First full day in Beijing. After breakfast met everyone in the foyer where I was introduced to my personal guide, Michelle and boarded the bus to the Forbidden City. Still in a bit of daze as I entered the side gate, it was hard to believe I was now standing in a complex that I had seen so many times in movies and documentaries. Dad had insisted that Michelle sit next to me on the bus so that she could translate what the main guide was saying. But the guy never stopped talking so I told her not to bother with translating and just give me the main points. It was much more interesting talking about our families and life in general in China. Turns out Michelle is unusual in that she is the third of a family of three children, something that I didn't think was very common in single child policy China. She explained that her family is from a smaller city and 2 children is not too uncommon. She told me her father was able to arrange things so that it was OK.
Spent around 4 hours exploring the Forbidden City. The only disappointing thing was that two of the main buildings were completely covered with scaffolding, but I consoled myself that I would be returning in a couple of years and will get to see them then. Towards the back of the complex are smaller rooms where the concubines were kept but now they house various museums. It was also great seeing the famous 9 nine dragons wall.
Lunch was in a restaurant that was right next door to the Forbidden City. We then went to an old part of Beijing, the Hutong area where we boarded rickshaws which took us at a very fast pace through the area and along a canal where we stopped at the former residence of Song Qingling who was Sun Yat-sen's wife. It was quite a grand residence and property with lovely gardens.
That night we attended our first official dinner which was at, what I assumed to be a Government building seeing as there were guards at the front gate. Dad said the program had casual dress but when we went downstairs all the men had suits on and the women were also dressed up. I felt really uncomfortable even though Dad said he was right, so I told him I was getting changed anyway and went and put my suit on. The dinner was in quite a formal setting so I was so glad I did. Dad didn't seem to care. Lots of speeches by officials and also all the overseas men including Dad were asked to speak. It was a very grand dining room and the food was served banquet style. The most unusual thing about it was that a lot of the dishes were soup based. Mostly very nice but I imagined I would be going to the loo a fair bit that night.
On the way back we were told not to eat or drink anything because the next day we were to be taken to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital where we are all to have full medical check-ups.