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 🙂