Sunday, 18 August 2013

Beijing continued......

Today is our last solitary day in Beijing before we join our tour which takes us from here to Hong Kong via Xi'an, Shanghai, Yangshuo, the Three Gorges and down the Yangtze. We're waiting to check in at our new hotel in Beijing where we'll stay for a couple of nights before heading onto Shanghai so thought it would be a good time to do a quick recap on the events of the last few days. 

So last time we left you on a bit of a cliffhanger as we were about to head out for our second attempt at Chinese food. I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath so I'm glad to inform you that the duck did not was delicious! We went to the busiest restaurant where there was a queue coming out of the door and you could see the chefs carving whole ducks in front of the crowd. As an aside, the hostesses uniforms were amazing- proper Chinese silk dresses. We ordered and out came the biggest mound of duck with all the trimmings...

Excellent grub. We also ordered rice (bad idea-- far too much food) and two beers and the grand total for the bill (no pun intended) was a shocking £17.00 (expensive by Beijing standards!!)

Heading back to the hostel with our stomachs fit to burst, thankfully only next door, we retired for an early night (this proved highly unsuccessful due to the constant traffic coming in and out of our dorm and a couple of late arrivals). Next morning, we rose (later than planned) and headed to the Temple of Heaven which is one of the most iconic Beijing landmarks.

Sundays seem ultra quiet in Beijing. The manic atmosphere of the streets and subways had quietened down and it all seemed surprisingly orderly. We even saw people queueing!! Once on the subway, there was a sight which we are not used to in England which we've now seen a few times. Beggars go up and down the subway cars occasionally playing music, and nearly everyone seems to give them money. Begging on the street seems relatively uncommon for a large capital city, but we've seen this practice on nearly every subway we have ridden so far.

When we arrived at the Temple of Heaven, again it was really calm. We were both surprised at how huge the grounds were and it took us ages to walk around although it was really pretty so we didn't mind! The first thing we came to were a group of performers singing traditional Chinese music which was interesting.....

This type of music is played everywhere and it really makes you feel like you are in China which is lovely. Next we headed to the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Echo wall which is a small structure surrounded by a huge wall which is built so that if you shout at one side of the courtyard, it reverberates in a way that you can hear whatever is said at the other side (pretty cool).

While here, we asked a Chinese couple to take our photo but the girl was more interested in getting a photo taken with Rob (he looked a bit perplexed at this but posed accordingly)

After this, we headed to the circular mound alter which is where sacrifices used to be made in order to pray for good harvests. It's built in a way that if you stand at the top your voice becomes particularly resonate and sonorous so your prayers would be more likely to be heard.

After a quick break from the sun, we headed to the most famous part of the Temple complex- The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Whenever you see pictures of the Temple of Heaven, this is always what is shown and to be honest, I thought this was all that existed at the sight. It was a stunningly beautiful building in real life and it was completely quintessentially Chinese.

Following our day at the temple, we made our way back on the subway, and as we were both knackered from the sun and the poor sleep the previous night, we headed to the same restaurant as the previous night in order to sample some of the other Chinese fare. We ended up going with a couple called Rich and Ellie who we'd met a few nights previously. They're 8 weeks in to an 18 month Asia tour (making our 5 months look somewhat paltry) so we picked their brains about China and I was able to share some India tips as that is their next destination! 

Another amazing meal- sweet and sour pork, beef in black pepper and Chinese mustard, fried rice and some lush onion bread....

Following our meal, we met a guy from our dorm for drinks. Kelvin is from Singapore, lives in Seattle and seems to have travelled to pretty much every country so he had some interesting stories to tell and he had some great trips for the SE Asia portion of our trip. (Not just milking travellers for tips although that is what it sounds like!!) 

That pretty much brings us to now. Better run because have to go and check in. Will update soon!!

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