Day 161 - Temple of Heaven & Forbidden City

Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

By this point, Mia had become enamoured with the City of Beijing. She got up early to check out the Temple of Heaven.

A beatiful example of Ming architecture, the temple was built within a walled 267-hectare park now called Tiantan Park.  This is where Chinese emperors offered sacrifices and prayers for good harvests.

She spent the morning walking around, observing the many older locals practicing their Thai Chi or dance lessons - a nice change from the hustle and bustle of tourists.  She found it very peaceful and snapped alot of photos.

At a reasonable time we met up and headed over to the Forbidden City. 

The city was the home to the Emperor, his family, his concubines & his servants.  It also served as the location to consult with senior political ministers and to receive visiting foreign emissaries.  Each of these functions was housed in a separate section with access to each section severely limited and entrance into the Emperors personal complex forbidden. 

The over 800 buildings took 14 years to complete and were home to 24 emperors.  Though significantly restored this complex is the best representation of Chinese architecture from the imperial reign (roughly 1400-1800).

We wandered the grounds taking in each successive gate, courtyard, garden and building.  Immensely popular with Chinese tourists as well as foreigners we put our 'subway skills' to work in order to get a picture of some of the rooms.  Despite the crowds, the complex gave off an aura of calm intention.

Leaving the city grounds we passed through the archway with the massive walls and the moat protecting it.  We walked through urban Beijing, past a cosmopolitan square and down Wangfujing street, complete with video screens and beer gardens down to a more traditional market style venue which was bustling with activity.  Here Eli tasted scorpion and snake while Mia enjoyed the veggie dimsum rolls and the confectionary shop.

We checked out the McDonald’s nearby and Eli was impressed with the spicy (very) chicken sandwich while Mia enjoyed a strawberry milkshake, which like most of the menu was nearly identical to North America.  

For our last night in Beijing we visited our favourite restaurant and sampled our highlight dishes of Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet & Sour Pork Tenderloin (yum!).  We reminisced about our time in Beijing which had been our home for the past 8 days.

As we set to depart this wonderful city, here are some of our thoughts on Beijing:

- Things in China are not built for large people.  Our hotel had a curiously low ceiling, the bus had no leg room and stools on the patio (sidewalk) at restaurants were narrow.

- As with most of Asia (and India & Nepal) the approach to Recycling seems to be the ‘picker’ method, where unskilled labour culls the valuable garbage.  It is most certainly better than no recycling but doesn’t ring the gong of environmentalism the world desperately needs embraced by the global community.  The sporadic actual recycling bins in Bangkok, KL and Singapore are a start.

- Chinese toddlers were often seen with slits in the back of their pants so that without diapers they could squat and relieve themselves more easily.

- The serving of 1 dish at a time continued in Beijing.  In other parts of Asia it seemed almost a gender priority to serve Eli first, even at very western establishments, though it was more than likely a coincidence and they simply were serving the dishes as they were ready in the kitchen.

- The pollution wasn’t as bad as we expected coming (now our perspective of ‘dirty’ has definitely been schewed by Mumbai, Delhi & Kathmandu) but each day was foggy/smoggy and we didn’t really see blue sky or sun outside.

- Beijing for all of its detractors seemed like a very well organized, reasonably clean and orderly city.  Hosting the Olympics must have significantly helped create the extensive and easy to navigate subway system along with other supporting infrastructure.

- Most of the roads had modular fences over a meter high which ran down the center of the street.  We reckon this was to (successively) deter jaywalking.

- One week was enough to see what we wanted to see.  There are other activities to fill your day but we were thrilled to stop here on our way across Asia!
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