels we walked through that led across the street. Along the way, we saw a few one-armed men sitting along the path. Judy asked Sandra about them, and Sandra just dismissed them as "professional beggars". Peking duck is a famous duck dish in Beijing, so we saw some ducks being transported - doesn't that look delicious? :-P
We had a brief photo stop at the National Center for Performing Arts, an opera house in Beijing.
We walked past the Great Hall of the People, which is used for legislative and ceremonial activities by the People's Republic of China.
We passed the Monument to the People's Heroes, a 10-story obelisk that serves as a monument of the People's Republic of China as well as the National Museum of China, an art and history museum.

There was a large flower basket being built in preparation of National Day on October 1st.
The Tiananmen Gate, or Gate of Heavenly Peace, was the entrance to the Imperial City during the Ming Dynasty, within which the Forbidden City was location. It is decorated with a portrait of Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist revolutionary and the founding gather of the People's Republic of China. The two placards to the left and right read "Long Live the People's Republic of China" and "Long live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples". The Tiananmen Gate effectively connects the Forbidden City with the modern, symbolic center of the Chinese state, Tiananmen Square.
Francisco loved all the lion statues in both Japan and China.
Entering the Forbidden City, it was, of course, insanely crowded. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. No one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission.
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This is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest hall within the Forbidden City.
There was a huge crowd gathered for a peek into the Emperor's Throne Room.
Imperial Garden
Our last scheduled stop of the day was a photo opp at the Beijing Olympic Park where the 2008 Summer Olympics were hosted.
The National Stadium is affectionately known as the Bird's Nest.

As we were walking, a Chinese couple walked up to Francisco and I excitedly...we were confused at first and then we realized they wanted to take pictures with us. I had read that this might happen, but it still caught me off-guard. We obliged, and I realized belatedly that I should have gestured that I would have liked to take pictures with them as well. On the way, Sandra led us to a little souvenir shop. Francisco is pretty sure this was an off the books type of place, likely stocked from "misplaced" goods. There was absolutely no signage, and it was just a discreet tucked away building. We had looked at some shops during our earlier excursions, and Sandra had mentioned that there would be other souvenir places that were cheaper. They were definitely inexpensive here, but I'm glad we had made earlier purchases as well since the selection wasn't identical. 
Next was an unscheduled stop at a tea shop where we took part in a tea ceremony. I was a little bit like 'yay tea' <enter sarcastic face here>, but the teas were actually enjoyable. They were all fresh brewed so they definitely tasted more vibrant than some Lipton tea bags in hot water. If I had more faith in my ability to reproduce the flavors of these teas at home, I probably would have bought some tea, but we did come home with a teapot and a large tea cup that changes color.
Sandra had mentioned a Kung Fu Show the previous day, and Judy said she wanted to see it, so Francisco talked me into seeing it as well. We first went back to the hotel and grabbed some dinner there. We had an open-faced veggie sandwich with some fries and fruit.
We were picked up at 4:15 for the show and dropped off at the Beijing Red Theater.
The Legend of Kung Fu follows the story of a young boy trying to fulfill his dream of becoming a Kung Fu Master.
I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but the acrobatics were impressive and the show really kept your attention.

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