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July 06, 2008

The Forbidden City

If I had a list of 50 things to do in a lifetime -- a visit to the Forbidden City would rank near the top. Beijing seems to house record-breaking complexes -- one of the world’s largest shopping malls (Golden Resources with 1,000 Western style stores), the world’s largest KFC restaurant, and the world’s largest public square are all within the city limits. Not surprising, the Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace complex -- the city within a city occupies 72 hectares.

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The Forbidden City (or Palace Museum, as it’s now formally called) charges a small entry fee to visitors, but as a photographer’s dream, it’s an absolute must. If you only have time to be a tourist for one day -- there’s no question that part of it should be spent at the Forbidden City. If you want to learn about the history, hire an English speaking guide -- but with so many photo opportunities, it might make sense to walk through on your own on another day. There are no limits on photographers, so take advantage and be sure to charge your batteries, pack extra memory cards, and bring a variety of lenses to capture the 980 surviving buildings and tens of thousands of tourists that visit each day. It’s also a great place to people watch. Don’t feel guilty photographing strangers -- they’ll more than likely snap a picture or two of you with their camera cell phones before the day is out. Westerners aren’t easy to come by in Beijing -- at least not this month.

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