After arriving in Beijing in the dark and a thunderstorm the night before, the city took on a much friendlier and less intimidating vibe in the sunshine. I got up nice and early in an attempt to kick the inevitable jet lag and set about making my way to Tiananmen Square. After forcing myself through a sea of people and onto the metro, arriving at Tiananmen was no less crowded. The queue seemed to span for miles but in fact moved pretty swiftly. The mass securitisation of the square, bag scans, Segway riding policemen and military presence all added to the creation of a very evident atmosphere of restraint and authority for which the square is famous for in recent times.
I then walked through into the awe-inspiring Forbidden City (after waiting half an hour for a ticket and more security of course). Whilst there was still a massive amount of people, the sheer size of the place meant a lot of areas were actually quite quiet and a lot more peaceful than Tiananmen Square. All the buildings were absolutely gorgeous, all with traditionally painted Chinese roofs and plenty of stone statues around the place.
After a few hours exploring the Forbidden City I went to the facing park, Jingshan Park, which had a huge hill boasting amazing views over the Forbidden City which really showed the massive size of the complex. From the other side was a distant view of the business district and the sky scrapper Beijing is more commonly depicted by now.
The afternoon was spent around Beihai Lake, the most peaceful and beautiful place imaginable, a world away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding mega city. Boats rowed on the lake, old local people played in their bands and danced together and calligraphers practiced Chinese characters with large brushes and water on the paving slabs.
I spent the evening at a ‘dumpling party’ in the hostel’s bar where I met a few people, made and ate dumplings and drank beer before hitting a cocktail bar. All in all I’d say a pretty amazing first day in China!