Philipp Sarnoff, a German teacher in Chunchang, is arguing with a tourist guide. “I can get you a ticket in a minute, if you queue yourself, it will take you 2 hours”: Lily ,the tourist guide, points to the ticket booths across the place before the huge gate, which is the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. “There are too many people, yesterday we had 70,000 visitors.” she tries to convince him. The queues are not too long and he is willing to take his chances, he explains to Lily, she finally leaves him alone, after handing him her name card, just in case he changes his mind.
According to Xinhuanet, 186,000 visitors came to the Forbidden City on the 2nd of October 2012, which is the highest number on record. Amongst the most popular tourist destinations in China, the Forbidden City ranks on place 2 directly after the Great wall. Many Chinese and foreign tourist come to visit the Forbidden City during the so called “Golden Week” holidays starting from the 1st of October and lasting for 7 days.
While Philipp is waiting in a short queue for his turn to buy a ticket, he comments on the many people around :”It’s crazy but that’s what I expected. But I’m a lot taller than most of the Chinese and can see everything.” The 1.98m tall German makes his way through the security gates into the Forbidden City.
Since September 2011 the Forbidden City website offers an online reservation system. It has been put into place to avoid long queues at the ticket booths and to better plan for peak visitor days. Unfortunately the system is only available in Chinese.
Inside the Forbidden City, Camilla Maville and Nadir Rossi from Italy, take a rest between 2 stairs over which a the constant stream of peoples make their way up to a gate. They study Chinese here in Beijing and it’s there first holiday since they arrived. They decided to visit the Forbidden city in the morning but didn’t know that there was online ticket reservation system.“ They seem ok with so many people at this attraction and explain, that China has many people and that the streets of Beijing are crowded even when there is no holiday.
Stephan Mueller, another German, is asked to pose on a photo together with some Chinese. “I’m always asked to pose on photos, you get used to it.” He just finished an internship in Shanghai and takes the holidays for a trip to Beijing. He planned his trip from Shanghai with the help of some friends but he hasn’t heard of the online ticket system either. The Forbidden City and the Great Wall are the 2 main attractions he wants to visit.
The large place behind him seems not very crowded. But the hall in front of him shows a different picture. On display inside is the throne of the emperor. A crowd of tourists have gathered fighting about getting a glimpse and good picture of the empty throne.
Yu Dalong, a Chinese tourist from Heilong is happy that he came today. “Yesterday there were 70,000 visitors, I heard. Today there are not so many people here.”
Camilla and Nadir have made it through exit of the Forbidden City. The place behind the south gate is really crowded, it’s late afternoon. They discuss what to do after the visit. Camille comments on the Forbidden City:”It’s really pretty.”