3. Beijing Sleeps - Military closes the Forbidden City

We still had not adjusted to the time shift and were up and about at 05:00, very eager to investigate this fantastic city. Beijing was still asleep, and the streets were very quiet. We had the roads all to ourselves, which we had not expected in the second largest city of China (after Shanghai).

We arrived at a picturesque little park, somewhere west of the central railway station, where we encountered a group of seniors practicing Tai Chi with swords (see video above). Dilek joined them from a distance and got a small morning workout. One of the elderly men approached us, wanting to have a conversation in English. At first we thought he was just curious about us and our background, but we later found out that it is quite common that locals who speak a bit of English to approach tourists, wishing to to practice their language skills. It was something that we enjoyed as well. Around 07:00, the city started making some noise and the shop gates began their ascension. Perfect time for us to get some breakfast!

Train tickets can only be purchased certain days

In Beijing, there are always heaps of people sleeping outside the railway station. It seems that many people chose this option to save money, when they have an early morning train. It is such a common occurrence that no one will even raise an eyebrow.
When the legion of people sleeping outside the railway station started awakening, we took it as a sign that it was the opportune time to purchase tickets to Hong Kong. It turns out, tickets could only be purchased certain days, and earliest three days before departure. Well, rules are rules! We just hope we will get a seat ;-).
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Honorable Visitors in the Forbidden City

Thereafter we walked all the way to the Forbidden City. It was the first time we saw a palace from the Ming dynasty, and we found it to be quite spectacular. The entrance was closed off, however, and we walked around the massive construction to find another entrance. The streets were cordoned off, with a military officer stationed every three meters. They did not seem to mind us, however, and based on their relaxed conduct we figured that there was no emergency but rather an event of some sort. We later found out that the Prime Minister of Thailand was on a visit, and thus, tourists were not allowed to enter the Forbidden City. Bummer for us.
We still had an amazing day exploring the city. As everything was new to us, we were absorbing everything we saw. The flow of the city, its architecture, the people, the clothes, different shops (and their procedures), the kites, the ducks hanging from windows, etc. We walked so much that our feet were aching by the end of the day. But it was nothing compared to what we would experience the next day...
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