Sunday, July 15, 2007
This afternoon I had hoped to explore the Underground City (Di Xia Cheng).
It's a maze of tunnels built in the 1960s, apparently able to hold 60,000 people in case of a nuclear attack.
But I had trouble finding this unique attraction. I tried to follow the directions in my guidebook, but came across several rundown hutongs, or Chinese-style old houses with tiled roofs, and some of them even in the process of being demolished.
I asked two taxi drivers to take me to the Underground City, but both had never heard of it.
So I kept walking down the main street and came across an ancient gate.
It turns out it's called Zhengyangmen, or Qianmen, "Front Gate". It's a landmark where the emperors used to pass when they went on their way to the Temple of Heaven from the Forbidden City. But because I got there just five minutes past four, the ticket office for the giant watchtower just closed so I was unable to go up and see a more panoramic view of the city.
But there was plenty to see on the ground, with little kids waving China flags, people posing for pictures or just hanging out.
Here's a picture of Zhengyangmen with someone's giant kite, one of many people were flying in the hazy sky.
I'll just have to find the Underground City another day.