I slept 12 hours last night and feel much better. I changed to the hostel today and bought tickets to the Wall and Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Then I went out to see the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. I am absolutely shocked at how much air pollution there is here. I am being dead serious when I say it makes the air in LA look as clear as Mt. Everest. All day long it looks like it's approaching dusk and all of my pictures look like they are taken through a window screen. And one of the girls in my hostel said she's surprised how CLEAN the air is compared to 5 years ago! She said then you couldn't even see the skyscrapers 50 meters in front of you. I
have no idea how people live here, and Asian people are known for their longevity! It's really incomprehensible to me.
At the Forbidden City I bought the audio guide, but then didn't have enough cash for the deposit so I went in search of the ATM. Turns out it was VERY far through the FC and when I finally reached it, it wouldn't take my card.
I'm going to whine for a minute here, so bear with me. I have raging diarrhea in a land of a hole in the ground, I have to blow my nose literally every 4-5 min, I walk for almost 30 min not understanding anything about the stunning things I am seeing, and when I finally get to the ATM, it won't give me money. I seriously almost cried. But, I knew my experience was all about my attitude so I bought an ice cream cone and just tried to appreciate the things I was seeing, even if I didn't understand them. As I was walking along enjoying my ice cream cone, I took a lick and the entire top dropped off the cone. With my cat-like reflexes I somehow managed to grab the ice cream before it hit the ground, but now my hands are totally sticky and full of ice
I finished my walk through the FC and when I exited I saw this beautiful pagoda on the hill so decided I needed to go there. I also read in the book that it provided sweeping views of the FC, which it did.
BTW, this picture was taken at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon on a day with no clouds in the sky! THIS is how bad the air pollution is!
It was a lovely park and I strolled through to the other entrance and took the bus to Tienanmen Square. It was quite interesting to compare Tienanmen to Red Square. I think Tienanmen is much larger.
I lucked out and happened to get there a sunset (although you couldn't tell with the smog) when they lower the flag and a bunch of guys in uniforms march around. This seems to be a big deal in Beijing because there were throngs of people gathered around the flagpole. I actually handed my camera to a girl up on a man's shoulders to take a picture for me. During this time they also close the huge main arterial street behind the flagpole. The process takes about an hour and they do it as sunrise and sunset EVERY DAY!
After that I wanted to get something to eat so went in search of a restaurant recommended in the guidebook. I had a good map and was sure I was in the right area, and asked numerous people, but I never found it. So I ended up going back to the hostel and just having dumplings.