The Forbidden City

6/13 Monday

Subway stops: Tian’anmen East or Tian’anmen West

Cost: varies depending on if it is a touristy time of year. We went in June, it was touristy. Adults, Y60. Kids, Y20 each. (Our 3 year old was free.) Extra fees for the Treasure Gallery and the Clock/Watch Gallery)

The Forbidden City (the Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420-1912) is located in the center of Beijing, and thus, probably one of the closest large tourist attractions to our apartment. We’ve walked past it several times, seen it from Jingshan Park twice, but it gets thousands of visitors each day (about 7 million a year). We eventually decided that rather than wait for a crowded Saturday to go with B, the kids and I would have to go without him on a weekday and he’d go on his own while he was still in China after we’d flown to America at the end of June.

The Forbidden City is across the street (Chang’An Aveune, Beijing’s main east/west street) from Tian’anmen Square and subway line 1 runs underneath that street. So we ride underneath this part of town several times a week. The main gate you walk through with Mao’s portrait on it is actually Tian’anmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peace. Once through there, you show your passports and pay at one of the many ticket windows. On the map below, we started at the southern gate.


The Forbidden City is huge. We sort of walked north on the eastern side, cut through the middle, walked north on the western side, cut to the center when there was an important building, and hoped we saw all the good stuff.


From Wikipedia:

It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms. A common myth states that there are 9,999 rooms including antechambers, based on oral tradition, and it is not supported by survey evidence. 

From here:

Inside there are five halls, seventeen palaces, and numerous other buildings. The Forbidden Palace is reputed to have a total of 9,999 rooms. In some accounts, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms – the half-room, apparently, houses nothing more than a staircase.

Actually, depending on how the counting is done, the total is about 9,000.

The digit 9 was seen as a special, magic number, especially for emperors, because it is the highest value ordinal. Also, the word for nine in Chinese, ‘jiu’, is a homonym for ‘long / lengthy’. The number of rooms has a further rationale : because the Forbidden City was on Earth, it was impossible to have 10,000 rooms, which would conflict with the number of rooms in the version found in Heaven because the number 10,000 symbolizes infinity.

 The pagoda you can sort of see in the background, left, is the top of the hill in Jingshan Park.

 It was a super overcast day (we even got rained on some), but we could still 

see the tallest building downtown off in the distance. 

I didn’t plan on taking any pictures inside the Clock/Watch Gallery, but then S and L followed me around asking me to take pictures of their favorites.


We exited at the top (north) of the Forbidden City (it seems like you are supposed to enter at the south gate and exit at the north gate). When we exited, we could see the pagodas in Jingshan Park and the White Dagoba in Behai Park. We turned west and walked toward the watch tower on that northwestern corner then we headed south so we could get some pictures in Tian’anmen Square.


(new) Summer Palace


Cost: adults Y60 each, kids Y30 each

When we first moved to Beijing, we noticed on a map that the Summer Palace was a tourist attraction on our side of town (it’s in far northwestern Beijing), but it’s sort of hard to get to by subway from our neighborhood because there isn’t a north/south running subway line as far west as we lived. We also saw that the double-decker buses in our neighborhood went there so we made a plan to ride the double-decker bus to the Summer Palace. And then we didn’t do it for almost two years! Some of the bigger tourist destinations we kept putting off for nice days and weekends when B could go with us. We finally tackled the Summer Palace on June 10.

 On the top level of the double-decker bus on the way to the Summer Palace.


We entered via the north gate and walked through Suzhou Street. It’s sort of like a hutong built on a canal. PS loved it.





After Suzhou Street, we headed south. Map from here.

Longevity Hill, Sumeru Temple and Hall of Buddhist Tenets




Buddhist Fragrance Tower and the view




Paiyun Gate, Yunhuiyuyu Archway and the Long Corridor



Bottom left picture, this couple wanted a picture of their Squidgems-sized kid with Squidgems. I especially like his rat tail hair. We had to hurry and move after this picture because a bunch of out of town tourists were about to swarm.


Seventeen Arch Bridge and views

We rode a dragon boat back across Kunming Lake toward Qingyan Boat (Marble Boat).


Half-Wall Bridge

Then we left the same way we came in.


Din Tai Fung is a restaurant with locations throughout the world. It had been on my list for awhile to try their xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and their shaved ice. It’s a little nicer, so we left the kids home and enjoyed a date night out. We went to the location in Beijing closer to us, at the Xidan stop (lines 1 and 4). It’s in the basement of one of the malls there.


green beans with pork

 Their mascot is adorable.

 Dessert. It actually looks kind of gross (and strawberries were out of season so we went with mango) but this is a delicious, creamy, shaved ice concoction. So good. And that bowl is HUGE!

An older Chinese sister in our branch invited a bunch of us over for lunch to say goodbye to me and another sister who was moving with her family to Shanghai. She made delicious homemade jiaozi and this Zongzi (below). Zongzi is sort of an acquired taste. But the homeade jiaozi was yummy.

I found a place to by these bubble egg waffles in China (we discovered them in Hong Kong), and they sell a bubble waffle maker on (US)!!! Yay!

 B and I went to a convert (Canadian Chinese woman named June) on the other side of town, so we decided to wait and eat while we were over there near all the yummy restaurants. We had some tuk tuk issues (driver yelling at us that we weren’t paying what he asked when he agreed upon Y10 and then dropped us off and started yelling that we owed him Y10 per person, B yelled back). And the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. So we walked down Chaoyang Park Rd. and found this French/Vietnamese Bistro place. It was pretty good.

  Fried bananas

 Pad Thai

 Egg roll… I forgot to take a pic.

Veggie spring rolls


For my birthday, we went to a place called Al Safir, a Middle Eastern restaurant up by the US Embassy, because we heard they had great falafel and chicken shawarma. It may have given us food poisoning (we both had desperate need of the bathrooms at the Pearl Market shortly after eating here), but it was delicious. And I believe B went back again after I returned to the US and didn’t get sick on his second vist.


China Life

 Squidgems saw these and said, “Look, Phineas and Ferb!”

 Water brush calligraphy in a park.

 This is Buddy taking a picture of a Chinese guy with Squidgems with the guy’s phone. Near Tianan’men/Forbidden City.

 6/21 Super moon of some sort on the way home from youth activities.

 Before we sold our e-bike, we had to see how many of us we could fit on it at the same time.

 We also let PS take it on a little ride.


Walking from Decathlon toward home. Not sure why I took this picture.

 This cracked me up for two reasons. 1) the car parked on the sidewalk and 2) the sign says a Chinese name and then “Disaster Prevention Theme Park.”


For some reason, before starting the work day, salons sing/dance out front.

 Driving around in Becky’s car, the tallest and soon to be new tallest buildings in Beijing. And below, Short Pants.



This bike fold completely flat!

 PS looked long and hard for this popsicle she saw advertised that “peels.” We found it. It was gross.

 6/26 Trying out the new air conditioned booth on our way home from church on our last Sunday.


View of the train bridge taken from the pedestrian bridge on the way to church.

Church building. Well.. we use part of the 4th floor.

 Our bus stop.

 Cute girls at the new Summer Palace.

The vies from across the street from our building. This is the north gate of campus. Our building is the tall red one.

McD’s ice cream.

Check Check Check


On my crazy list of things to see and do in Beijing were a handful of little things that I’d never been able to check off. After our family photo shoot at the Ancient Observatory, we started to put a checkmark next to some of these things.

First up was the Kid’s Republic Bookstore. I’d seen it anytime cool bookstore or library designs are featured online, and as a book loving family, we had to see it in real life. It disappointed. It’s small and old and run-down and all the cool reading nooks were full of adults. It’s pretty cool, and I’m glad we saw it, but it wasn’t what I hoped for. And it didn’t help that it was almost entirely Chinese language books. (I know, I know… it’s in China… but still!)

Next up, a crazy China adventure. That wasn’t on my list. What was on B’s list was eating lunch at his favorite Indian restaurant, Ganges. Since we were still off of line one (the eastern end), we walked to a Ganges location we hadn’t been to before instead of some of the others in the north east we’d been to before. Walking around the mall it was supposedly in, we couldn’t find it so B called the number listed for them. A man answered and said he knew where we were, so he’d come out and get us. What ended up happening was he found us, took us to his driver (a Chinese man who spoke no English) and fit the 6 of us and a stroller into his driver’s sedan and had the driver drive us to the other location (one we’d been to before) because the location we were at was temporarily closed (that the entire basement of the mall was closed). B and I looked at each other, shrugged and got in the car. I was about a one mile drive. We ended up safely at the other Ganges and ate a delicious lunch. Only in China!!

Somehow, I heard about a Friends Cafe in Beijing. I was always a huge fan of the tv show Friends, I was even part of the live audience for a taping when I was in high school, so I knew I had to go. I never got the group of girl friends together to check it out, so Brandon (with his awesome map skills) got us there where we enjoyed some milk shakes and a cupcake. So fun! Especially since I’d just finished watching the entire series on Netflix.


Family Pictures

After discovering this circle-arch, I knew we needed to have a family picture taken there. It took some getting over illness,waiting for schedules to align, waiting for clean air, rescheduling, etc. but we had a good friend with decent camera skills and a great camera meet us and she did an awesome job taking pictures for us.

This is my favorite.




When the mall opened by our apartment, it slowly filled with shops. One of the last to move in was a hair cutting place. You take a number, wait your turn, pay Y10 (less than $2) and get your hair cut and the loose hair VACUUMED up! I told B that our boys needed to try this. He took them one day and sent me a text that said they looked like $2 haircuts, but it went okay. Ha!