Apparently the square is the third largest in the world. It is way more of a sympolic place to visit than an actual aesthetically worth-to-see site. To enter the square, you have to go through a security check (same thing at every subway station entrance for that matter).
I was already rejoicing at the thought of visiting such an iconic and mysterious site as the Forbidden City. The only problem was, as I reached the entrance gate… I realised it was closed. CLOSED. I can’t find the words to describe the feeling of disappointment that invaded me.
|The closest I got to the Forbidden City|
Can you imagine going to Paris for the very first time and not being able to see the Eiffel Tower? Or going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty? Of course not. It took me a moment to get myself together, swallow the failure and decide on what to do next.
The temple of heaven suddenly had big shoes to fulfill. As I was walking out of the subway station to reach the temple, a guy (turned out he was from Indonesia and super nice) asked me if I knew the way. As we were both going to the same place, we ended up visiting the site together.
The temple is an imperial sacrifical altar. The emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties went there for their annual prayers ceremonies to Heaven for good harvest. With the nightfall light, the pictures look amazing.
It was then time to part ways with my visit buddy and go back to the hotel. In fact, the next day promised to be a great one… can you guess where I was heading to?
That’s right. After a 50 min bus ride outside of Beijing, I was setting foot on the Great Wall of China. It was all so surreal. We’ve all seen pictures of it a thousand times, but to physically be there, in the middle of the mountains at 8.30 am, with the sun, the wind, the cold that all remind you you’re pretty damn alive … I couldn’t believe it. It was magic.
It is typically one of those moments when you think to yourself: “I’m so lucky”. That’s how I felt. Grateful and lucky.
It almost made me forget about what I had missed the day before.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay there too long as I had another visit on my list for this last day.
I went back to Beijing for the Summer Palace, a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and of course, palaces. It served as a summer resort for the imperial family when it was getting too hot in the Forbidden city.
I have officially qualified this place as the most relaxing spot I have ever been to. Everything was so peaceful, the trees, the water and the buildings complemented each other with such grace, it felt like walking through a work of art.
My very very last stop brought me to the Nanluoguxiang hutong, one of the oldest in Beijing and filled with bars, restaurants, food parlours and shops.
This hutong is totally worth 1 or 2 hours of your time. Walking there is a true pleasure for the eyes (maybe a bit less for your wallet though). It is definitely one of the places I loved the most.
And that’s where I had to conclude my trip. I had a plane the next morning to Brussels. It is a wonderful feeling to come home after having seen so many things. Incredibly satisfying and enriching.