Double Whammy: The Forbidden City & Wángfǔjǐng

While a singular, first encounter may set the tone for an experience, it’s a series of encounters that ultimately composes a symphony of revelation.

Despite our poor navigation through treacherous umbrella whackings and beads of sweat blinding our eyes, we made it to the Forbidden City. It’s a bit of a trek to the city’s innards, but a necessary Hajj-like endeavor (or so I imagine it to be). Though we didn’t wear traditional garb and we weren’t driven by a religious devotion, something divine must’ve been motivating us through the crowds, close spaces and past the public defecation. Two hours after our departure from campus, we’d finally reached the official entrance line to the palatial grounds. The entry guards, however, weren’t quite satisfied with our admission tickets, saying that summer studies at Peking University certainly don’t warrant discounted entry. “Would Chinese study abroad students receive discounted tickets in America?” they wanted to know.

the referenced 'public defecation' sorry--too good to exclude

Yes, in fact, they would.

I don’t know just how we ended up assuaging the guards, but eventually we received the wave of consent and were urged to quickly move ahead. Like cattle, we mooed, moving through the arched entryway in a dumb heat-induced swagger before officially reaching the promise(d) land. Admittedly, we didn’t make it too deep into the labyrinth, cutting our trip short after a visit to the Imperial Gardens. While it’s always (usually) worth visiting these monumental, historically rich sites, I’ve just about reached my pagoda threshold. You know how it is—once you’ve seen one French Gothic cathedral, you’ve kind of seen ‘em all. No? Besides, anticipation is no longer an activity I enjoy. I thought lines had seen their heyday, that we’d moved on to E-ZPass, but apparently the Forbidden City has only opened its doors to modernity. The gate remains heavily guarded.

Eating scorpion...crunch.

We exited the grounds with remarkable ease, however, sniffing out the way to Wangfujing’s exotic-specialty lined “Treat Street.” This little side street’s implanted amidst one of Beijing’s most-trafficked shopping centers and home to international haute couturiers Hermes, Longchamp, Gucci, TAG Heuer, amongst others. I’d heard what bizarre foods were in store, but I hadn’t quite expected kebab sticks of scorpion, starfish, swallows, goat penis, or tarantula to be lining the street like carpet fringe. The food varied in color, fragrance and apparent freshness, but was all foreign and fascinating. Admittedly, the street’s a quintessential tourist trap, but hearing squeals of fellow adventurers is well worth the clichéd experience. If you’re ever on the verge of jadedness, a quick bite of fried scorpion might be just the remedy you need. A salty taste of almost-nothing, and the arachnid will stir your mind, reactivate that mojo, and, who knows—maybe it’ll even settle that oft-angry travelers’ belly.

Encounter. Engage. Experience.

About JuliaBassiri

Artist, Athlete, Academic.

Posted on July 30, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Tiananmen is certainly one must visit. One full day was not enough to see all the splendor of the past. Couldn’t help noticing the right upper pic with the woman holding the child. Absolute horror, after 10 years China still comes over me. Slit-trousers for infants ready to go on every occasion! Bus, train, Hospitals, anywhere. On the verge of being over-critical this is some of the most nastiest stuff one encounters in the Middle kingdom.
    Reminds me of an episode in Eastern Zhejiang, brand new Hospital, newly tiled.
    Patients sit in line, 30-40 of them, each side in a row, drip bottles hanging in front all of them on drip (standard practice in China). Baby has nature’s call, mom gets it all down in front of horrified patients. Not to worry, cleaner comes with a large mop, and wipes the whole mess through the outpatient ‘s department, leaving a trail from one end to the other, without washing up the mess.
    The nurses come, we mention it to them. They merely shrug their shoulders, people don’t listen, she says, we can’t do anything about it.

    • wow…a disturbing episode and a horrifying response. one would at least hope for sanitary practices to be carried out in a hospital, if nowhere else. thanks for sharing your cultural shock.

  2. Thanks for reply. China remains strange in many aspects, no matter the economic progress. A few sequences of travel exhibits can be seen (and more will be posted) here Don’t despair – all is T.I.C. guess not need for elaborations .. 🙂
    Thanks again – look forward to read more of encounterbeijing ..(by the way I know of a real good Beijing duck restaurant – ( ) adjacent to is one of the most reasonable Hotels in Beijing … in case there is a need.. pls drop a line all readers are welcome 2. – in contrast to China – alpine city jewel Bludenz has a somewhat different image

  3. Hope you don’t mind me posting those links – just intend to add some more China to your excellent posts …
    Really look forward to Taiwan – a more subtle China on the whole. bye for now ..
    P.S.: If are interested in exchanging links pls do let me know ..

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