23.03.2010 6 °C
We docked early this morning in Xingang, but it took a very long time to get through customs - our trip to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City was over an hour late leaving the dockside.
During the 2.5/3hr drive to Beijing, our guide Phyllis told us a lot about China - topics ranged from prices of apartments in Xingang and Beijing, only being allowed to use their car 6 days out of 7 (sounds familiar!) and family planning (numbers of children allowed, fines they have to pay and the 'no identity card' status for the illegal children), and the Chinese flag (the red symbolises blood).
We stopped for lunch at a hotel in Beijing - we had banana fritters and soup as a starter! and then more traditional dishes for the main course.
Our first sightseeing stop was Tienanmen Square. This is the largest public square in the world capable of accommodating over a million people.
From the Square, we used the subway to cross the road and went into The Forbidden City. The city covers 250 acres and is full of winged-roof pavilions and palaces guarded by carved lions, marble bridges and open-air courtyards.
The city originally took 14 years to build and is nearly 600 years old. The building are currently undergoing a 14 year renovation programme timed to finish for the 600th anniversary. The gold in the patterns is actually gold leaf, so the renovations are costing China a lot of money.
The figures on the corner of a building tell you how important that building is - not counting the fairy on a dragon at the edge and the fairy at the other end, you can see 9 figures here. Nine is a lucky number in China and that indicates this is the most important building
We visited the courtyard of the Palace of Gathering Excellence where the Empress and Imperial concubines lived.
The Imperial Palace gardens are full of limestone, the rocks are thrown in to water for a few years to create the holes and then used as decorations.