Thursday, September 23, 2010

Best Day Ever: Tourism

This week is Mid-Autumn Festival, which means we have Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off of work, which has been awesome!!  Unfortunately, the Chinese way is to make up these missed I get to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Not as awesome.
At the Temple of Heaven with the Imperial Vault behind us.
We spent Wednesday at the Temple of Heaven with an American couple that we met at Kehillat Beijing on Yom Kippur. It was a lot of fun to hang out with another couple who is similar to us, and we had a great time. The Temple of Heaven is basically a massive park with a few temples that were used for various purposes (sacrificial offerings, prayer, and other temple-ish things). Many of the structures had names that were similar to those of other Chinese sites, such as the Imperial Vault of Heaven and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

I don't know if it's because of the national holiday or just another day in Beijing, but the park was very active!  There were people dancing....
 playing a hacky-sack-esque game with a feathered "ball"...

and watching a performance on the side of one of the temple buildings.
While these structures had similar characteristics to most of what we have seen in China, like at the Forbidden City, they were also different because many were rounded. They were beautiful. Adam loves looking at the dragon detail on the individual tiles; they are even on the ceilings and throughout the roofs. He also says the colors remind him of the Southwest, which is probably one of the reasons why he likes them so much :)

Inside one of the temples were desks with examples of some of the offerings (mostly cattle). They would clean and shave the animals and then put them into a sacrificial burning area, which is right next to the "blood-draining pit." Yummy. Our favorite was the Circular Mound Altar. It is a big open space made of three levels of marble. The sign said that if you stand on the center stone, your voice will be "sonorous," so there was quite a long line of people waiting to stand in the middle. While we were watching them, a young girl's parents kind of pushed her in our direction and held up their camera. Hilarious! Adam captured the moment:
We sat down in one of the park areas and people watched for a while. I learned that China has it's own version of the Red Hat Ladies: Purple Hat People! (We also saw Orange Hat People on our way out, but I had already put my camera away. They basically looked just like this, but with bright orange hats instead. Adam's comment: "This makes me very happy that we are not doing a Chinese-led tour during National Week!")

On our way into the Temple of Heaven, we realized that the much-talked about Pearl Market is across the street! How convenient. We decided to walk across the street and have a look. Yes, there were TONS of pearls, but each booth had pretty much the same thing. None of us really know much about pearls or how to tell the real from the not-so-real, so we were quite amused by all of the salespeople attacking us with shouts of "REAL PEARL! NO FAKE!" They were desperate to sell, so we quickly became desperate to get out of there! We walked through different floors and realized it was more than just a pearl market; they had everything you might need! Clothes (Ralph Lauren, North Face, Dolce and Gabbana), electronics (iPhones, iPods, antenna-ed Blackberrys), shoes (Uggs, Crocs), and of course, accessories. The grabbing, attempts to sell and "You need iPhone?? Here, iPhone!!" were humorous for a few minutes, until they got a little to aggressive. So basically, we learned that the Pearl Market is nice to talk about but not as nice to visit.

Adam and I had a big night ahead, so we then headed home to prepare for Mid-Autumn Festival activities!

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