Friday, June 15, 2012

My Travels in China: Beijing Day 2 (Part 1)

My Travels in China: Beijing Day 2 (Part 1)

Dr. Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists, loves to travel and loves cats.  So off he went... East... way way East... to China.  Over the course of the next few weeks, we will share the cultural and kitty cat highlights of Dr. Plotnick's trip.


(Continued from day 1

What a day this turned out to be!  I’m finally back in the hotel room, and am not sure I’ll even be able to remember it all.

Despite being absolutely exhausted AND having taken Satan’s aspirin (i.e. Ambien), I slept poorly and woke up well before our 8:00 a.m. wake up call.  Like, 6:15 a.m.  We took our time, and finally moseyed down to the breakfast buffet at 8:00 a.m.  I have to say, it was quite a spread.  I needed an angioplasty by the time I was finished.  As we all know, everything goes better with bacon, and things went very well at breakfast.  In addition to multiple slices of bacon bacon bacon, I had curry noodles, fried rice, waffles, steamed pork buns, steamed pumpkin buns, bread pudding, potatoes, pork dumplings, bread, cheese, and fruit

including a weird fruit that I had never had before, called hawk thorn, which basically looked (and tasted) like a mealy cherry.

I then waddled out to the lobby, where we met up with Vivie Pan, our tour guide for the day.  What a sweetheart she turned out to be.  She was born in China, raised in Beijing, and spoke excellent self-taught English.  She was very outgoing, and was very forthcoming with all sorts of interesting stories about the history behind all of the sites we were seeing.

We started at Temple of Heaven Park.   This beautiful park is actually a complex of religious buildings in the southern part of the city.  Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties would come here to pray for good fortune.  The complex was constructed in the year 1406.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the first things I discovered upon arriving in China is that the elderly take their exercise seriously, usually in the form of tai-chi.  This morning exercise ritual takes place early in the mornings, mainly in public parks.  The people are very unself-conscious about it, doing all sorts of bending and stretching regardless of who’s around or watching.  There was lots of this going on in Temple of Heaven Park.  Many other folks were engaging in other forms of physical activity, such as ballroom dancing (often with blaring music in the background), and hacky sack, too.

We walked into the park, and down a long corridor where locals hang out and play cards, listen to the radio, sing, play checkers… it’s pretty cool.

Our destination in the park was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.  It’s an amazing building, made entirely of wood.  No nails, no cement.

Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue would move from the Forbidden City through Beijing to visit the complex. When he got to the temple, the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests, hence the name.  We then visited the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mount Altar. The park is steeped in religious history and symbolism, and our tour guide, Vivie, explained it all very thoroughly, making the visit even more enjoyable.

(day 1)

CHECK BACK SOON for much more of Dr. Plotnick's China Travelog.
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