Sometimes it is fun to be a tourist.
Today I visited the Forbidden City, which was fascinating for its history and architecture, as well as people watching and taking pictures of other tourists. That sounds weird, but not as weird as Chinese women trying to sneak pictures of you and their baby without your noticing. This happens a lot to foreigners in really touristy places, and the Chinese mothers will love you for it if you pose with them willingly.
The Forbidden City itself is huge, with its quintessential hipped roof buildings, imperial dragon motifs, and, of course, Mao’s giant portrait. You cannot enter most of the buildings, but a few of the main buildings, such as the emperors’ throne room and their bedrooms you are able to look into if you can push your way to front of the crowds. After awhile the buildings start to blend together as they all look the same and there’s not much else to take in. So while I am glad I can say I have been to this famous landmark, I can’t say it’s been my favorite experience so far.
Some advice if you are looking to study abroad in Beijing, save money, and have a unique experience: bring good walking shoes. Chances are that you will get lost at least once or twice, and your feet will take a beating. But keep walking. Taxis are relatively cheap but you may miss something, such as a hole in the wall curio shop or restaurant, while getting lost trying to find your way back to the subway station. A lot of the fun of living in Beijing or any foreign country is finding out what you’re made of. How far will you walk to find that bargain mall you’ve heard about? Better yet, who will you have to talk to find the right way? Just keep walking, ask directions, look at a map. Unless you feel scared and abandoned in a sketchy alleyway, then you should hail a taxi. Beijing is huge, with many famous and beautiful places to see, but I find the best memories are made out of the ones you aren’t necessarily prepared for.