Through the Celestial Gate and back again.
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 31 of 251 › view all entries
April 16th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
But first in the morning we tried to use our Bally's Fitness membership. We get that with the apartment. But there was a miscommunication (what? really? yes, even with our mastery of Chinese this still happens) and they wouldn't let us in. I was determined to get some fitness, so I had a little mini workout in the apartment, then we set off in a taxi.
A note about the taxi situation. We now know to take a taxi everywhere, and we know how to flag them down. But we haven't yet mastered the art of getting into our cab before someone else steals it! You have to be really quick.
Ok, back to the Temple of Heaven. We chose this site because of its proximity to a music store that Steve wanted to check out.
The Temple area is now a park, but it was once used by emperors to conduct religious ceremony and offer up imperial sacrifices. There are various structures, all in very ancient Chinese-looking architecture. Our first stop was the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests. This structure was built in 1420, but burned down in 1889. According to Fodor's, it was reconstructed to the same specification -- using Oregon wood! That amuses me greatly for some reason.
From there we crossed the Divine Pathway on the Danbi Bridge, through another ornate gate, to the Imperial Vault of Heaven.
We then checked out the Echo Wall -- whisper on one side of the semi circle, and your words are heard way over on the other side. It was too noisy and crowded to hear the effect though. Then we strolled to the Circular Mound Alter which is comprised of three round white marble terraces. The bottom terrace represents Hell, the middle terrace represents the Mortal World and the top terrace represents Heaven. There's a marble "mound" on the top, and the sign said that when you stand there your voice is exceptionally sonorous (we did not prove or disprove this claim).
Now, you are probably worrying that with all this walking, our feet and legs must be getting sore. Dear reader, do not fret: we had another massage appointment lined up for the afternoon. So we grabbed another cab and headed to the Regency Spa, recommended by our "landlord" Angela.
This place is quite different from the "factory outlet" where we had our massages yesterday. It's dark and moody, all interior-designed fanciness. Every couple feet they have placed a two inch rise in the marble floor, so that you trip and nearly kill yourself unless you walk with great care. (Which, after the first time you nearly fall and break your neck, you do.
The ladies set to work on our hands and the men worked on our feet. Excuse me for the indelicacy, but I need to describe this: The guys had sharp little chisels with which they trimmed toenails (!) and shaved calluses.
In the meantime, they brought our beverages and set them just out of reach, but within sight. They would stay there tempting us until the service was finished. Which would be quite awhile.
Whenever we were asked something (in Chinese of course) we would smile and agree. So they kept adding on services. Next was a foot and leg massage. The arches of my feet are bruised from yesterday (the arch support in my Teva's is a bit too boisterous), and whenever he squeezed there with his vise grip hands, it was like torture.
Next up was a shoulder and neck massage. We sat on the ottoman, while the guys stood behind us and proceeded with every form of unimaginable torture. Bend the arms this way, tug the shoulders that way, twist the torso there. Add pressure, using the knees for maximum pain. It was awesome. The bill as even more awesome: about $25 each.
On our way into the apartment, we were handed a notice that said, "Any foreigners living in this community, please go to the Shuangjing Police Station to do the accommodation registration within 24 hours of your arrival. " Oops, we missed the deadline.
Right now we are back in the apartment, waiting for my friend Lisa to get here (she's coming from Minneapolis) at 10:30 pm-ish. We used the rice cooker for dinner, and it is my new favorite kitchen appliance. It was our first time using such a thing...I actually had to look up instructions online. Here's a comment I found on a rice cooking forum that made me laugh out loud: You must be pretty stupid to need this article to cook rice in a rice cooker. I'd understand pan cooking rice, but using a rice cooker is something even the most stupid of us can do. Ahem -- guilty as charged?
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