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Through the Celestial Gate and back again.

Beijing Travel Blog

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Steve joined the morning Tai Chi group at our apartment building. That's him in the bushes. When they turned around and he was in front, he ran home.
Today we went to the Temple of Heaven. Now, doesn't that sound nice?

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 of heaven. View from North Gate.
He had dreams of $10 mandolins. So he went there, and I went to Heaven. About 10 minutes in to my walk I got a text message:  Nothing here, Meet me at gate. So I turned around and crossed back under the North Celestial Gate to meet Steve.

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.
The prettiest tourist map I've ever gotten.
(Um, are you getting the theme here?)  Planted in clumps throughout the park, there are some very old Cyprus trees, juniper, and also a few cherry trees. And there are recordings of traditional Chinese music playing. It's very nice.

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).
Cypress in the Temple of Heaven park.
It's all laid out according to some celestial reasoning and numerology of some sort. They put a lot of thought as well as man hours into these things.

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.
Cypress close up.
)  We were led into a room that looked like a waiting lounge (cushy recliner and ottomans) but it ended up being a treatment room. We ordered our complimentary drinks (fresh carrot juice for me, fresh apple for Steve, along with a fruit plate). Then a flurry of activity as two men brought in wooden tubs of tea for soaking our feet, and two ladies come in and started running an extension cord for their miniature desk lamps. See, it was very dark and they needed to bring in their owns lights to see what they were doing.

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.
Blossoms at Temple of Heaven park.
It was like my guy was carving a sculpture, so intent was he on removing every cell of dry skin. In fact, he had such a pile of skin built up when he was done, I think I may have gone down a shoe size! Probably needless to say, my feet are now smooth as a baby's bottom.

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.
Steve and a musician in the park.
It hurt so bad I started to perspire. Heavily. But other than a slight wince to get him to lay off a little, I didn't say anything. That's because it felt so good everywhere else, I didn't want him to stop.

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.
I took a photo of Steve getting his photo taken.
I do not feel very inclined to register my presense with the police, but I guess it's the price of admission. We will take care of this tomorrow. I guess.

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?


cmgervais says:
Evan - thanks! So good to hear from you!
Posted on: Apr 16, 2008
cmgervais says:
Not sure... it's too early to tell. We are loving the kitchen and have only eaten out once. But I think it will be pretty good here. Ever the optimist!
Posted on: Apr 16, 2008
abuglio says:
Ah, the rice cooker. Can't live without it. How's the vegetarian options panning out in China?
Posted on: Apr 16, 2008
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Steve joined the morning Tai Chi g…
Steve joined the morning Tai Chi …
The temple of heaven. View from No…
The temple of heaven. View from N…
The prettiest tourist map Ive eve…
The prettiest tourist map I've ev…
Cypress in the Temple of Heaven pa…
Cypress in the Temple of Heaven p…
Cypress close up.
Cypress close up.
Blossoms at Temple of Heaven park.
Blossoms at Temple of Heaven park.
Steve and a musician in the park.
Steve and a musician in the park.
I took a photo of Steve getting hi…
I took a photo of Steve getting h…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harves…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harve…
Ceiling of The Long Corridor at th…
Ceiling of The Long Corridor at t…
A photo of me taking a photo.
A photo of me taking a photo.
Detail.
Detail.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harves…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harve…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harves…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harve…
Roof detail at The Hall of Prayer …
Roof detail at The Hall of Prayer…
Self portrait at Temple of Heaven.
Self portrait at Temple of Heaven.
Scary thing at The Hall of Prayer …
Scary thing at The Hall of Prayer…
View of gate from The Hall of Pray…
View of gate from The Hall of Pra…
Detail of interior of the The Hall…
Detail of interior of the The Hal…
Interior of The Hall of Prayer for…
Interior of The Hall of Prayer fo…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harves…
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harve…
Detail of The Hall of Prayer for G…
Detail of The Hall of Prayer for …
Danbi Bridge.
Danbi Bridge.
Remains of the Fasting Place.
Remains of the Fasting Place.
The Beamless Palace gate.
The Beamless Palace gate.
Things you cant do in the Temple …
Things you can't do in the Temple…
No diaper, just a pair of open cha…
No diaper, just a pair of open ch…
The Imperial Vault of Heavens.
The Imperial Vault of Heavens.
Interior of The Imperial Vault of …
Interior of The Imperial Vault of…
Interior of The Imperial Vault of …
Interior of The Imperial Vault of…
View from the Circular Mound Alter.
View from the Circular Mound Alter.
Map of the park.
Map of the park.
There is only one kind of bus here…
There is only one kind of bus her…
Under construction.
Under construction.
Oh oh.
Oh oh.
Beijing
photo by: Deats