Let me start by explaining that in Chinese society the idea of queuing up is not as natural as say in countries like the US or Japan. Most places there are no lines. My mom kept getting flustered and irritated when she would try to politely wait only to have people push right by her.
So we come to this line which was only enforced by two metal handrails to corral us all. Pushing was still part of the game but in this crowd it only got you so far. At one point there was no part of my body save my face that was pushed up against someone else. It was like a huge group hug except with strangers and luggage.
After finally getting a taxi and arriving back at our hotel, Dad and I headed back out to see the hutong. These are old traditional neighborhoods that are quickly disappearing and being replaced by high rises. The Lonely Planet was very sentimental and made them seem like they were quaint and picturesque. In truth they were a maze of dirty narrow streets with closed doors and very few hints of what lay behind them. We took a rickshaw tour which was ok. We negotiated a really low rate which was good because I would have been irritated to have spent more money just to see the little that we saw. It might have been grumpiness left over from the taxi line of DOOM but neither Dad or I were impressed.
That night we went to an acrobatics show. And that was far from disappointing. After the Great Wall this was the next thing I was really excited for. Mom almost smacked me on the subway ride over because I decided she was not exhibiting enough enthusiasm for the show and tried to pump her up. (She still wasn't feeling well at that point.)
The show itself was awesome! They had lights and fogs. They sold popcorn and icecream. And the bendiness...oh the bendiness of those Chinese acrobats. They had 12 girls on a bicycle. They had two guys running around in a ring of death. And we had front row seats for the whole 1 1/2 hour extravaganza. Sadly, they didn't allow pictures so here's a shot of the three of us before the show started.
The last day Dad and I headed back out without Mom to see the Forbidden City. Not surprisingly it was a lot less crowded on a Thursday versus Sunday. Members of the royal family lived here and were not allowed out. Certain people were allowed into the first two thirds of the city but only eunuchs, servants, and royals were allowed in the inner court. It was beautiful although I will admit after awhile all of the courtyards started to blend together. The audio guide was nice though. It was full of stories of palace intrigue and scandals.
One of several throne rooms
The royal "climbing wall." The emperor and his concubines climbed this for fun in the spring.
They have this clock exhibit inside the Forbidden City. You have to pay extra but it wasn't much so we shelled out and went in. We actually timed this for 11am so that we could see the clocks go off. A wonderful plan except that we didn't realize there were two rooms in the exhibit and only discovered where the clocks went off the last 20 seconds of the last clock. Cue my Dad's sad face. Oh well he still enjoyed the other clocks. I have kindly chosen only 3 pictures to show you out of the dozens he took in there. ;-)
This one was cool because this little man writes a Chinese character on the hour.
After leaving the Forbidden City we went across the street to the park and hiked up the hill to see a view overlooking the palace. But not before Dad excitingly pointed out the moat. I tried to tell him there was a moat at the front where we came in (and had crossed over 3 times before during other trips to Tienanmen) but he didn't believe me.
Look! There's a moat!
The view overlooking the Forbidden City
He really liked that moat. ;)
After lunch we headed back to the hotel where we spent our last night relaxing and packing. We had one last lunch with our new American friends from earlier in the week and then it was off to the airport. Mom can mark the Great Wall off her bucket list and I didn't have to wait a whole year between seeing them both.