9,999 steps around the Forbidden City

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BEIJING — We went to Forbidden City today. Our legs are sore from yesterday’s hike up the Great Wall. The story is that the city has 999 buildings, with 9,999 rooms. In Chinese tradition the number nine represents longevity. It seems to have worked for the Forbidden City, which was started in 1407, finished in 1420. The place is massive, the buildings are huge. Apparently 30,000 people once lived there and it’s easy to imagine that.

We all felt the need for lunch after Forbidden City. We went in search of pizza for lunch but we weren’t successful. One of the students said he can’t believe it but he’s already sick of Chinese food. Instead we had more fried rice (which isn’t really fried here) kung pao chicken, kung pao shrimp and noodles in eggplant sauce. Pizza would be really nice.

I left the students after lunch because I was tired and they wanted to go to the silk market. That, of course, meant even more walking. By this time it was about 3pm and I was ready to quit. For those of you my age, never vacation with people half your age. They cover twice as much ground in half as much time. I vaguely remember those days.

I’m way out of my comfort zone here. Even Beijing, the most westernized city, is not very western. I was a little worried about getting back to the hotel on my own. Navigating the subway went well — even with two transfers — but I didn’t pay enough attention on the walk to the subway station from the hotel. Luckily the hotel room key has the name and address on it and someone helped me out. (At this point anyone who went on this trip before is laughing because the subway stop is only a hop, skip and a jump from the hotel. Embarrassing.)

I really just want to get into a newsroom, back to something I know. But I shouldn’t be in a hurry because I’ll be there for a week. This could be a loooooooong trip, but I’m still very grateful to be here. The experience — even the third time in China — is still very cool, even if I only do half as much as the students.

We have one more day on our own then we start reporting on Friday.

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