A Peek at Old Peking

Trip Start Feb 09, 2012
Trip End Mar 03, 2012

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Where I stayed
Guangzhou Hotel Beijing
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Forbidden City (Imperial Palace) Beijing
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Peking Opera Beijing
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) Beijing
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Qing Shan Ju Teahouse

Flag of China  ,
Monday, February 13, 2012

This was a huge day. Up at 7.00a.m; and ready to go by 8.00. We stared off at the middle of Tian'an Men Square. The Sun was just up and people were flying kites in the square. The Army was there to keep an eye on the riff-raff. They were always genial and polite wherever we went in China. We mostly saw the Army in Beijing and Kunming. They always seemed to be less serious than their American and Australian counterparts. The Sentries looked serious though. 
We walked past Mao's tomb which was gearing up for the visitors for the day, no rush just yet. The sculptures on the sides are those amazing Communist march to action sort of memorials you mostly see on posters. It was still quite cold, probably just getting over zero degrees Celsius, so we kept up a good pace. The square is huge, and there are not a lot of monuments to clutter it up so it gives a good impression of a vast space. 
Eventually we arrive opposite the Tian'an Men where Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China way back in 1949. There is a huge portrait on the Gate. You get to the gate via an underpass under the roadway and bridges.
Into the Forbidden City we go. What an amazing place. the first thing that strikes you is it is huge too. Most people only get to see a strip about one third the actual width of the Imperial city, but even that part is huge. Our guide Amy took us from the southern end to the northern end and the north-east corner over the morning. We had a look at Artifact Museums, Chinese paintings and calligraphy shop. The Nine Dragon wall, beautiful ancient gardens, amazing gates and halls.  Guardian Lions and bronze animals and birds.
Finally we came out the other end and decided it was an amazing place, well worth a visit. It was more colourful than I thought it would be and it was good to see inside some of the halls. 
Lunch was down the road a bit at a restaurant where we we the only diners. A very nice place, where we sat in a sunny porch and had a delicious lunch of rice, chicken and vegetables. At Chinese restaurants the liquid refreshment is almost always, a complimentary tea, soft drink or beer. 
After lunch we were taken to Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven. Another vast complex.
This is a lengthy walk from one end to the other, about 1800 metres from the south gate to the east gate. It was a great hike though, where we saw the Round Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, the Triple Gate, Echo Wall, 500 year old Junipers, Calligraphy tuition and practice, the Red Step Bridge, and the Temple of Heaven ( Tian Tan ). Also amazing long covered walkway where hundreds of retirees were playing cards with a passion. The Temple of Heaven was stunning. well worth a look.
We rounded the afternoon off with a visit to Qing Shan Ju Teahouse, near the Temple east gate where we were given a demonstration on making and drinking Chinese teas. I reckon you need to do this at least once when visiting China. It was a great and informative demo. The tea ladies were very entertaining as well. They had great delight in letting the peeing boy give us a shower. This is a small terracotta figurine of a naked young boy that has been soaking in cold water. It is taken out of the water and sat on a plate  and boiling water is poured onto him causing a buildup of air pressure inside and he urinates up to a metre or so on a good day. Hard case, we bought a couple, and three different types of tea that we had sampled. I noticed the shop also sold a lot of old knick and knack and bric a brac.
Tea time.
Tea was to be a Peking Duck meal, but we didn't have much time even though we were booked in for the proper meal. We just had slices of duck that was not hot, was tasteless and greasy and the skin wasn't crispy. I much preferred to Ducks from home ( NZ ) at duck shooting season time. Even Melbourne Peking Duck was better. The Chicken and walnut dish was so much better and I liked the bean curd too.
Next we were whisked off to the Liyuan Theatre for the Peking Opera. This was fantastic. We were right up at the front at a table with snacks and a young man came and poured the tea. It was an art in itself. We saw him serving a couple of times. He was excellent. We saw four acts. The first was a bit of a warm up which we didn't take too much, but from there on the show was really great. The costumes, acrobatics, and acting were amazing. The singing we were not used too but enjoyed all the same.  I especially enjoyed the young lady with the baby in the third act and the old Queen in the last act which was about a drunken concubine. The two acrobatic fighters in the dark were very good too. A great night. Minus 3 outside.
Home to bed. Tomorrow, the Great Wall at Badaling.

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