A very serious advice:
Pay attention to every detail of the explanation done by your guide (person or book), during the visit: that way you will find out that “peace and harmony” is the dominant concept all across the place. You will visit doors, palaces and halls of all kinds of peace and harmony: Supreme harmony, preserving harmony, Heavenly peace, terrestrial peace, central harmony…
Take a lot of pictures to document, all the differences (?) among them.
Back home sort them carefully, and find out that… you are lost. For us, western people, everything is so similar that all the descriptions become… words. So, mix your pictures, and find the harmony resulting from that mess.
That’s the forbidden city: a beautiful big old city (with harmony) whose details are only for expert’s eyes.
Heads over heads
Be prepared to share your space with lots of people.
The Forbidden City is huge, but we hardly imagine how could have lived there about 8000 people.
I think that the simultaneous visitors will be less than that, but we are always surrounded by a crowd, and all the places where we may peep must be seen behind a wall of heads or… cameras.
Fortunately, the most interesting things are outdoors.
Good Fortune Superstitions
Now is time to use your imagination:
When the “river” of people flowing across the Forbidden City arrives to a place where, touching a small screen promises “good fortune” what happens?
Watch your physical condition
Walking on the walls is mandatory, but harder than it seems: they are very steep and… long. If it happens under a strong sun things will get worse, and the risk of dehydration must be seriously considered.
Of course, you may go back whenever you want, but… even down it is hard to walk. So, be prepared, and… enjoy!
Street vendors in Badaling
Some people condemn the stalls by the monuments, and their oppression on the tourists. Some times they are right – it becomes uncomfortable – but not always.
In an isolated place, where thousands of people merge each day, a basic structure of support is fundamental. If they don’t force you, (and here they don’t), if they are just there, hopping that you will need something they sell, they are useful. And we felt it in Badaling.
Parking by the Great Wall
I was about to write “parking is a nightmare” but it was a lie: not even that, only… impossible. Our only chance to access the wall in Badaling was to leave the bus more than 2 km before it, and walk along the desperate row of jammed cars.
No problem… it’s China.
A Rule in China
Everywhere, and every time.
The great wall follows the rules, and it is a long stripe of people slowly gliding upon a rocky construction. No matter where you look, there is people.
Try to make a picture, and, even being selective, it will be filled with strangers. So, give up! People is life, and China is… millions of people.