Temple of Heaven, Tianmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, and Chinese food
07.08.2012 - 07.08.2012 88 °F
I'm tired just thinking about all that we packed into today, so hopefully that will make me not drone on and bore you all. It was a jam-packed day and we got to see a lot of Beijing's treasures!
Our day started off with a workout and breakfast, and we snapped this picture from our hotel window to show some of the haze that is constant in the city.
We took a cab to the Temple of Heaven, which was built in 1420 as a place to offer sacrifice to Heaven, and was used until 1918 to pray for good harvests. As seems to be the trend in China, the Temple was not just one building, but was a complex of many buildings all linked by walkways, bridges, and covered halls. The buildings were incredible, and each one had a particular purpose (a building to choose the sacrificial animals, a building to sacrifice the animals, a few buildings for ceremonies, a building for the Emperor to rest while walking in between buildings, a building for the Emperor to change clothes, etc.).
The Temple of Heaven also had some beautiful parks surrounding the buildings, and we walked around for a while enjoying them.
When we left the Temple, I was dying to buy this huge stick of melon from a street vendor. We negotiated from $0.60 to $0.45, but another vendor told us afterwards that we should have gotten it for $0.30 ... oh well . We began our long walk to Tianmen Square from this point, and were getting really hungry so we decided to try this "off the beaten path" restaurant since it was the only one we could find. It looks a bit scary, but it was actually amazing! I got the "Healthy Vegetarian," which was a bunch of mushrooms and veggies, and Kev got "Spicy Peanut Chicken" and rice. And all this food (plus bottled water) was about $7! We made "friends" with an adorable little Chinese boy who could NOT stop staring at us (and, incidentally, this seems to be the case in general - we had several people point, take photos of us, laugh, giggle, and stare ... we're not sure if it's the blonde hair or something else, as there seem to be a fair number of white tourists here!).
After lunch, we continued our walk, and stumbled across this huge hotel and some kind of government building.
Finally, we reached Tianmen Square, which is the 3rd largest city square in the world (behind Merdeka Square in Jakarta and Praca dos Girassois in Brazil). It has been the site of several historical Chinese events, and now holds the remains of Chairman Mao (which we didn't go visit due to time constraints). The Square was huge and there were so many people milling about! The police coverage was very thorough, probably due to the many protests that have occurred here. The poor workers in the picture were scraping the grout between tiles - that's a big job for a 440,000 sq. meter square!
Directly across from the Square was the Forbidden City. We accidentally bought tickets to an exhibit rather than the City itself, and a clever man was waiting right past the ticket booth ready to buy our tickets from us for $3 (we paid $4.50) ... wonder how many dumb American tourists he's gotten with that trick? The Forbidden City was another enormous complex of buildings that served as the home of emperors and the center of politics in China for almost 500 years (~1420-1912). We read that the complex took 15 years and over a million workers to build! While we obviously didn't make it into all 980 buildings in the city, we enjoyed exploring as much as possible.
The Forbidden City was the home to 24 emperors, and again had buildings for various purposes, including different religious and political ceremonies held by the emperors, homes for their servants and concubines, and more. The Palace of Heavenly Purity in the picture below is where the emperor would receive audiences.
Upon exiting the Forbidden City, we saw another pretty building on top of a hill, and realized that this was in Jingshan Park, which was next on our agenda. More than a few stairs later, we were at the top of the hill in a pavilion overlooking the Forbidden City. There was a large Buddha in the pavilion there, and we also came across the very central point of Beijing!
On our walk down, I made a comment that a noise I heard sounded like a dragon ... well, imagine our surprise when we stumbled across a bunch of moving and "talking" dinosaurs! We still have no idea what they were doing in an imperial garden, but they were fun to look at (walking for 6+ hours at this point had me going a little crazy!).
After showers and a few emails, we made our way to another authentic restaurant that we happened upon near our hotel. I ordered the vegetable and tofu hot pot (which was soooo good and so big!), Kev ordered steamed dumplings, and we shared broccoli and fried rice. It was way more food than we could eat (for $15) but it was great! Since I know everyone cares, I'll let you know that all this cheap food is making up for the $40 running shorts I finally caved and bought tonight. We're clearly looking in the wrong places for these things, but after 7 days my long orange men's shorts and tiny men's bike shorts could use a little replacement! Anyway, after watching some Olympics (trying to stay up to catch women's floor exercise!), I'm going to join my better half sleeping shortly - one more big day in Beijing tomorrow!
-Megan and Kevin