The Forbidden City is grander than I ever imagined, although the sights Chinese people clamber to photograph seem to depart sometimes from what interests foreigners. "Another big yellow chair," an Eastern European woman told her friend with an eye-roll tone of voice, and they wandered on, while Chinese tourists impatiently waited their turn to glimpse another Chinese imperial throne. I for one was delighted at the vast expanses of crumbling bricks below the throne rooms and found it easy to photograph desolate landscapes nearly devoid of human figures in an attraction undoubtedly filled with thousands of people.
Tonight I had lotus root with dry red peppers for dinner at the second- or third-to-last restaurant in my hutong that I haven't already tried or ruled out (example of ruled-out restaurant: donkey meat specialist). An occasional hot pepper slice added a surprisingly hearty depth to the rice, but afterward my ear felt like it might burn off.