Friday, March 24, 2006

Beijing: Day 3 First Thing In The Morning

Day 3 was our free day -after being catered to left and right for two days, it was nice but a little daunting to venture out on our own. Fortunately we had a guide book and a few ideas to work with and we managed to come up with a plan of action. We decided to get up early and head to the Temple of Heaven (which itself was under renovations...but nevertheless, the grounds were enough for us!!!)

We left the hotel around 7:30 a.m. and wandered down the sleepy streets of Beijing...the city had already been up for a couple of hours, but the cold of the early March morning had everyone moving slowly.

We arrived at the temple grounds around 8:00, paid the entrance fee and began our walk through gardens and walkways; people walking, dancing, doing tai and women of all ages were playing simple games, enjoying the brisk, bright morning sunshine. It was nothing short of perfect.

One of the first games we encountered was a cross between badminton and ping pong. There was an old couple smacking a birdie around with what looked like ping pong paddles. The old guy made eye contact with me and before we knew it, Mike and I were having a go at it.

We continued on our way and Mike managed some great shots of the temples in the morning sun. You can see there is one square temple and one round one symbolizing the Chinese belief that heaven is round and the earth is square.

From the Temple of Heaven facing South.

I think the photos speak for themselves...

We strolled long enough to see some monks on a tour but both began craving a warm cuppa coffee and so we headed back to our hotel.

Before we left the temple gardens we passed a gentleman writing kanji (Chinese characters) on the sidewalk -he was using a long stick with a water soaked sponge on the end. It was fascinating to watch him gracefully scroll his messages on the pavement. I'd like to know what he was saying...

The city was waking up...

I haven't mentioned it yet, but Beijing is full of VWs!!! Every second car was a Jetta, or a Santana, or a Passat -most of the taxis were Jettas of every generation. We spotted this rare 3-wheeled beauty parked on the side walk -more rare than my Thing I'd say. He was delivering milk on the particular morning.

We stopped for coffee and pastries before heading back up to our hotel room to rest before venturing out for the second part of our morning...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Beijing: Day 2 -Afternoon/Evening

After lunch we visited one of the Ding Ling Tomb. Although I'm sure it has a lot of historical significance, there really wasn't much that impressed me other than the fact that they started building this guy's tomb when he was in his twenties -long before he was destined to use it.

After the tombs we were taken to a chinese tea shop where we sampled different kinds of tea, learned a bit about how it's served and what purpose each of them have for the body. Our hostess was kind enough to do everything in English -an nice break from the otherwise all-Japanese tour.

From the tea shop we went drove back into the city and to another restaurant. This was Peking Duck night!! We walked into the restaurant....and were the ONLY patrons in the place! Eventually they set one more table and a family of 7 came in to share in the entertainment...

We had acrobatics, juggling, and magic!