I had a little scare this morning at the hotel in Beijing. I lost my passport. I searched everywhere and I couldn't find it. I frantically searched the room and my bags, and I didn't locate it. The bell man picked up the bags and I went downstairs, saw Kevin and told him. He freaked out and insisted that I keep looking. Down in the lobby where my checked bags were, I went through them again, and finally found it rolled up in a pair of shorts. What a relief! Kevin joked with me about this for the rest of the trip.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is an incredibly large public park. It was constructed by the same person who built the Forbidden City and Ming Tombs, the Yongle emperor. The centerpiece of the park is a building known as the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, where the emperor would go twice a year to pray for a good harvest. At the park, an unbelievable number of people were there doing a variety of activities. In my estimation, there were tens of thousands of people there, maybe even 50,000. This was just a typical day at
the park. These folks were mainly retired, who have the time to do it. Plus, retired people don't have to pay a fee to enter the park. People were dancing, playing games, doing Tai Chi, singing, etc. I didn't realize the scale of it until I saw it for myself. It really was an incredible sight.
We were walking back through the park after having walked around the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, Some of the people in the group were visiting the rest room and I walked on ahead to take some video. I came up on a group of people who were all wearing red hats. Unlike the neutral or indifferent vibe I got from most Beijingers, these folks were interested in me. Many of them had their picture taken with me, as if I was some kind of celebrity or something. It turns out, according to our guide, that these folks were tourists from southwestern China, and made a fuss over me because they had probably never seen a foreigner before. After that, I walked along a little, then stopped and waited for my group. This guy handed me a paddle and we started playing
this game where we would toss a ball back and forth to each other. It was fun. I thought he was doing this just to be nice or something. It turns out after a few minutes of this, he was trying to sell me a paddle and ball set. I thought he wanted to be my friend, but he was trying to sell me something.
We then went to a hutong area in Beijing. These are old style houses seperated by narrow alleys with open courtyards inside. We visited a kindergarten that was in a large hutong. The kids were taking a nap. Then, we were taken by bicycle rickshaw through a hutong neighborhood and we went inside someone's home in a smaller hutong. The home was nice and quaint. Through Kevin, who acted as interpreter, the occupant fielded questions from our group. He was an older gentleman who was a great artist, whose works naturally were for sale. Today, most people in Beijing live in high rise apartment buildings. The hutongs gave us a glimpse of how most Beijingers lived in the past. Kevin grew up in a hutong, which has since been demolished.
For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. A...more info