Beijing Shenanigans #4

Today’s adventure started on the subway to Tiantandongmen – home of the Temple of Heaven.

Inside the green-roofed gates and amongst the Phoenix trees we found collections of women dancing in unison, little boys playing Hackensack, aged men with their cards and women with their knitting needles.

Our guide tells us that once upon a time the gardens were for the emporer only and it was only in recent history opened to the public. I wonder what he would think of the fun and frivolity happening amongst the lawns.

The temple of heaven is where the emporer came to pray and make sacrifice to the Gods. He had a little round disc in the centre of a giant circular platform where he stood facing three lanterns in the west… Beyond the ceremonial platforms were burners where the sacrificed would be burnt. It wasn’t hard it imagine what the waft of cooked meat would smell like thanks to the vendor tucked in between the trees. One of his delicacies were chips and ice cream…

Amongst the people, the many many people, were a group of young Asian school boys who greeted my brother and asked him questions in English. Their mother explained to me and our guide that the boys come from the city to the park to practice and engage in conversational English. It was inspiring to watch such young people eager to learn…

Next stop, after an hour bus ride across town, was Beijing Zoo! Our mission to see the panda (da xiong mao) was achieved… Albeit lasting a split second after the crowd push me forward enough to catch a glimpse of Mr.P as he sat up from the corner. We also saw lions, tigers and bears… Oh my, I may burst into song. The funniest scene was watching a mother monkey pull her son by his tail back into the safety of the tree after he curiously leapt to the window to greet all the visitors lining the glass walls.

By mid-afternoon everyone was weary from walking and the humidity wasn’t helping… But we just had one more place to embark before we said Zai Jian and that was the Lama Temple slightly north of the city…

Lama Temple, one of few places in Beijing honouring Tibetan Buddhism. Similarly constructed to other buildings of its era there were a series of halls with Buddhas to pray to; medicine, longevity etc… At the front of most were incense burners. Three incense sticks representing past, future and present burned as they prayed. The highlight and the wowza of the day was the 18-metre tall Buddha hiding in the back hall of the temple. It holds the Guinness world record for tallest Buddha and really is a sight to be seen.

So after forgoing the subway home for a taxi and having a nice long hot bath we ventured back out into the night for dinner. Tonight’s destination hidden within the hutongs was a lovely oriental resteraunt. Tucked I’m the corner I enjoy a glass of red wine as the hostess bang the gong in arrival of our Bejing Peking Duck where we watched the chef carve before our eyes. To say it was yum doesn’t do it justice… It was amazing!

Tomorrow is quieter we are off to Capital Museum and the bargaining in the silk market 🙂

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Beijing Shenanigans #2

Hot.
Very hot.
Muggy and hot.
Humid and hot.
Everything and hot.

That’s what was going through my mind as I sweltered beneath my sunnies and hat and guzzling down ice water (shui) at every opportune moment…

The day began navigating the crowds at Tiannemen Square where Chairman Mao watches over majestically; the Chinese national flag flying tall and proud across the square from the National Museum.

People.
Lots of people.

Thanks to some creative techniques displayed by our private tour guide Sarah we were able to skip the sea of tourists snaking the squares perimeter and bask in the morning sun…

Note: Pedestrian crossings – in Western countries a zebra crossing is where a car slows to give way to pedestrians; Beijing is different. People here don’t look left and right; they tend to do a 360* twirl!

From the Square we ventured forth to the Forbidden City – a series of walls and palaces that were once only eyes for the elite. Sarah explained to us the roles each dynasty played in the city and how only the emporer used the central palace; his sons occupying the smaller ones to the left and right.

Dotted around the walls are giant pots that are usually filled with water and in winter have their own blankets to prevent from freezing. The purpose of the pots comes from a disaster in the city where the palace burnt down within 100 days of being moved to. The water is a precaution in case fire occurs again.

From the forbidden city we came upon Jinshang Park – the highest point in the city. From the top of the pavilion we could see over Beijing and the hutongs.

in the park we attended a tea ceremony. When drinking tea we held the pot with three fingers and the first tasting is done in three sips. It is custom for ladies to extend their fingers whereas men do not. we tried five different teas – a vast arrangement of flavours and textures. jasmine will always be my favourite 🙂

We were also witness to some locals practising Tai Chi amongst the bamboo – it was very tranquil and the perfect oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We paid a visit to a family in the hutongs where they explained the history of where they lived. This particular family explained how they had lived there for three generations. It had been originally bigger but during the Cultural Revolution it was taken by the government and then sold back to them. They could only afford half of what they had before. Imagine a cluster of shoebox rooms circling a small courtyard. Although the little birds bouncing about there bird cages that were hung from the tree gave the impression of hope and faith.

Rickshaws are fun! After all that walking it was nice to put my feet up and watch someone else do all the work. We had a rickshaw guide of the hutongs where we could see the poverty and simple living of its residents. Almost at every corner there would be a circle of sun-baked locals sitting on upturned boxes and crates playing a game of cards or a sea of little ones running along the narrow road with rainbow umbrellas and ice creams.

The day ended with an acrobatic show that included a series of sparkling motor bikes whizzing about a giant globe upon the stage…

Tomorrow…. Great Wall & Summer Palace.

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Beijing Shenanigans #1

Day One:

Patchwork pavement and hutongs hidden in between busy bustling streets of pedestrians, cars, cyclists and rickshaws.

The rules are: There are no rules!

It’s all open to suggestion and mostly interpretation.

After a long flight from Melbourne this sleepy girl walked into summer and oh my! It hid hard, very hard. Within seconds she had shed the multiple layers of winter wardrobes and was shuffling through an Asian filled city looking for reprieve.

Her first afternoon was spent in a shopping plaza home to an assortment of mechanical dinosaurs and all to familiar retail chains. Except everything was written in hanzi – it was VERY disorientating!

But she found her way and before long she was strolling alongside the hutongs in search of sustenance. She came across a bright red cafe filled with happy smiling Asians so decided to venture forth.

Her biggest challenge: CHOPSTICKS

She’s never caught onto the idea and never been good at it. Tonight was no exception… She did manage to hold them in a rather special way and is sure the chefs behind the shiny silver grills were having a good laugh at her expense. Although despite the grease going EVERYWHERE she did her most dumplings and pork balls where they were meant to be… And it was a yummy introduction to Chinese cuisine!

Now of to neverneverland before Day 2 comes and she finds herself in the Forbidden City…

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