Me and Chairman Mao
  Room for cream?
Yesterday I played tourist and went to look around the Forbidden City, the ancient palace that sits in the center of Beijing, right across the street from Tiananmen Square. (The famous picture of Chairman Mao is actually hanging on Tiananmen Gate, which is the entrance to the entrance of the Forbidden City.) The first thing you notice is how massive it is: 7,750,000 square feet and 980 or so rooms, although as far as I could tell it only had three bathrooms, which would be a real bitch in the mornings.

So, what did I find in this gigantic imperial palace that was built in the early fifteenth century and served as home to the Emperor of China for over five-hundred years? What did I see inside this world-famous structure, the symbol of Chinese power and might for over half a millennium? What did I notice right outside the Qianqing Men (Gate of Heavenly Purity), which separates the outer court from the inner court, where only the Emperor, his concubines, and the palace eunuchs were allowed to enter, on pain of death?

Starbucks, of course! What else? I'm hoping this means there'll be one at the Great Wall too, but we'll see. I hear they're also opening up stores on top of the Eiffel Tower and in the Kremlin, and possibly putting a drive-through window in the Lincoln Bedroom, although the details on that one still have to be worked out.

No, I'm Not Kidding

For the record, I don't mind that the Starbucks was there, right in the heart of the Forbidden City. Really, when you think about it, I think it makes a certain kind of sense. I mean, if I were the Son of Heaven (AKA the Emperor), after a long, hard day of emperoring--dropping nuggets of Confucian wisdom on ignorant peasants, making fun of Marco Polo when he left the room, and consorting with my many concubines--there's nothing I'd like better than a nice, hot cup of joe.

For the record, I had an Americano, and I liked it.

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