Our tour guide picked us up at 7:30am for our full-on day of sightseeing. He was a very nice and knowledgeable man who spoke English fairly well but with a strong accent. We were one of the first to be picked up, an American man was already in the van, then we picked up a friend of dj-marksman and finally a Colombian and her Chinese friend who were on the first day of their holiday.
Our first stop was Tienanmen Square which was massive! It was fairly hot, around 35 degrees (Beijing ranges from -17 in winter to +40 in summer), and the stone floor reflected the heat. It was surprising quiet but still hundreds if not a thousand other people were there. We got *some* history of the place and interesting facts, like the oil painting of Chairman Mao is redone every year, or when they raise the flag it is exactly 108 steps and done in exactly 2:07 minutes. Once we did the touristy thing and took a lot of photos, we headed across the road and through some tunnels and ended up in the Forbidden Palace.
Forbidden palace was really informative and the place looked great. The Chinese have an interesting approach when it comes to preserving old landmarks which involves just rebuilding it to look like it did originally. The palace was much busier than the square and it was sometimes difficult to get around. We were told about emperors who had 3000 concubines which I thought was interesting about how normal and open the whole system was. There was a initiation ceremony, a house and even a retirement village for the concubines. They had eunuchs to look after everything so no one do anything naughty.
However being an emperor sounds a bit of a curse, like originally the children would plot against each other to kill the eldest so that they could become the emperor. This was fixed by a smart emperor who realised the title should go to the one who deserved it and was the smartest and nicest not who was luckily to be born first or the most treacherous. Often they would just eat alone, not with his wife or his concubines and eventually all succumb to paranoia. Eventually all the rooms and places started to look like the others as we were warned the night before, and we then headed off to the great wall.