Friday, April 30, 2010

Bejing, Day One

Today was an interesting day full of much cultural awareness for Eddie and me.  This is the only day that we will have without our guide, Rosa while in Beijing.  So it was a ‘on your own’ kind of day.   Eddie and I are both semi-adventurous people so the thought of exploring a new city wasn’t scary to us.  We had our hotel information in our pocket and with a somewhat overconfident attitude thought we could somehow navigate our day!  Ha!!!  He’s been to several different cities/countries in Europe which far outweighs the few countries I’ve been to within the Caribbean.  But still, we didn’t want to stay within the confines of our hotel, we wanted to explore a bit. 
At breakfast this morning we met up with the other families who are already here.  They all seem like a wonderful group of people.  They were already eating together when we walked into the breakfast room and somehow I could tell they were in our group…it was every mother carrying her ‘referral picture’ proudly with her at the table that gave it away!  We introduced ourselves and agreed that nobody had any “plan” for the day.  On that day we went walking around the hotel blocks to see what was close by…hunting cases of water to bring back.  On that adventure we quickly saw that nobody was taking charge of “steering” the group in any kind of direction, so Eddie and I tried to formulate a plan.
Breakfast was good.  There was an omelet bar, cereal, fruit, juices, bagels and pastries, and a lot of asian things like steamed rice, noodles, egg rolls, and things I can’t pronounce!  Also, there was a salad bar which Eddie and I almost made a salad (we love salads!), but realized we shouldn’t eat the lettuce and or vegetables b/c it could be washed in the water???  So, no salad for us!
 We did find a grocery store/market along the way and were all able to come back with bottled water!   We all met back in the lobby for the days adventures.  We decided that we would see most regular tourist attractions with our guide, Rosa, tomorrow.  But one thing not on the list was the ‘Temple of Heaven’ so we made that our game plan for the day.  The hotel helped to get us all taxis for the group and we were off!  When we got there we were missing three people from the group who were to be right behind us.  We waiting at the entrance for about 30 minutes and they never came.  Eddie and I went ahead and went inside to see if they had entered from another gate.  Once inside, we realized there could have been many different entrances and there were so many people it would be almost impossible to locate them.  So, we ditched the group (sorry guys!) and went ahead with the tour. 
The Temple of Heaven is where the Emperor would make sacrifices and pray to heaven and his ancestors at the winter solstice.  As the Son of Heaven, the emperor could intercede with the gods on behalf of his people and pray for a good harvest.  Off limits to the common people during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the temple complex is now fully open to the public and attracts thousands of visitors daily, including many local Chinese who come to enjoy the large and pleasant park in which the monuments are set. 
There are 10 different Features to the Temple of Heaven:
1.        Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, built in 1420 without using a nail!!
2.       Painted Caisson Ceiling, has a guilded dragon and a phoenix at the center.  They imported the wood columns from Oregon at the time because China had no trees tall enough!
3.       Marble Platform,   three tiers of marlble form a 300 ft. circle in diameter and 20 ft. high.
4.       Red Step Bridge, connects the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests with the Round Altar
5.       Imperial Vault of Heaven, once held the wooden spirit tablets that were used in the ceremonies that took place on the nearby Round Altar.
6.       Echo Wall, (very cool!)…The Imperial Vault is enclosed by the circular Echo Wall which has the same sonic effects as some European Cathedrals where even a whisper travels round to a listener on the other side!
7.       Echo Stones, these are three stones at the foot of the staircase; stand on the 1st and clap to hear one echo; stand on the 2nd and clap once to hear two echoes; stand on the third and clap once to hear three echoes!
8.       Round Altar, the center of the altar represents the center of the world and it is where the emperor carried out sacrifices.
9.       Hall of Abstinence, a mini “Forbidden City”.  This is where the Emperor would spend the last 24 hours of his three day fast prior to partaking in the Temple of Heaven Ceremonies
10.   Temple of Heaven Park, the park areas were just beautiful all around this area!

One view from our hotel room, at one place there may be a nice hotel and right beside it a very run down building.
The streets of Beijing...busy with tourists, locals, bikes, cars, taxis, rickshaws, and so much more!

Out and you think I stand out??  We got many stares and many more people came up to both Eddie and me all day and asked to take their picture with us!  It was so funny!!  The children are SO CUTE!  They are everywhere and they just look and stare...I hope Molly has the same curiosity as other children seem to have with me!
I am IN LOVE with Chinese children!  I mean I was before, but after today their cuteness is overwhelming!  This little girl was waving at us.  Eddie and I both noticed how unusually quiet and obedient they are with their families.  They just look at us and...well behave!  None of the children we saw today were throwing fits or tantrums.  I'm sure they do...but we didnt' see evidence of it.
Look at this little cutie in her leggings and coat.  We also noticed that the adults and children are dressed very warmly.  Eddie and I had on shorts, capris, and Tshirts all day.  It was a beautiful day...probably about 75 degrees. But most of the Chinese had on coats and all the kids were bundled up...meanwhile Eddie and I are both trying to figure out how to 'rig' up our a/c in the room to get it very cold.  It's not working out so well so far!  ha!

This little one was so cute in that coat!  Then he came outside and did this...
Split pants at their best...came right out of the grocery and peed!  This was so funny!  It is VERY COMMON to see children do this...sometimes it's more than pee!!
She was so cute...but look at the bundles!
Many kinds of tea
Lot's of rice!

Looks like a great seafood department!  Some of the kids in our group saw the turtles for sell...I told them those turtles were for dinner, not for pets! ha!!
Everyone has water!
This man was taking pictures of our group...we would see him again.  

This was another adoptive family we met.  They were not in our group.  The little boy was so cute, just smiling and waving at us all.

Entering the Temple of Heaven

The marble platform

Here we are with that man and his wife again!  He wanted more pictures!
These ladies grabbed Eddies arm like he was Tom Cruise!   It was so funny.  They gave me equal attention and took pictures with me too!
Echo Wall
Split pants


The detail is amazing!
The firewood stove where they would offer up a calf as a sacrifice to the gods.
OMG!!!!  This was by far the most interesting part of the day!  When we were leaving the Temple of Heaven we had chosen a great restaurant to eat at for dinner from one of our Guide Books.  This man grabbed us from the exit (we were trying to figure out how to get a taxi) and said he could take us on his rickshaw!  As you can see it is....small and we are ....big!  Poor guy!  We showed him to restaurant name and location and he was saying yes, he could take us.  We thought a great meal in a cool place sounded wonderful!!!!!!!!!  Well he took us through this 'neighborhood' I guess that was very poor.  I videotaped the whole thing.  It's both funny and sad at the same time.  Funny that here we were who knows where trusting this man who doesn't speak English!  For a moment I thought we could be killed.  But, sad because we saw first hand what poverty is like in China.  And the neighborhood we saw was probably mild considering other places.  The kids were out on the street playing, laundry was hanging to dry, so these are people just like the rest of us living in very deplorable conditions.  I'm so fortunate!  It did make me wonder if Molly's biological family was living in conditions such as these. 

Tomorrow is a big day...Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Pearl Market, and The Summer Palace!


Unknown said...

That rickshaw picture is pretty funny. :) Loved seeing all the pictures and being reminded of the "sights" including the split pants! You are doing a great job journaling so far--love reading it!

Becky said...

When my son and his wife were in China, he got lost on his bike for 3 hours in Beijing - and they lived there! Once, they were in a small village and went to eat at a restaurant who had not had much contact with 'round eyes'. They went back the next day and there was a huge poster of them on the wall! People there thought my daughter in law was Julia Roberts. She does have a wide mouth! They thrived on veggies because they were something they considered safe not only in Beijing, but also in the villages.

I am enjoying your travels! Thanks for sharing the great pictures. Can't wait to see Molly.

Dan and Karen said...

Oh it looks like you are having wonderful fun! Your photos are great!

Blessings for more wonderful days and lots of adventures.

Soon it will be MOLLY DAY!

Laurie said...

Awesome pictures, Amy! They were SO fun to look at today and remember our own trip. You will LOVE Rosa- she's the best! She might remember us (she called my husband the "Happy Peanut", and he told a really funny massage story on the bus!) Anyway- you'll love her- ask her anything- she likes to talk. :) That last picture was a real hoot- looks comfy! :)

Danielle Moss said...

Great photos! I can't believe that the kids just go to the bathroom in the street. Wow.

Angie said...

Great pics, Amy! Can't wait to see what you're seeing!

Lori said...

Looks like an adventure...of course it has to be funny or it wouldn't be you. The rickshaw is great! Take care and I can't wait to meet Molly~

Jill said...

Ha, Ha, Ha... I'm laughing about the kids in China are "quiet and obedient." You know how I feel about Chinese kids... they're so good and perfect. :)

I'm loving following your journey to China. Oh my gosh... I wish I was in China with you. It looks like y'all are having a great time.

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