It’s only by God’s blessing that I have been able to explore more places of the Philippines I haven’t been to yet on this year. And man, is our country beautiful or what? Next stop: Davao!
Note to self: a neon backpack is handy for travelling with a group. Makes you super easy to spot! But anywaaaay… here comes another day of touring Beijing’s most scenic spots, this day kicked off by a visit to the Temple of Confucius. (北京孔庙)
So, as you might have guessed, it’s basically a temple dedicated to Confucius, who most Chinese consider as the greatest teacher that ever lived. As for me, temples haven’t increased their appeal towards me at all, especially Chinese ones which tend to be really big and long-winding. One thing that never changes, though – beautiful scenery!
Next stop: 南锣鼓巷 Nan Luo Gu Xiang, a.k.a. a pedestrian street packed with quirky little shops and amazing food finds! Visiting this place is especially great for around the 2pm-3pm time frame, where your tummy might start to feel a little neglected.
This next place was supposed to be in a separate post, but let’s just put it together here. Presenting: the Summer Palace! (颐和园)It is arguably one of the most famous tourist spots in Beijing, next to the Great Wall.
Just to break up the monotony: did you know that the Summer Palace was especially constructed for the last empress, the notorious tyrant Ci Xi? It’s like saying that today’s First Lady always complains about being bored with state affairs, and ordered the people of the state to build a MASSIVE garden for her, with all the works. Not some tiny little garden, we’re talking acres here! That’s exactly what Ci Xi made her people do, and although the resulting Summer Garden is indeed beautiful, the history behind it? Not so much.
We started going through this long hallway, which we were warned beforehand of as being one of the longest hallways in the world. However, the pretty stained and painted little shafts of windows kept us busy!
We were supposed to go on this boat ride that would take us on a cruise where we can see sights only reachable by boat, but unfortunately the winds and water were uncooperative and especially rocky that day. 😦 Le sigh. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get to see these ever-famous bridges:
Le sigh indeed. Would have loved to photograph these iconic bridges myself, but God has a purpose for everything, right? Forward we go!
…because we were too busy buying and testing cute souvenirs (LOL) and braving a dust storm with our immediate resources! Yes, seriously, a dust storm with all the particles billowing around furiously. First time in my life to have experienced that!
And we see it! Woohoo! I’ve always been a huge fan of the Beijing Olympics ever since their planning stage, up until their closing ceremony. I was just in awe at how everything was organized and done with equal parts of pomp and efficiency. So I wasn’t really jumping up and down when I saw the Bird’s Nest, but I was truly, truly excited and happy to see it with mine own eyes! 😀
Look at how considerably empty of vendors the place is. There were a couple of vendors offering us kites and various memorabilia, but there was a sense of control as to how many people sold inside. Goodness, if this were the Philippines, you probably wouldn’t have enough space to walk around because of the sheer number of vendors pushing their wares.
There’s this wiiiide open space before the actual entrance to the Temple of Heaven area. We quickly discovered that the locals have converted it into an activity area of sorts. If you’ve lived in China for a period of time, you would know that local Chinese, especially the senior citizens, love going out and moving around, dancing, doing taichi, or whatever else. Actually pretty healthy!
Upon entering the actual temple compound, we were greeted with more open spaces. A lot of the seemingly “random” objects lying around here actually served some purpose back in the old days. What’s more, this big space with all the structures was made just for the emperor to offer his sacrifices and walk around afterwards. Dayum if someone would make such a grand space for my walks, I’d be one healthy robust walker.
After this shot and a few wacky jump shots with my co-teachers (there’s something so appealing about taking fun shots in old, serious places), I looked back, and took more pictures just to remind myself how big this area was.
GAWWWW I miss them already. Again, the way we got together in spite of our differences in age and thought patterns was amazing, and I had an equally rockin’ time with them as if I had been with my same-age friends. Miss you all!
Alas, on the day that we visited there was none of the striking blue sky and pure white clouds contrasting with the temple itself, but only a murky cloudy day. Would have made for a more stunning picture!
In this actual Temple of Heaven, they were smart enough to put a tourist guide in the form of an automated speaker that runs every 25 minutes, if I remember it correctly. We didn’t stay for the recording, though, as a lot of people were already crowded in the vicinity.
Aside from 王府井 (Wang Fujing), 前门大街 is like the equivalent of 北京路 (Beijing Lu) in Guangzhou. What I like about this more than the others, though, is how wide the space is. There’s a lot of people, but you hardly felt it because it was so wide, so walking was a pleasure. I also liked how it kept its stone building façade no matter what the store was. Quite pretty!
Here they have a branch of 全聚德 (Quan Ju De), which according to locals is the most famous duck restaurant in Beijing. When we passed by at this particular time, they had a booth on their first floor selling whole ducks and ducks with most of the meat gone (how do you call them?) for crazy cheap prices. Good ducks, hard to come by!
Great Wall!! Yeah, baby. Who wouldn’t want to see the humongous man-made structure that can be seen from the moon? For some people, it’s just one big giant wall, but what makes me appreciative of every second I get to see it in the flesh is the FACT that it was built man by man, hand by hand, 100% manual labor. None of the fancy machines and bulldozers we have these days. Now tell me you don’t have respect for these people…
We visited 居庸关 (Pinyin: Ju Yong Guan), one of the many gates and portions of the Great Wall. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Great Wall is not one big section of wall in one place. It’s made up of different sections, separate but near each other. It’s truly HUGE. Just look at that map above – it’s long, winding and freakin’ high, and it’s just ONE PORTION OF THE WALL. 😮
Yummy goat meat sticks are to be had outside the wall entrance. Also, meet the teachers who I had fun with for one whole month! It’s amazing – different ages, cultures and backgrounds, yet we all found a way to get together and have a rollin’ time. Miss them already!
Define MAJESTIC. This would be the picture in the dictionary entry of the word.
Truth be told: I didn’t really climb up the wall. 😮 Yeah, I got to this section, and climbed up two sets of stairs, but it was seriously a problem for height-fearing people like me. Because the wall and everything in its structure was built on mountains, the stairs and walkways aren’t actually as straight as you would assume. They lean to the left or right, quite drastically at times, and the stairs are quite narrow. Suffice to say, my legs felt like jelly by my third set of stairs, and walking through some walkways made me feel woozy. Not kidding you. Pwedeng-pwede talaga pang-Amazing Race ito! (This really suits the Amazing Race well!) Seriously, it’s way more challenging than it looks…
The writing on the tablet reads: “不到长城非好汉” or simply translated, “if you have not been to the Great Wall, you are not a man”. Mao Zedong is responsible for this quote… and I completely understand why. Hahaha! Funny thing was, this looks like the only tablet with this writing on it, and prior to this we were on quite a crowded area with this same tablet, and people were taking pictures with it nonstop. As in, it was impossible to get a shot with only you in the frame. We got frustrated and took our best shots, but went strolling around and found this… *lightbulb* PICTURE TIME! 😀
Didn’t have as much photos as expected, mainly because I just got lost at taking in the scenery with my eyes. This amazing wall, which in spite of the lack of modern techniques has stood for hundreds of years, framed against the natural beauty of the rugged mountains – it never gets old.
My main point of appreciation when going to places like the Forbidden City is how in the world they managed to build something this vast (and I am not kidding – the place is HUGE) this intricate, this beautiful, considering this was all crude work with nothing of the technology and equipment we have right now. That alone makes me stand in awe at what would have been the “normal tourist attraction”.
The walk alone to the area was very picturesque, and it gave off this whole ancient, relaxing vibe with the ageing walls, swaying willow trees, and the somehow clear lake that beautifully reflected the line of trees on its surface. Walking through all of these, I for the first time understood how the ancient Chinese poets could be so inspired by walking around alone.
We were with a tourist guide during all of our trips around Beijing, and while my usual first instinct is to ignore their yapping and just explore by myself. This time, however, I was glad I decided to listen – did you know how this patina came to be? This HUGE bronze pot was all coated with pure gold, but when the British invaded, along with all the other places and relics they destroyed, they wanted this pot as well. But it was just TOO huge, they couldn’t move the thing. So they did the next best thing they could think of – they scraped off as much gold as they could. :(
One more thing: if you want a good workout, GO TO THE FORBIDDEN CITY. Haha! Seriously. I watched a National Geographic documentary on it once, and it described from aerial view how it was actually a whole expanse of five circles or something. (Just look it up.) Amazing stuff!!