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Beijing - Part II of 2

Beijing Travel Blog

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Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)

To continue my window shopping, I wandered along Dashilar Lu which is yet another old hutong, this one running west from the Front Gate of the Forbidden City near Tiananmen Square. It's a huge jumble of silk shops, department stores, theatres, herbal medicine shops, etc. At lunch time, staff from all the restaurants yell for customers on the street. I responded to one and enjoyed a wonderful meal which was unfortunately enough for 6 people! I was delighted to find a group of eaters (from Wuxi) happy to take my extra food off my hands before I left. It would have been such a waste!

he last time I was in Beijing, I heard that the government had directed all taxi drivers to learn some English, or they would not have jobs during the upcoming Olympics Games.
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Well, I took a lot of taxis during my holiday here, and not one of the taxi drivers could master even the most basic of English words. I think the directive has fallen on deaf ears, for now that is!

Shopping aside, it was time to take in some culture. The Lama Temple (Yonghe Gong) is the most colourful temple in all of Beijing - beautiful rooftops, stunning frescoes, tapestries, incredible architecture and a great pair of bronze-sculptured lions. Yonghe Gong is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The temple's most prized possession is the 55-foot high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha. It is carved from a single tree and is said to have taken two years to travel from Tibet to its present Beijing location.

One morning I headed off along one of the hutongs.

Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
As I passed by a building labeled "Community Centre", several men encouraged me to go inside. After a lot of smiles and gestures, I finally did. Turns out, the centre was hosting a Spring Festival games event. I was pushed to the front of the line to play a series of games, one of which was Fish (using a stick, string and paperclip, one must "hook" one of the pepsi tins). After completing several similar games (accompanied by a photographer I noted), I was given a stamped piece of paper after each game. At the end, I turned them in to receive a thank-you gift of a new towel and face cloth. It was all very simple, but lots of fun and I was happy to participate because the people seemed thrilled to have me do so. I then donated my 'winnings' to my hostel.

Another morning I set off to see the nearby Drum Tower and Bell Tower, both originally built in the 1700's, and within easy walking distance of my hostel.

Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
The hutongs surrounding the Towers have been preserved which is great! Next to them lie Houhai and Qinhai Lakes, frozen over and great places to enjoy ice skating! Despite the cold, I took a very long walk and was rewarded by the sight of a Chinese-style Starbucks sitting right beside the lake!

I took a taxi to the Sanlitun bar area where I enjoyed a savoury crepe lunch at a French restaurant by the name of Petit Gourmand. The restaurant even has a foreign book library on the premises. Unfortunately I was not allowed to buy any of the books. Sanlitun is one of the many embassy areas in Beijing - In fact, the Canadian embassy is located here. There are guards for each embassy, including the residential compounds set aside for embassy employees. It seems strange to be driving down a residential road, to see security guards in front of every single building, within chatting distance of each other!

On the eve of Chinese New Year's, fireworks festivities climaxed into an explosion of colour, smoke and earsplitting noise.

Snack Street
Last year, Beijing banned fireworks, but this year everyone was permitted to participate. Many home owners pasted "chunlian" pictures on their doors (door gods, chops (Chinese symbols) to brighten up the hutongs and bring luck to the new year. Co-workers and family members presented each other with red envelopes (hongbao) containing money. Everyone yells out "gongxi facai" which means "Congratulations - make money!"

Temple Fairs are extremely popular during Chinese New Year. I visited the White Cloud Temple, or, rather, maybe I didn't. Actually, I couldn't get near it because so many people were there. It was okay though, because the fair in front of the temple offered ample shopping and entertainment alternatives. It probably would have been too crowded inside the temple anyway.

Snack Street Delicacies

All in all, it was a nice break, and I am glad to be back in Hangzhou. I have a few days left before returning to school, so am using this time to do household chores, read a few books, and tour around Hangzhou a bit before i start teaching again. I hope you enjoy my pictures too!

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Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple)
Snack Street
Snack Street
Snack Street Delicacies
Snack Street Delicacies
Snack Street
Snack Street
Snack Street
Snack Street
Fireworks in the Hutongs
Fireworks in the Hutongs
Making Jiaozi (dumplings)
Making Jiaozi (dumplings)
Ice Skating vehicle options!
Ice Skating vehicle options!
This is why I didnt take the trai…
This is why I didn't take the tra…
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photo by: Deats