Last day of having what can still legitimately be called a ‘group’. Two of our number vanish tonight leaving just another girl and myself. As such, we agree to spend at least the morning together as we visit the Temple of Heaven. Other girl is interested in the Pearl Market as she missed it before, and it happens to be just across the road.
The Temple of Heaven is a temple which was once used to pray for bountiful harvests. It lies amongst a large park in the South of Beijing, and is well worth a look. Though be careful with your money – if you don’t give exact change the ticket sellers will give you a map of the area for another 10 yuan regardless of whether or not you want it.
This temple has been rebuilt, although ironically not because it was burned down in war, but because it was struck by lightning in 1889. Its highly decorative and the inside roof is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, like many things in China, you can’t actually go inside, so have to try and force your way to the front of the gates they do offer.
The complex also has a smaller version of the Temple known as the ‘Imperial Vault of Heaven’ which is surrounded by the Echo Wall (though we never tested this out) and the ‘Circular Mound Altar’ which is designed to make your voice resonate (again, never actually tested). The temple was our main point of interest, and the rest window dressing, especially since the leaving duo really wanted to see the Llama Temple before they went.
However, since our other group mate wanted to do both the Pearl Market and the LT, we decided to go get lunch at a nearby bakery, and meet up with her in half an hour. The first bakery was a complete write off (very little, and no tea), but the second, a franchise called ‘Wedome’ was a varying success. Everything was cold, but they had rolls, bread, cakes, and hot drinks. I grabbed lunch (including a very awesome strawberry and cream cake slice) and was very happy with it. The two I was with however didn’t have as much luck. One has been sick the last few days and isn’t getting any better. The second is a vegetarian and had picked the same thing as me – within 2 bites I knew there was meat in it, but she insisted it was just mushrooms. A few more bites and I’m positive. When the other confirms it, she drops the bread like a rock, and I take it for lunch tomorrow. Sadly it means she hasn’t had much to eat for lunch.
When our other member arrives, we head back onto the subway and over to the Llama Temple (also known as the Yonghe Temple), which our leaving duo had tried to see before but gotten there too late. The temple was once a palace, home to court eunichs before becoming the home of Price Yong. When he ascended to the throne, it was converted into a Llamasery – a monastery for Tibetan Monks.
Its a very beautiful place to walk around – It’s been kept in great shape due to its nature, and Buddhist Temples are always fascinating to see. Of course, the main draw is the Buddha statue deep in the complex – over 26 metres in height (18 metres visible, the extra 8 underground) and carved from sandalwood. I’ve seen the giant buddhas in Japan, so I know how big these statues can get, but this one gets my vote for sheer reaction. When you walk in, your head looks up…and up…and up, until you’re practically bent backwards trying to take it all in. Well worth the visit.
When we got out, we said goodbye to the other solo member of the group who was heading to the Hutongs again, while we all ended up in another bakery. This one was a bigger success than the first as it had cheese sandwiches (though quickly discovering that you just cannot get nice cheese in Asia – it all has no taste whatsoever) and lucked out with a decent hot chocolate. Finding nice hot drinks in China is becoming a lesson in futility – much like finding cheese.
Back at the hotel, I’m not in the mood to go out, and focus mostly on catching up on my blog posts. Still can’t post since I’m stuck in wordpress-banned-China, but really determined to keep up with it. The leaving two aren’t in much state to do anything either – one is still very sick (and not getting better) and they want to just relax before going on the dirt cheap train (bought the cheap tickets for a 14 hour journey same as a previous tour mate…who texted and warned its pretty awful…they seem awfully optimistic about it though). When they leave its just as a pretty bad storm starts up. No rain or thunder, just wind heavy enough to knock the colourful lanterns outside all over the place – can hear it even in the reception.
Just the two of us left now. My roommate is planning on going to see the Mausoleum of Mao and the Museum of History tomorrow before going to the Olympic Stadium, so might join her for the morning since the first 2 things are free.