Tian’anmen Square


We’ve been in Tian’anmen Square a few times, but once was at night so the pictures aren’t great, and the other times were to see Mao’s mausoleum or to go to the museum there and I didn’t really snap a lot of pictures so I wanted to get some before we hopped back on the subway and headed home.

This first batch is all with Tian’anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Mao’s portrait behind us. So we’re standing in Tian’anmen Square, with the entrance to the Forbidden City in the background of the photograph. Squidgems was very adamant about which selfies he wanted to be in and what direction I should be taking the picture.

Below, these are facing the Forbidden City, with Mao’s mausoleum and the Column of Martyrs in the photo behind us. As you can see by Squidgems’s face in the bottom picture, he did not want this selfie taken. It turned out, he wanted Mao’s photo in our photo.

I didn’t mention the guards and metal detectors, etc. that you have to pass through to get to Tian’anmen Square. Here’s Buddy leaving. You never really get used to soldiers carrying large rifles walking next to you.


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.

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.


Yuanmingyuan Park (Old Summer Palace)


Line 4, Yuanmingyuan Park subway stop, exit B, walk east

Cost: Full access, adults Y25, kids Y10 + more for boats (Y20) and small trolley buses (Y8)

          under 120 cm = free

I’d heard that the ruins of the Old Summer Palace were fun for kids to just run around and the As (our friends from Virginia that live out in Shunyi and are homeschooling now) and the WAs had never been. They both drove and ran into a few problems (apparently when a light goes out here, you might be stuck in an intersection indefinitely because no one knows about treating it like a four way stop). So we arrived a little early and I managed to purchase the full access tickets all by myself.

Top right picture… the kids all congregated on this rock which was a great photo op but while the moms were all getting their cameras ready, this Chinese woman jumped in and had her picture taken.

The park is pretty big and we had a lot of kids with us so we took a boat (actually two boats, we filled one entire boat and then there were still four of us left). After the first boat ride, the little boats docked and then three boats worth of people got on a larger boat and we were altogether.

I like this bottom left picture PS took of me because while we were waiting for the second boat to fill up, my phone rang and I had to answer some questions about the Relief Society activity that was happening the next day and Squidgems was pulling on my sweater trying to tell me something. It just seemed to be a funny way to sum up how crazy my life is right now. I was in the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing, China on a boat talking on the phone for my church calling while kids were pestering me.

After the boat ride, we stopped and ate lunch before entering the ticket area for the ruins. The kids climbed up a “mountain” and had a blast while we ate. After the ruins, they begged to play there again so we let them.

We made the kids group together for this “maze.” All the shorter kids had to be in a group with at least one tall kid so we could keep track of them. While the moms waited for the kids to finish, an old Chinese guy with a selfie stick asked to have a picture of he and his wife with us. The kids finished and we told them out of the corner of our smiling mouths to keep moving or we’d be there all day getting our pictures taken!

We went in a little shop to buy water and as we were walking away, Squidgems started being sad because he wanted an ice cream. I don’t even think M WA heard him, she was just already being sweet and buying him in ice cream. She told me later that sometimes she likes to buy the food she can’t eat (gluten, egg, dairy allergies) for other people so they can enjoy it. She made Squidgems very happy! Then we road this little bus/golf cart back towards where we got on the boat.


Me, trying to be a photographer.

When we got home, Squidgems immediately wanted to make a thank you card for M WA for his ice cream. He even asked me what color her shirt was so he could do a good job drawing a picture of her holding his ice cream and he dictated a note to PS so she could write it for him.

Date Night


Some friends Brandon works with invited us to try a new Indian Restaurant with them and a few other people. Brandon and I met them there. First we walked around the Houhai Lake area and then around the outside of the Drum and Bell Towers and the hutongs there.


The kids and I went to the Drum and Bell Towers last year, but Brandon hadn’t seen them so we walked around the courtyard between them and snapped some pictures before walking through the neighborhood north of them and then back south and east toward the restaurant. It’s sort of a hipster neighborhood… so lots of oblivious Chinese people living their lives, and lots of young foreigners thinking they are awesome because they are the only foreigner on their street.




Insert dinner picture here.