The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is one of Beijing's most famous architectural landmarks
I checked out in the morning to transfer to leo Hostel near the Hutong area. The hostel was recommended by an Aussie guy who we shared a beer with in my las night in Xian. It was a walking distance to Tianenmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden Palace. Most importantly, it had a very cozy bar and good English speaking staff. China may be huge but realized that the world's still too small for travelers when I checked in my mixed dorm room. Aparrently, Mark (the American dude i went to see the terracotta warriors with) and Dan, the friendly Kiwi I met back in the same room in Xian were also in the same room I was. What a coincidence! They werent around when I arrived, so I met up with Helen at Tianenmen Square and decided to walk to the Temple of Heaven.
Dragon sculpture detail on building
Walking to the temple, we passed by a Hutong area, with the several blocks of the old traditional houses demolished. Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing
hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings, and now for the upcoming Beijing Olympics although, some of them have been designated recently as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
Everything seems to be renovated for the games. Even the Hall of Divine Music and Harmony near the East gate ot the Temple of Heaven grounds was under renovation. The entrance fee to the Temple grounds was 50 Yuan (20CNY just for a pass), but included a walk though to the Hasll of Prayer for Good Harvests, Imperial vault of Heaven, And the earthly Mount.
The complex, bigger than the Forbidden Palace complex, covers an area of almost 3 square kilometers. Tall pine trees and well manicured lawns offer a serene and relaxing atmosphereto all htose who came to stroll the day away. In the center of the temple grounds, is the magnificent looking Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This circular building built on three levels of marble stone base was where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails but had to be rebuilt after it burned down in the late 1800's. South of the Hall was the Imperial Vault, and the Earthly mound, an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather.
In between the great hall and the earthly mound were a few souvineir shops where Helen wes lured to have her photo taken for 20 Yuan, she'd been dressed as an empress with the matching headress, she posed on the set up backgrounds enjoying every moment of her borrowed royalty.
The Circular Mound
:) We took off at 5:00 (the palace closes at 5:30, or was it 6?), then only to realize we haven't even taken anything for lunch when we saw the sweet potato being sold on the sidewalk. We munched away on the potatoes on our way back, and a few locals on their bikes who noticed us eating them gave us thumb up signs. haha we must have looked really famished. :)
Another night in Beijing... phew, time flies fast when youre out travelling. In a few nights, ill be back to the usual 40 degree weather. I guess everyone doesnt just look forward to the days, but also the late night beer chucks with newly made friends from here and there, exchanging stories and tips. I went with Dan, Mark, Joe and Garry (two very hilarious Britons) and went some bar hoping around Beijing for the rest of the night.
Dan was spending all of his Yuans as it was his last day in Beijing. It was -3C that night and its funny how when we were on the street, we didnt pretty much know where we wanted to go. Haha, so we just rode the cab and Joe was making all these dancing moves just to give the non English speaking driver a clue where we wanted to go. I honestly was praying he'd notice that i was a girl and that he wouldnt take us to a stripper bar or something. Lol. We ended up going to an area called "Sunny Toin" (i dunno the exact spelling but thats how its pronounced). The street was lined with bars with live bands and singers (all singing Chinese). We ended up in this posh bar on which played house music, but in the middle of our 30Yuan Tsingtao beer, the houise music ended and was replaced by the Chinese band queued for the night.
Me and Helen on the Temple
Lol, we should have settled for the 10 yuan beer at nt-so-hip bar right beside it, we thought. Nevertheless, we made the most fun as we all swayed and sang with the band, not knowing what we were singing about. Haha. Went home at 3 am, and Dan was pretty tiplsy saying his goodbyes in the room, too noisy that the guy next to my bed woke up and reprimanded us. Lol.
Oh, It was a fun night.... :)