No visit to Beijing will be complete without visiting the Tiananmen and taking a photo of the giant portrait of Mao Zedong.
The Tiananmen (天安门), or Gate of Heavenly Peace, is the most popular icon of Beijing and even China as a whole, and is the main gate to access the Imperial City surrponding the Forbidden City.
It’s located across the road from the Tiananmen Square and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (which I didn’t get to visit due to some event going on the day I was there).
Go through the Tiananmen to look around the Imperial City.
Once you manage to get past the huge crowds of domestic tourists taking pictures and avoiding getting hit by a selfie stick or a running person with a hand sticking out in an attempt to touch as much of the walls and doors as possible, you will enter a square, to enter another gate.
The Duanmen (端门). Pass under this to access the touristy part of yet another square.
There are some restaurants and souvenir stalls on the left, as well as ticketing counters for the Forbidden City. As I was too cheap to buy a ticket, I didn’t go in. It was already a far walk from the Tiananmen, and the Forbidden city is longer than the walk lengthwise.
The Meridian Gate (午门), access point to enter the Forbidden City if you’ve already got your tickets. Beware of touts here.
There are some local fast food restaurants on both sides of this gate. It’s not McDonald’s, but rather a term they use for food that is served instantly. You can expect noodles and rice, not burgers.
Look out for the shuttle buggy “scams” on both sides of the Meridian Gate.
The touring path is a one-way access and you cannot walk back out of the Tiananmen. When facing the Meridian Gate, you need to exit area via the Queyou (right) Gate on the left or the Quezuo (left) Gate on the right. Let that sink in for a while first.
Outside of these two gates, there will be shuttle buggies charging 2 yuan for a ride to, I quote, “the subway station”. When someone in the queue asked the staff, he said, “At the alighting point, just head straight and turn left to the subway station”. In Chinese, of course. In case there might be understanding errors due to the proper English translation, I’ll provide you with the literal translation too, which is “直走, 转左, 就到达了！” or “Go straight, turn left, and you’ll reach already!” For 2 yuan (S$0.40) for a ride to the station, I hopped on of course, together with the other hopefuls that we’ll not need to walk far back to civilization.
The buggy which I will board.
And off we went, after the driver collected the 2 yuan fares from all of us.
The moment the buggy turned right in the previous picture, out of sight from the boarding point, which was about 2 minutes away, the buggy terminated at its destination stop, the Xihuamen. And when the passengers all asked the driver that why he isn’t going to the subway station, he shouted back, “Who told you that?!” That was the first time I joined a bunch of Chinese in a commotion to ask about the buggy service.
So we asked, how do we get to the subway station now? He said, “Just head straight and turn left to the subway station”, or “直走, 转左, 就到达了！”. Well that was what the previous guy told the crowd, maybe all of us has failed Geography and have indeed wronged them.
And so we walked straight, and turned left at the junction.
All 900 meters of it.
I was so pissed off, I didn’t even bother taking pictures of the walk.
But I did successfully get to the end, where the Tiananmen West subway station is, and a view of the National Centre for the Performing Arts or colloquially known as The Giant Egg.
I used the word “scam” because there is some truth to their description of “head(ing) straight and turn(ing) left to the subway station”, and the staff and buggys look official. I don’t know if they are truly official or not, since there are no tickets issued, but no authority has stopped them.
It might be a scam to me, but it might not be according to some local Chinese. Maybe 900 meters is a nearby walkable distance as compared to walking from Beijing to Shanghai, I do not know.