No rest for the weary. The hands can’t remain still , it’s typing time!
Today was a bittersweet today. A fun, excellent day but the whole time I was reminded that my parents were leaving tomorrow! How could it so soon? It seems like they just got here! That’s how it always goes with friends/family visiting. When I meet them at the airport I feel like it’s already almost time to say goodbye. No sooner have they stepped out of customs it like I’m preparing to say goodbye already. Wahhhh!
After waking up, it was time for another Beijing must see. Beijing has a lot of these if you haven’t noticed already. The Temple of Heaven is complex of Taoist temples situated in the southeastern section of Beijing , also easily accessible by metro. Kinda nice to have the subway again after all the cities we had just visited which featured packed buses. The main temple , Temple of Heaven , is where the emperor went to communicate with the Gods. You can pay more to access the temples or pay a 10rmb to enter the park grounds itself. On any given nice day you can find the entire elderly population of Beijing inside the park grounds playing cards , dancing , working out , and playing mahjong. It’s worth it just to go and take in the sights and sounds of the retiree population. All along the paths the railing/seating is completely taken up by people and is loaded with activity.
The main temple is quite a sight in itself , I can only imagine what it would be like to be the only person there ready to connect to heaven , it feels like maybe you really could communicate with the Gods. I can only imagine because well it’s a Beijing tourist spot , meaning it’s loaded with people . The main temple stands alone in the middle of a circular ground area made from stones. It seems to stretch up into the sky. Great stuff.
After the temples we went over to Beijing’s ancient Drum and Bell Towers. Pretty similar in design to Xi’an’s but much more relaxing due to it being surrounded by ancient Hutong neighborhoods. Quite a difference compared to Xi’an’s traffic circle around the towers. After checking out the towers we got a ride in a rickshaw for a mini tour around the Hutong neighborhoods. Make sure you bargain hard if you want to do this. They will show you official tickets saying something like 200rmb for the tour but it was easily bargained down to 80rmb which I think is still a little high but it’s aight. Being able to speak Chinese got me some great insight into the neighborhoods as the drivers explained the sights to us and made some jokes about the shitty car drivers. The drivers were really nice guys from Lanzhou. Lanzhou is quite far away from Beijing , all the way in the way of China. Equivalent of California to Ohio. The drivers had only been living in Beijing for a few months now and it was great to meet them. In Shanghai I often frequent a Lanzhou noodle restaurant right by my house and have talked to the workers there quite a bit as well.
After the 45 minute rickshaw ride we were dropped off at South Luoguoxiang St. This is a traditional Hutong neighborhood converted into a bunch of trendy shops , bars, and restaurants. A great place for a stroll even if you can’t afford to buy anything , even better if you can afford to get some things. Thanks to Mum and Dad I got a new wallet to replace my falling apart 4-year-old Che wallet and Pops picked up a very cool little painting. On the way we found a little tea/juice stand that sells their drinks with a chunk of dry ice in a big. These creates an awesome smokey bubbly effect for the duration of your drink , just don’t touch the ice! After this we retired back to the hostel for some rest and for dinner headed out to the Ghost street. This street is essentially a 2 kilometer long stretch of street with nothing but restaurants and is all lit up at night with bright red lanterns. During the trip we had been planning on eating hot-pot and tonight was finally the night. You order a bunch of different plates of veggies and meat and then cook the goods inside a pot of bubbling broth. We got a half spicy half normal pot and I was the only one to eat from the hot part. Wow! It was pretty authentic Chongqing style hot-pot because my mouth and body was flaming! Wow it was good , but with the delectable spiciness I knew tomorrow was going to be a spicy in spicy out kinda day haha. After we returned back to the hostel and slept. I had been meaning to make it out to the Sanlitun bar street at night but sleepiness prevailed.
Breakfast the next morning was a sad affair. Just thinking about how after eating it was just time for them to pack and then a taxi to the airport. On the way we passed a massive 3 car accident that stopped traffic for kilometers. It involved a Porsche Cayenne , a taxi , and a semi-truck. Guess who won. The rest of the ride was smooth after the gridlock and then bam all of a sudden we were having a semi-tearful goodbye and then wam they were through customs. I was on my own again. Almost time to wrap Phase I of the summer travels.
After the airport I decided to check out the huge Chaoyang park on the outskirts of Beijing. I just walked around and found out it was the site of the 2008 tennis events for the Olympics. There was also a mini amusement park and a mini swimming area but I just cruised through the park area.
The next day my former roommate from Tianjin , Ozgur from Turkey!, happened to be in Beijing for some official business with his embassy. So we got to meet up after just about of year of not seeing each other. Ozgur was my rock when I first came to China. Lost , confused , friendless , terrible language skills, I was like a wet abandoned puppy and Ozgur got me through those first trying months. He really managed to help me into this all and get used to campus life in Tianjin . Thanks Ozgur!! My first friend in China!! We met up early morning at the Beijing train station and got some food before heading off to the Turkish embassy. It was cool seeing the embassy street and picking out the different ones. We only had a part of the day though since that evening I was boarding my plane to Yunnan province!! Wooo hoooo!!!
With that ladies and gentlemen Part I of the summer has come to an end! Next stop, a totally different world from the East Coast of China!