Monday was our final full day in Beijing. It started like the rest of our days with Traci waking up early to do her yoga video. I admired her consistency. We needed to be on the motorcoaches by 8 AM. The good news was that we no longer had to deal with the heat and humidity. The bad news was that it was raining cats and dogs.
We were taken to the Temple of Heaven. By the way, this Beijing leg of the trip has been increasing my list of UNESCO visits on almost a daily basis. At this point in the trip, I have added the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and now the Temple of Heaven.
The Temple of Heaven was constructed in 1420. It was the place where emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) would hold the Heaven Worship Ceremony to pray and make sacrifices for a good harvest. Just like other sites we visited, our guide gave us an explanation of the site and then gave us free time to explore on our own. I was surprised to learn that the complex is larger than the Forbidden City. All the rain made for a miserable experience. Despite our umbrellas, our shoes and pant legs were soaked. It was also during this time that I discovered that my umbrella had a hole in it. Nonetheless, Traci and I squished along. We peeked inside the main temple and some of the other buildings. The experience reminded me of what we saw at the Forbidden City but less crowded. In addition to being a popular visit for tour groups, the Temple of Heaven complex is also a popular social gathering place for some of the senior citizens of Beijing. We saw some of them under one of the covered corridors doing tai chi. There were other seniors engaged in a popular Chinese card game called Mahjong.
Traci and I were late getting back to our bus because we got a little turned around trying to find the correct parking lot. Relieved to see our bus, we settled in for our next stop - a Chinese teahouse. This was a fun visit. A hostess explained the etiquette of drinking tea and then served four types of tea for us to try. The Chinese don't use tea bags. Instead, they pour boiling water over the dry tea leaves. The first three varieties we tried were bitter but the last one was a fruit tea that taste like hot sweet Koolaid. Loved it! They had us - hook, line, and sinker. We were released into their store where the various teas and other souvenirs could be purchased. Traci went straight for the fruit tea. The merchandise was expensive. Traci and one of our friends split the cost of a large package of tea costing the equivalent of nearly $80. Traci bought some other items. She ended up spending the equivalent of $76 in a tea shop! It's all good though. This is vacation. Enjoy life. Unfortunately, we still have not discovered how to make the tea taste as good as it did in China.
tuo tea - compressed and fermented leaves
Lunch today was in a restaurant in a shopping mall. It was a family-style meal of Chinese food (Surprise! Surprise!). We were starting to miss Western food at this point in the trip.
lunch - not sure what it is
Our bus assignments were temporarily re-arranged based on our choice of how we wanted to spend our afternoon - Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery), knock-off market, or be returned to the hotel. Traci and I were the only people on our bus who chose the Lama Temple. Everyone else chose the knock-off market. Therefore, Traci and I were sent to the bus heading across town to the Lama Temple.
The guide from our bus led us in the rain through the complex containing Buddhist temples. The artistry of the temples was astounding inside and out. We saw people praying and burning incense. There are shops on the grounds of the Lama Temple but they all sell Buddha Statues in a variety of sizes and material. During our free time, Traci and I strolled the streets outside the Lama Temple. It had finally stopped raining.
Oh, do you remember the $40 Traci spent on the fruit tea at the teahouse earlier in the day? Well, we found the same thing at one of the small shops outside the Lama Temple for the equivalent of just $8!
From the Lama Temple we were driven back across town to reunite with the rest of our group at the Beijing Acrobat Theater. The show had a bizarre start. On the stage, was a man surrounded by four women dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. He was doing calligraphy as a presenter was speaking in Chinese. Some people from the audience walked up to the stage to take pictures with their phones. Apparently, they felt they were not close enough so they actually walked onto the stage and continued taking pictures. I had never seen anything like this before. Everyone eventually took their seats. The acrobat show was very entertaining. It was similar to the stunts you see at a Cirque du Soleil performance.
After the show we were taken to Bian Yi Fang Roast Duck Restaurant for our farewell dinner. The restaurant is renowned for its Peking duck. The meal was once again family-style. I do not really care for duck but I really enjoyed the duck at this restaurant. There was a funny moment that evening. During one of our excursions earlier that week, we had passed a place called Donkey Burger. One of the guys in our group kept saying he wanted to get a burger from there. One of the guides gave him one at the farewell dinner. I thought "Donkey Burger" was just a catchy name but it is actually a sandwich of donkey meat. Several people in our group tried it. They said it tasted like corned beef.
Farewell Dinner - Bian Yi Fang Roast Duck Restaurant
The next morning, our time in Beijing had come to an end. Some in our group would be flying home from here. Others of us would be flying to Xi'an to do the 2-night package in that city. At breakfast, we said goodbye to some of our new friends who would be flying home; some of whom we had been traveling with since we arrived in Hong Kong over a week ago. It was a short time but our group had become like a big family. I'm sure we will see them again. They are runners and travelers. Through conversations, we found out that many of them had signed up to run the same races that Traci signed up for back in the States. If not at a race, we will at least keep up with them online.
Traci and I had to eat and run because our bus to the airport was leaving at 7:45 AM. This Beijing package had been wonderful. The guides, the hotel, the sightseeing, the Great Wall Marathon, and our fellow travelers all made this leg of the journey a truly memorable experience. [Continue to Xi'an...]
Magnets Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)Entire fridge magnet collection...