Beijing Day 4 Tuesday 26th Aug
Today ended up being a muddled day. Fitting in what we haven't fit before now and also becoming a little orientated and wishing I had a chance to explore properly this enormous city.
We wandered the paths of "The temple of Heaven" an ancient place where sacrifices were made and the gods appeased for harvests, weather, happiness and long life. Its like a huge park with various buildings around. 90% of the area are lawns but the green grass was guarded with fences and signs and so we all stayed on paths and looked over the beautiful parkland longingly.
This is a place where mainly older people meet to dance, exercise, play cards and Chinese board games, do intricate crotchet or knitting drawing crowds of appreciation at each place. We meandered amongst the Chinese people, avoiding the umbrellas being hoisted high by so many of them, trying to hold the essence of the place by documenting it with camera and memories.
John has a new favourite thing to do and has been photo bombing Chinese tourists taking photos. He will sidle up to girls or groups and either 'rabbit finger" behind their heads or lift his arms high behind them or one-arm hug them. All with a huge grin. After the initial shock astonishment and awe they love it and then start quickly swoping amongst themselves to each get individual photos with him as well. John is loving the attention. Seriously. I may leave him here.
A trip to the Hutongs certainly was odd. The Hutongs are the old houses built 400 years ago. Originally larger and stretched around court yards they have ended up as tiny rooms shackled together as houses. Community toilets are spaced every 50 m. Cars, their tyres protected from (non existent) dogs wee and rickshaws line the narrow lanes. The homes are mainly in greys and there is not much decoration to cheer up the street. We were rickshaw-ed up the allies until we came to a home to be shuffled into . Thin plastic tablecloth covers the table, paper cups to drink either a beer or sprite. Stools to sit on. Home cooked food brought out. These homes are expensive - price per sq m was crazy and I could never afford to live there but the ambience was impoverished and gloomy. The food served with a quick smile with no warmth. All very disconcerting this "meal with a local family" tour and I was glad to leave.
We quickly admired the Olympic Park with its magnificent birds-nest stadium and accommodation dragon towers. By this time my admiration extended to sitting under a shady tree, sampling another type of Chinese Ice-cream and gazing from afar.
A freshen up and rest in the hotel gave John and I new enthusiasm to tackle the Silk Markets. A little more ordinary than the name suggests it's a multi-storey building of small market holders each in their own glass cage. We arranged to meet at a Pizza entrance but I had to wait quite some time for John to turn up -he had got lost in the basement or some such story and had been wandering around looking for me. A detour back to the hotel put his feet into Russian Gola's massaging hands while I enjoyed an incredible facial by a non-english speaking Chinese lass and then a neck massage by a young lad. A relaxing several hours for $27
Sleep comes easily and quickly these days.