Beijing: A whirlwind 40 hours!

It’s almost a pastime of Hongkongers to hate on mainland China. Whether that’s out of a desire for autonomy (politics and rule by Beijing is an extremely contentious issue in HK) or sheer racism stemming from the colonial era, HKers in general don’t think much of people from the mainland. Prior to visiting Beijing, I myself hadn’t been too impressed with the little amount of China that I had seen (Kunming, Shenzhen, and Shanghai). However, I was pleasantly surprised by my time in China’s capital city, and a little regretful that I couldn’t spend more than a day and a half there!

I arrived from Melbourne late Monday afternoon, exhausted. I had heard that Peking Duck is a must-try, so I ventured out to try some. Along the way, I wandered into the pedestrian area of Wangfujing.

I wish I had taken a picture of the duck itself. It was neatly carved at my table and elaborately presented as a rose, with multiple small plates of meat, sauce, sugar and wrappers in which eat it all. Some assembly required!

The next day, my one full day in Beijing, I woke up bright and early at 7am. At the recommendation of my new friend Γ…sa, I had hired the services of a wonderful driver named Charlie. If anyone has plans to visit Beijing, PLEASE let me know and I’ll put you in touch with him. He was charismatic and affable, and serenaded me with his singing Chinese opera! The day started off with a visit to the Great Wall of China. As it was autumn, the leaves were changing colors, and we were there early enough that we didn’t see too many tourists.

This section was called Mutianyu. I took a chair lift to get to the top of the mountain, and spent about an hour walking along the Wall. Then I had a toboggan ride down (and of course I was behind a scared lady who insisted on going verrryyy sloowwwlllyyy)!

Inside one of the guardhouses looking out:

After the Wall, it was another 90 minute drive back into the city to see the Forbidden City (aka Palace Museum). This was the home of the final emperor of China. Although some of the architecture was beautiful, it was a little tedious without having a connection to/much knowledge of the history and significance of the area. Here, it was quite a bit more crowded…

Clearly he’s really interested in the scenery:

Inside one of the smaller buildings. There were a lot of people crowding for a picture, so it must have been historically important, I suppose?

I like the statuettes along the rim of the rooftops:

So many tiered walkways here….

Surrounding the City/Palace is a moat with old houses on the far side:

After the Forbidden City, we headed to our final destination, the Temple of Heaven. I had seen pictures of this online several years ago, and it blew me away. The Temple is actually a series of structures set inside a large park, and the main area (what people typically refer to as the Temple of Heaven) is called the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Leading up to it is a very long bridge that’s only slightly elevated off the ground. However, it’s also at a slight incline, so pilgrims and visitors can feel as if they are walking up to heaven as the approach the Hall.

And the Hall itself:

Behind the Hall:

Standing on top of this dias elsewhere in the temple complex, priests back in the day held ceremonies in celebration of the Winter Solstice:

This area is specially designed and called the Echo Wall. If two people stand at opposite ends of the circular wall enclosing this structure and whisper to each other, their voices resonate and the sound waves are carried so as to be received loud and clear. The building itself is… um, another worship hall, maybe? Heh…

Charlie, my driver, completed my tour of Beijing with a free lesson on Chinese tea ceremony. Even though I was resolute to not buy any tea because “I’m not a tea person,” I still walked away with a canister of green tea AND fruit tea! They also threw in a little statuette that tells you whether your water is hot enough to brew tea, too! Just pour the water on his head, and if it’s hot enough, he’ll pee it out. Charming…. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

And that was it for China! Beijing has got SO MUCH to it, and it left me wanting more. One day!

Bonus picture: I love a bit of Engrish! πŸ˜‚

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