We were warned to watch our backpacks, wallets, and cameras. The ques for the emperor's throne is always crowded. My husband is very tall and was probably spotted miles away. When he put both hands up to take a picture of the throne, somebody took his cellphone. There were so many people pressed against him, he couldn't tell who stole it. It isn't easy trying to reach your phone company from China to deactivate your phone. I suggest you hold everything in a fanny pack and keep it close to you.
This is still a must see spot. Though I can see why the last emperor may have viewed it as the nicest large prison you could live in. We found the Gardens and homes of Suzhou a much more interesting spot to visit. After a while all of the palace buildings start looking alike. Many courtyards, mostly stone covered.
You can minimize some of the crowds by avoiding Mondays where school kids can come for free. Summer is a dreadful time to visit. It was over 100 degree's and humid. You can buy a taped tour which is OK if you are on a budget. Rather than buying a group tour it seems to be better to buy a private tour and go on your own pace. It is not as expensive as it sounds in China.
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