Travel Notes: Beijing
(Day 2, 3 Juni 2014)
Today, I planned to visit the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, which both have enormous area. I had to hit the road early to be able to cover both places.
My first destination was the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), in the southeastern part of Beijing. Because it is quite far from my hotel, I asked the bellboy to find me a taxi with a driver who understood a little English.
His answered was: ‘Méiyǒu..’ (there isn’t any) . So I had to ride in regular taxi and luckily, I arrived at the temple safely.
The admission to the Temple of Heaven which was built in 1420 during the rule of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty was 15 Yuan. The rental price of electronic guides was 40 yuan (plus a deposit of 100 yuan). Armed with the electronic guide, I started to leisurely stroll through the courtyard of the temple. The sky was clear with a blazing sun. Fortunately, most of the area shaded by rows of beautiful cypress trees
I lingered in this beautiful place for more than five hours until it was time for me to go to the Forbidden City (Gugong or Zǐjinchéng). And problems began to spring up … There was no taxi outside…! I walked around to find taxi stands, could not find one. I tried to asked people, but no one could understand my question. The information personnel just pointed out his finger toward the street, with no explanation. On the fast lanes there were many passing by taxis, but there was a road barrier between the fast lanes and the slow lanes. How was I supposed to hail them?
Finally a help came in the form of a parking attendant .. He told me to follow him, jumped over the road block, passed the bus line and stood waiting for the taxi in the middle of the road. In the middle of a busy road!! …When a vacant taxi came by, he whistled loudly and told me to jump into the taxi. Once I was inside the taxi, the driver took off, before I had time to say my thank to the parking attendant.
I told the driver that I wanted to go to Forbidden City. He nodded knowingly without saying anything. He drove in silence. About 30 minutes later, after we passed Tianenmen Square, he asked me something in Mandarin..
‘Wǒ bù zhīdào (I don’t understand you)’, I answered him. He nodded. Not long after that, he stopped and he pointed across the street. I saw there was a museum and a big crowd in front of it. Definitely my destination, I thought as I got out of the cab.
It was correct, the complex in front of me was the Forbidden City. But it was not the entrance, it was the exit. The entrance was on the opposite direction. If I wanted to enter the Forbidden City I have to circle that place. I didn’t think I have the strength to do that. I decided to go back to the hotel and visit the Forbidden City the day after.
To find another taxi was extremely difficult. A Few taxi that I stopped, for some reason refused to take me to the hotel. Suddenly there is an elderly Chinese woman in her 70s asked me where I wanted to go (She spoke in Mandarin, possibly that was the meaning). I replied that I needed a cab to take me to my hotel, and showed her Shangri-la business card. She said she would call a cab and told me to wait. I didn’t know how I could understand what she was talking about, but I obeyed. The woman called someone. Three minutes later appeared in front of us a vehicle resembled a Bajaj (see the picture below), the rider was much older than the woman.
‘This is the taxi,’ she informed me.
“‘What???!!! This is not a taxi!! This is Bajaj,’ I told them laughing. The woman and the old man giggled. It was so funny. We did not understand what was said to each other, yet we could laugh together. I still would not ride his vehicle to get to the hotel. Instead, I asked the old man to take me to the entrance of the Forbidden City. I was sure I would find a taxi there to take me back to the hotel.
‘Sānshí..” said the old man. OK, tiga thirty yuan.