On this episode of A Springtime Story, we experience the public train together, visit The Temple of Heaven, a secret fairy place, flash lights at Tianamen Square and finally get to eat Peking Duck!
But before we begin, I’d like you to meet this adorable big fella…
A Chow-Chow with its mane and paws unshaven! Its as if a lion broke loose from a zoo. But I love him. Wish I can bring him home to cuddle.
We started the day by taking the public transit train. Zizi and myself have already experienced it first hand yesterday on the way to the Summer Palace and to Xidan. Let me tell you, it was not pleasant but we tolerated. Today, to save some pennies and for experience’s sake, we braved it again, this time with the boys. Afterall, its only 2 Yuan for a trip. Yes, 2 Yuan, no matter where on the map. Makes our SMRT prices questionable. But the downside though, be warned of spits, nose diggers, loud conversations, stinky breaths, garlic smelling body odour, a long journey with no available seats and beggars.
Amir, you brave soul. I wouldn’t dare sit…
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings situated in the south-eastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The Temple grounds comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements.
- The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 meters in diameter and 38 meters tall built on three levels of marble stone, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.
- The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360 meter long raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.
- The Circular Mound Altar is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps are the sacred number nine. The centre of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven or the Supreme Yang, where the Emperor prayed for favourable weather. Thanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with the Heaven.
While walking around the large vicinity of the Temple of Heaven, we noticed a few people going over a fence and realised that there were some pretty amazing photo opportunities. We figured if the locals can do it, why not right? And then, temple of heaven indeed, it was as if it was another land. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Fairy Place…
#Likeaboss, #feelingfeeling. Took as much advantage of the beautiful scene for camwhoring while Elham tried not to kill the flowers but his attempts failed, I’m sorry darling.
Despite the crowd, we managed to find a big area perfect for jumpshot moments!
Attracted a load of attention from the passer-bys wondering what we were doing jumping about. They must think we’re some crazy foreign people.
The Pearl Market sells, well, pearls. Different varieties of them and also just about any other item of jewellery, electronics, apparel, leather or souvenir. This is also the place to go to if you’re looking for a fake Rolex watch or a fake Louis Vuitton bag. But nah, not into fakes. We came here for the air-con and to use the toilet (and they were surprisingly clean!). We did buy some electronics and that’s about it. Come here only if you’re interested to get a bargain off from ‘quality’ fakes.
Just outside the Pearl Market, we saw a kite with dragonfly motifs that Amir bought from a street vendor who made them himself!
Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the centre of Beijing named after the Tiananmen gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the fourth largest city square in the world. It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.
Used as a massive meeting place since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by the 38-meter high Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian’anmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, better known as Qianmen to the south. Along the west side of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. Along the east side is the National Museum of China. Chang’an Avenue, which is used for parades, lies between the Tian’anmen and the Square. Trees line the east and west edges of the Square but the square itself is open with neither trees nor benches. The Square is lit with large lampposts which are fitted with video cameras. It is heavily monitored by uniformed and plain clothes policemen as it has been the site of a number of political events and student protests.
By some chance, it was yet another one of Beijing’s big events – Flag Raising Ceremony. No wonder rates to Beijing were low despite the beautiful spring season because there were so many Chinese public holidays and ceremonies throughout the week. We didn’t feel comfortable sticking around for the ceremony so we decided to have dinner across the huge road.
Zilin and myself were really eager to try what Beijing is known for – Peking Duck!
Peking Duck is prized for the thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven. The meat is eaten with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce with pancakes rolled around the fillings.
The aftermath of our feast (another #likeaboss moment).
And here we have Elham getting freaked out by the talking duck head.
After dinner, we noticed the massive crowd at Tiananmen Square had subsided. So we went back, this time to get closer to Mao…
Just look at my bitchy friends attempting to re-enact the photo-bombers that we’ve succumbed to for the past four days. It took a lot of effort to get the right shots and angle here due to the poor lighting so we had the brilliant idea of flashing out handphone flashlights into our faces while one of us takes the selfie. Apart from Mao, we became an attraction too.
Can you guess who’s pair belongs to who?
We decided to walk around the area because it felt to early too head back. And that’s how we found out about Qianmen Street.
And so we end this post with a picture of tired Elham buying ice-cream from a local convenience store. Its been a long day and we’d have two more to go. We’d visit Qianmen Street in the morning the next day when the roads are not so dark and to avoid the experience we had from the day before.
Stay tuned for more adventures in Beijing (Part V).
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