Escape to Charcoal Hill
I felt obligated to visit the Forbidden City while in Beijing as it tops every "must see" list. I sort of wish I hadn't. Even though I went early in the morning it was already mobbed with tourists. After about thirty minutes inside the compound all the little courtyards began to look the same and the crowds became overwhelming. I started to feel panicky and searched the maze for an exit. When I finally escaped I headed to the leafy park directly north of the Forbidden City and made the short climb up Charcoal Hill. From that vantage point I breathed a sigh of relief and admired the vastness and beauty of the Forbidden City from a safe distance. Hopefully you will luck out with a clear and sunny day like I did which greatly enhanced the city views. It costs RMB 10 to enter Jingshan Park (and RMB 60 to enter the Forbidden City but you've been warned).
By Arwen Joyce, AFAR Local Expert
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