Thursday, January 10, 2013

CHONGWEN: 01 - The Temple of Heaven

There were two itinerary casualties thanks to my laziness when I was in Beijing last year: the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven. Wait, allow me to correct that. The first one was because of stupidity as I got lost despite following detailed instructions. For the latter, yes, we can say that it was due to laziness. When you arrive at a place at around half an hour before it closes, I guess that qualifies as laziness. This time around, I was able to visit the temple grounds. At last.

I was supposed to do a tour of the great wall. Not wanting a repeat of what transpired last year, I was all set to book a tour. As costly as it would have been, if I could afford it and it will give me less hassles, then why not, right? Caveat: the tours leave at 7 AM. Who am I kidding here, seriously? As if I would be able to pressure myself to wake up so early in the morning. Very well, this will not be the last time in Beijing. Leave the Great Wall for last! Moving on, with a one night dorm mate turned travel buddy, we had lunch in a restaurant of his suggestion where the food turned out to be cheaper and way better than the fast food fodder we had been ingesting the previous days.

From Dongsi, we went all the way down to Tiantandongmen and had two hours of strolling and sightseeing, which started out in a leisurely pace but eventually became a bit rushed as the temperature went down with the sun. I come from the Philippines. He is a Korean born Australian immigrant. Would you really expect us to love winter knowing where we hail from? In any case, the Temple of Heaven was okay. 50-50. It was neither underwhelming nor jaw-dropping. To me it was just fine.

30 yuan gives you a combination ticket that gives you access to four of the main attractions inside, namely: the round wooden pavilion or altar or sacrificial mound always used in tourism paraphernalia (temple, to be generic); a mini version of that; some sort of circular ascending steps that look like some UFO landing pad; and another one I have already forgotten for reasons of selective amnesia or just laziness to remember. In case you only have 10 yuan, that could afford you a through ticket which allows access to the vast park slash garden surrounding the whole place. Not a bad deal, if all you want is a quiet afternoon stroll. However, since you are a tourist who might no longer come back, I really recommend the whole package.

The star of the tour is that round temple that also follows the red and gold template of its palace cousins in the Forbidden City, but with splashes of green and blue hues that make it look definitely more interesting and unique. I guess this place is better done in tandem with the Forbidden City, one right after the other, if only to serve as an antidote for the red and gold overload you get in there. Back to the temple, it is said to be the largest of its type in China. Unfortunately I could no longer recall if by 'type' I mean 'round' or 'wooden' or both. Whatever, dude, the place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That recognition speaks for itself!

You cannot go inside that thing but because of the orientation of its architecture and the large wooden doors that are always open, you could take a peek inside just to admire the interior design, which is, well, obviously Chinese. If you want more bits of history, the mini palace to the right offers just that, along with a miniature of the whole structure as well as a cross-section of it. There are also some paintings and several related historical artifacts found inside. The other palace to the left was either closed or uninteresting because I could not remember anything about it. Souvenir stores abound within the vicinity, all ready to rip you off your hard-earned renminbi. 25 yuan hot choco, anyone?

fter the hot choco break, we headed south to see the mini version of what we just saw. Hey, it was cute, okay, less people too! To the immediate south of that is the circular steps thingy I was talking about earlier, pretty much like a pyramid in orientation but spherical. Okay, that statement did not make a lot of sense. Moving on, there are three or four levels, and the one at the top is empty save for a small and elevated spherical step at the very center, standing on which, they say, would make your voice resonate out loud if you decide to come up with an impromptu Gangnam Style concert.

And that was the end of our tour. There was some sort of moat surrounded temple to be seen in the eastern side of the complex, but seeing the said structures on the map, we gave each other a look understood to be, "Okay, it is going to look the same as the half a dozen we just saw. Skip!" We were in some sort of a rush to get back to the MRT station because of the chilly winds sent forth by the Gods inhabiting the moat surrounded temple. Payback for not visiting them. Well, 2 yuan saved us from further torture, bringing us all the way to Mao's mausoleum. You just got to love Beijing's light rail network!

CHONGWEN: 01 - The Temple of Heaven

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