I was in Beijing about a month ago. The post is pretty late but I figured better late than never! I also blame the fact that I couldn’t access anything when I was there (Facebook, this blog, gmail). It was fun being back and seeing the city in a different environment. Last time I was there was before the 2008 Olympics and was studying abroad. Definitely remembered the good times in China, hopefully next time I can go back to Shanghai
Since I had already seen Forbidden City and the Great Wall, I decided to check out the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. I won’t go into Wikipedia detail but the Temple of Heaven was built for annual ceremonies for good crops and harvest. The area was huge with various grounds and sections. The corridors were filled with lots of activities – people were playing cards, there were women knitting and children playing in the open area. There were also various performances going on with school children so it gave the touristy area some character.
I also got a chance to check out the Summer Palace. I was blown away by this; it is so big and beautiful and peaceful. Most people don’t consider this if/when they go to Beijing but I would highly recommend it! It also helped that it was a beautiful day when I went. The palace was originally built as a garden retreat but was burnt down twice in wars. It later served as Empress Cixi’s summer resort and she put a whole lot of money into expanding it (money that was supposed to go to the Imperial Navy). The whole palace sits on about 290 acres and Kunming lake (entirely man made) covers about ¾ of the area of the palace.
The main hall is the Longevity hall which is about 60 meters above the ground. The view from the top is gorgeous; you can see a beautiful view of the lake and all the symmetrical buildings. Inside is a prayer hall with a beautiful bronze Buddha statue with 12 heads and 24 arms. The pictures don’t do it justice because there are so many little walkways and pathways that it is such a maze getting around and the feeling that you are in a place with so much history is incredible!
The good thing about having someone take you around is they know where all the good places to eat are! I had Peking Duck this time which was delish! Traditional Peking duck is cooked all day and what makes it authentic is that they cut it up into the correct amount of pieces each time without counting when they cut. And they give you the number of the duck that has been cooked in their restaurant. I couldn’t bear to look at the number 😦
And of course I had go to shopping and bargained shamelessly until I got a great price on things I absolutely don’t need. There are a couple of markets in Beijing – these markets are usually a couple of stories (4-5) and they have every imaginable thing you could want to buy. From shoes and custom made clothes to pearl and diamond jewelry to every type of imaginable fake (designer bags, belt, polo shirts). This time I went to Ya show market which is considered a “Grade 5” market which means the quality of items you can get there is the best. I had told myself I didn’t need anything but bargaining is so addicting for some reason. What I didn’t realize is that the weight limit on flying within Asia is much lower than to and from the U.S. so that kind of backfired on me. But I’m definitely going to have to make a trip out there again for more shopping!