Sunday, June 10, 2018

Beijing Part 2: Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City & Scorpions

On Day 2 in Beijing we took in a ton of Chinese culture, and I was beyond delighted to finally see this building in person: The TEMPLE OF HEAVEN! When Mark and I dated in our teenage years in Florida, we'd often visit EPCOT which had a replica of this building, so it meant so much to see the real deal.
The Temple of Heaven is actually a very large park consisting of gates and gardens and various temples, and we walked the entire grounds of it in the morning, where we saw all kinds of wonderful things--people gathered for Tai Chi and morning stretches and music-making.

 This was Lorelei's and Gryffy's favorite--the exercise park. We saw some very old people doing impressive feats on the bars and equipment, and loved the communal nature of it.

 These ladies were singing and playing instruments together.
There were games galore, like cards and dominoes with audiences swirling around.
 And it seemed that everyone wanted to take a picture with Americans. Man, did we ever feel like celebrities!
Finally, just us!

  You couldn't walk around inside but look at that exquisite detail!

 It was beginning to swelter and the kids were already growing tired. Fortunately the air pollution was very low for Beijing, but it still felt suffocating to us with the particles and smog from factories all around hovering thick around us. It truly made me grateful for clean air!
 This was one mass singing group! So festive!
These are tablets not so different from the Ten Commandments for the Chinese, produced from the gods of the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
 A smaller temple for sacrifices to said gods.
 And just outside this temple area, a very large circular mound where people stood on a disk in the center and shouted unto heaven, where it is believed their voices are amplified up to the god.

We stopped for some noodle soups for lunches.

 And saw a demonstration on how silk is made.
 Silk tug-of-war!
This was the day before the 29th anniversary of the events at TIANANMEN SQUARE. The Chinese people don't seem very aware of the situation that happened here, and with the government controlling so much of the media (no Google, Facebook, etc.) there isn't a lot of good information to come by.

 And Mao's portrait still looms here.
 Just beyond Tiananmen Square is the gargantuan FORBIDDEN CITY.
 This diagram gives you a mere glimpse of the Forbidden City (Palace Museum), which has over 10,000 rooms and various gates delimiting the Emperor's inner circle of Empress and concubines from his servants.
Taking a break in the shade.
The detail everywhere is exquisite. Bold colors define China.

They had to haul this humongous marble staircase with hundreds of horses from the place it was quarried, creating man-made ice ponds to slide it along in winter until it arrived in this spot.
Our tour guide Eric knew all about the history of this place and made it an enlightening experience for the kids.
More pictures of endless corridors and buildings.

 We passed through the imperial garden in the back, and out around the moat.

 Mark's shirt says it all: Miles and Miles and Miles. Ha!
 Our next stop was the famous WANGFUJING STREET, known for its assortment of squeamish delights. I challenged the family to eat scorpions, and never thought in a million years they'd do it!

These little impaled creatures are still wriggling on their sticks, and sometimes seem to dance all at once. Horrible!

 I opted for a fried scorpion, thank you very much. I knew if I wanted the family to do this, I had to take the lead. It tasted quite a lot like a fried chicken wing mixed with a cricket.
Mark went next.
And Gryffy, who won't touch half of what I cook, gave it a go! Just look at the progression of faces in these photos-ha!

 Then a YouTube travel vlogger approached us, and a whole crowd swarmed around us, and the kids ate more scorpions--Lorelei took the legs, and Gryffy finished off the rest. This was the highlight of their day!
 They were rewarded with these gorgeous candy apples, which did not disappoint!

From there we parted with Eric, and headed for a Starbucks near our Leo Hostel...
... where we met up with Glenn, who had arranged the tour with Eric for us, and drove 1.5 hours just to meet us in person and drop off these adorable plush pandas. The kids named them Glenn and Eric. Such a wonderful guy, and a great conversation had that evening!
We stayed up late in our hostel playing cards, then took a taxi to the airport...
 ...for a 3:10am flight to a place I'd always dreamed of visiting: Siem Reap, Cambodia!