The last day was filled with culture. We got to see Uncle Joe again because he was going to be our tour guide for the day; everyone was very excited.
We went to Tiananmen Square first. I thought that Beijing was crowded to begin with, but Tiananmen Square was filled with tourists and people from all over the country. We noticed a lot more people would stop and look at our group because they weren’t necessarily from the city and were not used to seeing Americans. Many took pictures of our group or asked some group members for pictures with them. As an Asian, I didn’t attract that much attention. Tiananmen Square had very large and beautiful flower arrangements and grand buildings. Joe told us about the history and traditions, and then we had time to walk around and take pictures.
After the square, we walked over to the Forbidden City. Great fountains lined the entrance, and when we walked in, all of the buildings were so beautiful. The detail in every aspect was impeccable. Joe told us some more history of the site and gave us time to walk around and take pictures. I thought it was so cool how everything is so old and traces back to multiple dynasties; American history could never compare. There were so many parts to the Forbidden City; I think my favorite was the garden area because it was so beautiful. It was filled with elaborate rocks, beautiful trees, and intricate structures.
After the Forbidden City, we had lunch and then went on a tour of the Hutong area. A tour guide told us some history about the area, and then we rode through the streets on rickshaws. On the outside the area looked kind of shabby. There was trash and broken bikes in the streets. Some people noticed that there were some expensive cars though as well. We arrived at this one living room to learn more about the area. They brought a lady in to play a Chinese harp for us, and it was a really good performance. We found out that some of the houses were worth 9 million dollars, and the Hutong area was actually a very expensive place to live because of the location. Some of the houses didn’t even have their own restroom! The residents would have to use the public restrooms. The reason the Hutong area looks kind of shabby on the outside is because the government prevents people from changing the outside in order to preserve the history. Broken bikes were in the street as a method to reserve parking spaces.
Then got on the bus to go to the Temple of Heaven and take a tai chi class. When we got there, the tai chi instructor was there early so we did that first. The tai chi moves were not difficult, but I had a hard time remembering the order and getting some of the positioning right. It was a cool experience to have in China. After the class, we went to the Temple of Heaven and it was gorgeous. The structure was wooden, but no nails were involved; I don’t even know how that would work! Joe told us more about the history and gave us time for pictures. The artwork on the outside and inside was really pretty, you could kind of see the areas were the animal sacrifices were made. I took lots of pictures and went inside a small museum that had more details about the Temple of Heaven.
After the Temple of Heaven, my group had to work on our business idea to submit to Dr. Li, so we finished our first assignment once we got back to the hotel. For dinner, some of us went to “do hotpot right” with Liliana and Gabby. Liliana ordered everything for us and made us try a few mystery meats before she told us what they were. Everything was very good; I was unknowingly adventurous. We had beef, shrimp, duck throat, duck gizzard, and duck blood along with various vegetables and noodles.
Before we called it a night, I wanted to try and find the bakery that we went to on the first day. I just remembered that the sign said Bread Cake; it was very difficult to find a location that was walking distance and made sense with the surrounding area. We ended up figuring it out after the bakery closed. We went across the street to the mall to get baked goods and had 10 minutes before the mall closed. We caught a bakery closing up, and as they were putting pastries on a plate to throw out, we were able to buy them. Then as we were heading out, we realized everything was closed, and we were about to get locked in this mall! There were gates blocking entry ways, and all the exit doors were locked. We ended up following a group of men that were also locked in. The highlight was when we went down an escalator and at the very bottom was a gate blocking a large opening; we had to turn around and run up the down escalator! I was almost at the top when I fell and scraped up my knee. Eventually, the group of men ahead of us found a worker and talked to her. She led all of us out of the mall because they left one entrance open for the closing workers to leave. It was a crazy last night in Beijing.