On this episode of A Springtime Story, we do some shopping in Qianmen Street and the Hutongs, have large cups of ‘Its Time to (insert Chinese character) drinks, visit the Lama Temple, have more ‘Like a Boss’ moments and survived the use of the infamous public toilet!
Qianmen Street has a history of more than 570 years. It was called Zhengyangmen Street during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and got the present name in 1965. During the Qing Dynasty, there were many specialized outlets on either sides such as a meat market, cloth market and jewellery market. And there were also many craftsman workshops, warehouses and theatres at the Hutongs nearby. Now, it hosts many international brands such as H&M, Haagen-Dazs, Sephora, ZARA, Uniqlo, Starbucks and SK Jewellery.
Did I mention Zara? Sephora? H&M? SHOPPING!
Ok, so where were Zilin and Amir through all these?
You can never stop the K-Pop fans from getting a glimpse of their idols. So while waiting for them and watching a hoard of Chinese girls screaming and running around the vicinity with their cameras and posters, Elham and I went to chill out at Starbucks.
And yes, we had fruits at Starbucks. Yet another #likeaboss moment.
The Yonghe Temple (Palace of Peace and Harmony), also known as the Yonghe Lamasery or the ‘Lama Temple, is a temple and monastery of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism. The building and the artworks of the temple is a combination of Han Chinese and Tibetan styles.
Building of the Yonghe Temple started in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty. It originally served as an official residence for court eunuchs. It was then converted into the court of the Prince Yong, the future Yongzheng Emperor. After Yongzheng’s rise to the throne in 1722, half of the building was converted into a lamasery, a monastery for monks of Tibetan Buddhism. The other half remained an imperial palace.
After Yongzheng’s death in 1735, his coffin was placed in the temple. The Qianlong Emperor, Yongzheng’s successor, gave the temple imperial status signified by having its turquoise tiles replaced with yellow tiles which were reserved for the emperor. Subsequently, the monastery became a residence for large numbers of Tibetan Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet, and so the Yonghe Lamasery became the national centre of Lama administration.
I was amazed at the beautiful structure of the building, the detailed and intricate artwork showed how they combined art with religion. I love visiting Buddhist temples and places of worship around the world because the strength of their faith and believes can be shown from the amount of dedication that is put into the structure of their place of worship.
Hutongs are narrow streets or alleys, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, most prominently Beijing. They were formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one residences to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another like conjoining neighbourhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
These residential neighbourhood has now been replaced as rows and rows of shops and restaurants.
I was very amused by the shops with a variety of concepts! I was especially happy with the souvenirs I got, much love! Didn’t think we would finish walking through the Hutong. It seemed endless but we did it. And after walking for hours, we came across a familiar street…
Yes, its Hou Hai! Unfortunately, after the huge cup of Its Time To (Chinese characters that we have no idea of) honey drink, Zizi needed to pee badly. So we left our stuff with the guys along this alley and literally brisk around the crowded street of Hou Hai in a desperate search for a toilet. Spotted a security guard standing by a bridge and asked him for the nearest toilet. He merely pointed at an area and we headed to that direction as fast as we could. Alas, we found it…
…by a dingy lane beside the busy walkway. Zizi and I looked at each other in horror. We held our breaths, paced ourselves and went it like brave soldiers. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is one of the infamous public toilets of China. Very public toilet. So it is true, the stories I’ve heard, upon entering, we were greeted by butts and other indiscreet parts due to no doors. The only source of solace for us was that the cubicles were separated by a short wall partition. I promise if we weren’t in urgent need to pee, we would have gotten out of there as fast as we could. There wasn’t even toilet paper, wash basin or flush (eeewwww)! So once again, like brave soldiers, we peed into the dingy hole, butt naked in fast and furious mode and left. We lived to tell the tale. I have never needed wet tissues and sanitizers as much till this moment.
After more souvenir shopping, we went to take a rest at a provision shop in the area. There, we spotted the yogurt milk drink again so this time, we decided to give it a try.
It was actually very delicious! The owner of the shop was very nice, friendly and hospitable and offered to send us back to Wangfujing since we were (once again) having difficulty getting a cab. Such a nice man. But of course, do this at your own risk because you’ll never know. I felt safe because I had my fierce mandarin speaking bff and the two guys, hehe.
So that was our last night in Beijing. One more day before we leave for home. Stay tuned for the final edition of The Springtime Story (Part VI).