Jason and I were the only people with our guide, so we got to do whatever we wanted, which for me primarily consisted of wandering off to take a huge number of photos. I tried to pare it down a bit, but I think there's still gonna be a ton that end up on the blog. Ah well... What can you do when everywhere you turn there are such beautiful and ancient artifacts?
Being blonde and blue-eyed, I got a lot of stares and quite a few requests for my photograph to be taken. At first I thought I was doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing, because all of a sudden there would be a volley of explosive words directed my way as they headed straight toward me. But no, I wasn't in a forbidden place in the Forbidden Temple. I was just American. Between that and having a personal tour guide/chauffer, I felt like a celebrity. Jason was a little jealous, so later that afternoon when some solitary soul pleaded for his photograph with HIM, he got all excited and wanted me to document it. So you won't see any photos of me with my assorted Asian entourages, but you will see Jason with his lone fan.
In the Summer Palace there were all these cool old trees and rocks. I'm sure they have more sophisticated names, but "gnarled trees" and "holey rocks" will have suffice for my narrative purposes here. I had to get my picture taken, crawling all over this neat rock formation. Jason didn't think I should be climbing all around the thing, but I was having fun and my papparazziism was in full gear. Unfortunately, as soon as I climbed back down, what do you suppose I saw right behind me? This HUGE placard that said ABSOLUTELY NO CLIMBING ON ARTIFACTS.
Fortunately for me, this time there was no security officers around. (There was a near-incident on the bridge that involved a guard, that famous photo of Mao, and my desire for a picture, but that's another story....)
There are these humongous red doors that have nine golden doorknobs that run across horizontally and nine more that run vertically (nine being the number of power and perfection for the Chinese). People are really superstitious - everyone passing by had to rub the doorknobs as they walked by. The knobs at arm level are all shiny, the finish completely worn off by the 20,000 visitors that pass by each day. Oh, and don't step on the threshold as you walk through. Legend says the evil spirits can jump on your pantleg and gain entrance along with you.
Check out the huge unevenness of this brick courtyard. Our guide told us that the top layer of bricks goes horizontal but there's a second layer underneath that runs vertically (to prevent enemies from tearing up the road/courtyard).