Walking around the Forbidden City took a bit longer than expected, and by the time we left it was about 4 o’clock. Originally we’d planned to visit the Temple of Heaven that afternoon, but it closed at 5 and we weren’t sure if we could make it or not.
After a quick change of plan, we decided instead to head up to the Olympic village in the north of the city, figuring it would be open much later. After a long walk round the outside of the exterior wall of the Forbidden City to the nearest metro station, we enjoyed for the first time the merits of the Beijing underground. It seemed very security conscious, as you have to send your bag through another x-ray machine every time you enter the station!
At a cheap flat-rate 2 yuan per ticket (20p), it was one of the cheapest metros I’ve experienced (I think Mexico City’s was about 35p in 2010), but it was finally warm again and we could sit down again having been on our feet all day. One of the cool aspects of the Beijing tube was that there were TV screens in the tunnel that play adverts at the same speed as the train so it appears as though you’re watching in real time.
Exiting the station, the Olympic Park was immediately in front of us, with both the National Stadium and the aquatics centre dominating the view. After another security check, we had free roam of the place; there were more Chinese tourists there than I expected, and a few people trying to sell tat to everybody, but lots of wide open roads and walkways. I haven’t been to the London Olympic Park so can’t compare the two just yet, but from Google Maps (the trusty arbiter of vision) London seems to have more greenery.
The main boulevard bisects the two main stadia, and we wandered down taking photos thinking about having something to eat as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast a long time before.
After dinner, we came out again and the sun had set, so we could see the stadia in their nighttime glory. At the opposite end of the park to the station was a colourful sculpture which was apparently part of the international broadcasting part where Sue Barker must have sat. Between that and the Birds’ Nest was the Olympic flame (now sadly extinguished).
Having warmed up a bit during dinner, we found that once the sun had set it became even colder, so we took a few more photos and decided to head back to the hotel for a well earned rest.