Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday in Beijing: Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Delicious Peking Duck!

Sunday October 12th: We had nice weather again, although slightly more smoggy than the day before. Violet picked us up at 8:30am at the hotel and we took the subway to the Temple of Heaven (TH). Reenie and I both enjoyed this park-like setting. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the day with his or her loved ones. We enjoyed watching people dancing in the park, playing various games, doing their exercises, and groups of singers or musicians.

One man stopped me for a few minutes and I played a sort of 'table' tennis but it was with a large soft ball that we tossed to each other with a paddle. I had fun interacting with him. What I did learn is that the moves you make in order to toss and catch the ball are tai chi moves. He helped me with a few moves, but I could tell it's something that takes practice.

Violet told us about the sights at the TH. I was amazed at its size (I’m starting to sound like a broken record but hey, Beijing is large and it seems that the Chinese wanted to build everything large). At the TH many people were enjoying their Sunday. Some were dancing, some singing, some playing various games. One could tell that socializing is the thing to do on a weekend day. The TH was just about as large as the FC. We did lots of walking!

Next, we headed over to the pearl market and Reenie bought a hat, as she is fair-skinned and the sun can be too much for her. She bargained and ended up paying 20RMB, which Violet recommended. Reenie had bought a watch the previous day ($15 USD), which Violet said she paid "too much!" Me, I haven't bought anything yet. The stores with all the young sales women and the number of stores can be overwhelming.

For lunch Violet took us to a restaurant very close to the pearl market – Old Beijing Zhajiang Noodle King, 29 Chong Wai Street, Chong Wen District. We didn’t want a multi-course lunch since we had dinner reservations for Peking duck! We all enjoyed a bowl of Beijing noodles, which is served with a thick plum sauce. It was excellent. The restaurant is large (there I go again) and was completely filled, mostly with locals from what I could tell. People waited in line for a table. As we ordered we were asked to pay for our meal. They worked fast! Chairs were uncomfortable, as they were just small bench-like chairs, but that’s probably to get people in and out quickly. No lingering here.

The afternoon was spent at the Summer Palace (SM), where the emperors would enjoy their summers. It was about a 40-minute taxi ride. The SM was a zoo! It was just as crowed as the Forbidden City. We spent a couple of hours walking along the area, including along the long corridor, the longest in the world. It reminded me of the corridors at the Temple of Heaven.
We decided not to walk up the hill to the, I think it's called the temple of harmony, since we had plans to climb the great wall the next day, but instead, we walked over to the marble boat. I had seen photographs of the boat and appreciated seeing it in person. What a work of art!

For 10 RMB per person, we took a short boat ride along the lake to the 17 arch bridge. Here is where the number 9 comes into play. If you stand in the middle of the bridge you have 9 arches on either side of you to include the one that you are ‘standing’ on.

It was late, so we took a taxi ride to the nearest subway and went back to the hotel. One stretch of the subway was very crowded, especially at the interchange.

For dinner, we ate at Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant, which is located in a hutong (11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Road, Qianmendong St, tel 67055578). Our taxi driver had a hard time finding it and had to call the restaurant. Once he stopped the car I was unsure if we were in the right location. The cars that drove on the streets kicked up the dust, which make the area look eerie, especially with the few lights on the street. Pointing in the correct direction, we set off. Right at the corner was a sign painted on a wall directing us to the tiny hutong restaurant. We knew this would be an experience. Even though Violet had called to make reservations for us, she told us we would have to wait "a little." That wait turned into 45 minutes. However, it was worth the wait! Every table is presented with their duck to see before it is taken away for carving. To eat duck, take one of the very thin crepes, a piece of duck that has been dipped into the sweet bean duck sauce, "paint" the sauce onto the crepe; add more duck (along with the skin), thinly sliced scallions and sliced cucumber. Wrap it like a burrito and enjoy! It was so good! Both of us were in heaven. We also enjoyed garlic snow peas, perfectly cooked and still crisp. I hate overcooked vegetables.

This hutong restaurant was very small and had about three rooms of diners. The middle, courtyard, was covered with a plastic roof. One could imagine how people lived before it was a restaurant. Tight quarters of families sharing the center courtyard. Many hutong are being destroyed on a daily basis.

I hadn't thought about getting a taxi back to our hotel but one woman at the restaurant told us to walk back to the main street and someone would hail a cab for us. Sure enough, on the corner were several men, including two in security uniforms. It took about 10 minutes before one could be hailed down. It was a short ride back to the hotel.

I have to say that I never felt uncomfortable while in China. I felt very safe and never thought twice about walking in the streets at night, even in small dark alleyways.

Next: our visit to the Great Wall!


Jackie said...

Enjoying your blog! I came across it on the Fodor Forum when researching my own upcoming China trip (in 9 days) Hope you continue to enjoy the remainder of your trip.

leigh said...

Thanks for your entries. Anxiously awaiting the next one! :-) Have fun!!