My second full day was to be my most busy day and it began by rising at 6.30am once more. I walked across Tiananmen Square again and through the Gate Of Heavenly Peace from which the famous portrait of Chairman Mao (of the Communist Party Of China) hangs. I entered the Forbidden City when it opened at 8.30am and you can see why guidebooks suggest giving this huge place a whole day of your time. Not for me though! Two and a half hours was enough due in part to a couple of the main parts being covered in green netting ready for next years Olympic games.
After lunch I took a local bus to the Summer Palace which I was more impressed by. Like the Great Wall this was also a place of climbing and hiking which is more interesting to me than looking around the temples themselves. This place is beautifully located on the a huge lake which I went on via boat to visit a tiny island and see up-close the 17 arch bridge which connects it to the main land.
My flight back to Japan was at 1.30pm the next day but I still had a few things left to do so I got up at 5am and was at Temple of Heaven Park by 6am for its opening up to the many locals doing tai-chi and other such activities which is how they start each and every day. I had a quick wander through some Hutongs after that which are the traditional backstreet type houses which are dropping fast as the City develops in anticipation of next years showpiece occasion. It was nice to walk around freely and catch a glimpse of the ‘real China’ which I didn’t really see too much of at the tourist traps I’d visited on the two days prior.
Walking past the Drum Tower, round Qianhai Lake and through Beihai Park, where there were many groups of mostly old people dancing with fans, ribbons and swords (not all together obviously!), which brought the curtain down on a short but very packed three night trip.