Today we went to Tiananmen Square, which I found to feel very similar to Washington, D.C. It was spread out and there were many landmark buildings with tourists crowded around them. It was also interesting to see that most of the tourists there were Chinese, which made sense as I thought about the fact that just as we visit DC in school, students here probably do the same with Beijing. I had actually expected to feel a larger political presence in the square, but it didn’t feel different from any of the monuments in DC. The Forbidden City was incredibly pretty, and much larger than expected. It’s a hugely impressive feat of architecture and there is so much detail on every single archway and rooftop. My favorite parts were water draining through dragon heads, the gardens within gardens, rubbing the golden knobs for good luck, and the detail on the paintings on the edges of the roof.
After visiting the city center, we headed over to the Temple of Heaven. There, we did Tai Chi in a nearby park. It was undoubtedly out of my comfort zone and much more complicated than I expected. We learned a total of 5 sections which we then put together. Overall, I did think it was a bit relaxing, much like how yoga is both strenuous and relaxing at the same time, and definitely fun to try. I found the Temple of Heaven to be absolutely beautiful, but it was kind of unsettling since it was originally a place to sacrifice animals. The temple was on a hill, so walking around you could see the entire city on every side. In this one particular spot, it first appeared as nothing was there when you looked out, but as you stared you could see the skyscrapers come into focus through the smog. This was the clearest representation of exactly how much smog there is in Beijing so far this trip.
For dinner tonight we ended up back at the hot pot place from the first night on our own, but this time we had some guidance for Lilianna. The first thing she introduced to us was plum juice, which we must’ve had 10 glasses each of because it was so good. Then, I learned how to mix the sauce from the bar that I was so confused about the first time. We tried so many new foods like duck giblet, duck blood, lotus root, and pig throat. Everything was very tasty, which we decided before we knew what it was. Lilianna even threw in a small surprise where she told the staff it was Jared’s birthday, so they came out with a dragon fruit and watermelon cake and sang for him, just like they would at Red Robin. From there I had an early bedtime because we have to catch a bright and early train tomorrow. After hearing about some people feeling sick, we decided that it’s important to sleep in addition to exploring the city.