Day 4: Lost at the Temple

Today was the day we got to visit the infamous Tiananmen Square as well as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Inside Tiananmen Square we saw a hella long line forming to see the body of Chairman Mao, but it was about 4 hours at like 9 in the morning, so we weren’t jumping in that one. We got to see a lot of the main political buildings and our guide talked to us a bit more about how the government was structured in China. There were flowers everywhere because of the horticulture expo happening in Beijing, so the square was gorgeous.

We then headed into the Forbidden City, which was the formal Imperial palace of the Ming dynasty.

Unlike most European palaces, Chinese palaces are a series of multiple buildings that surround various courtyards, so instead of walking through the palace rooms, we just get to walk through the large series of courtyards. It was hot as hell so we were all dying, and the beautiful garden at the end was a nice place to rest before he headed off to our next destination.

The Hutong area is a rare preserved neighborhood that has old style courtyard houses in a city that has been overtaken by skyscrapers and apartments. We rode together in two person rickshaws through the neighborhood and then were fortunate enough to meet a family that kindly showed us inside their home. It was absolutely gorgeous and they had collected so many souvenirs from people visiting from all over the world.

We then headed off to a much needed lunch and made our way to the Temple of Heaven. Before heading up to the Temple we had a Tai Chi class, which was very relaxing and I can see why all the old men enjoy doing it in the parks for exercise. We were nearing the end of our hot day and we convinced our tour guide Joe to take us to the Dairy Queen after we saw the Temple, so we headed in with high hopes of ice cream. The Temple seems to be nestled in the middle of the city and has a high up view of the city on all sides.

This is where the emperor would go to confer with the emperor of Heaven. We weren’t allowed in the Temple itself, but we got to walk around and enjoy the area. We got to the designated meeting place and made our way back to the bus to get some Dairy Queen. Then we realized we were missing Matt and no one had seen him since after the Tai Chi class. With his data gone for the day it was hard to get a hold of him, and his description of “I see a lot of trees” once we got him on the phone was also not very helpful. 30 minutes later we got him back and had to miss our Dairy Queen and we were all hella salted about it. We finally headed back to the hotel and packed up for our early morning train to Xi’an. So long Beijing !

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