Forbidden City Flythrough

One of the moderately strange things about our epic journey is that, given the amount of far flung and exotic places we’re going to, we end up transit-ing areas that would usually form epic destinations in and of themselves. Perhaps the classic example here is Beijing – which I recall going to only a few years ago as the highlight of a visit to China, and which this time round we passed through, for a day or so at a time, either side of our trip to North Korea. A place to eat some tasty food, get some laundry done (surprisingly difficult – the phrase Chinese laundry evidently needs re-working) and to marvel at the modern, global big city stereotype that is Beijing nowadays.

Also to go visit the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square and get our first go-round at the great debate on modern restoration programmes. The Forbidden City was touched up pretty zealously pre the Olympics – whilst some areas of faded grandeur remain, the majority of the larger sites have been thoroughly worked over with a good coat of paint and plenty of gold leaf. Many complain that the City has lost its romance, its air of history – but on this occasion, I’m actually on the side of the restorers. Grass growing from the rooves has its own charm, but I just can’t picture the Emperor-gods of China, or more particularly the famously bloodthirsty (and quite probably mad) Empress Cixi in this placidly tranquil environment.

Bring on the glitz and the dancing girls – but make sure to keep the oil cauldrons nice and hot whilst you do so.