Tiantan – Temple of Heaven
The last hotspot we wanted to see was Tiantan – Temple of Heaven in the south of the city. We had decided to take a taxi from the north exit of Beihai Park to the south entry of Tiantan.
However, we had the great luck to catch a taxi driver, who did not seem to have any clue about Beijing’s tourist attractions (although his fairly low taxi driver licence number suggested a long history in taxi driving). He did not seem to have ever heard of Tiantan. And we strongly think that our pronunciation wouldn’t be that bad, especially when combined with pointing to a certain spot on a map of Beijing. OK, the map was inscribed in English, not Chinese. In the end, the taxi driver took the map and I think he tried to remember the streets by the shape of the map (he obviously could not read English). We somehow made it to the right district of the town, although he once missed a right turn. In the end he wanted to drop us off at the north entrance of the park. I could at least convince him to keep going and direct him to another entrance. But it turned out that that was the east entrance. Eventually, we had to walk down to the south part of the park. Because that’s the order all guide books recommend: Start in the south and walk towards the city. That was also the way the emperor travelled through the various altars and temples during the annual immolating ceremonies.
bei_0072: The gate to the large altar of heaven.
bei_0071: The altar of heaven itself on top of the three platforms, which stand for the earth, for something I’ve forgotten (I look it up, okayokay), and the heaven. It is said that the altar is built in a way that whatever a person whisper while standing on the center stone can be heard all over the altar. I’m sure the ancient architects did not include dozens of tourist in their original plans, at least, it did not work for us.
bei_0070: This temple area, the next one after the heaven’s altar, features a sound wall (the circular surrounding wall), which is said to carry the whisper of somebody standing close to the wall to the other side of the circle. Again, there were too many tourists trying, but I got a slight impression that it would really work: I heard somebody whisper, which I at least could not see in my immediate environs.
bei_0074: Again a look across decorated roofs. Note that the pantiles are blue, not the emperor’s yellow. We cannot explain that; we think these are also buildings for the emperor. But it seems that only the Forbidden City and the tombs have yellow roofs.
bei_0075: The middle axis of the park, the direct way from altar to the large pagoda in the end (which name I also have to look up, cause I don’t want to use the one we marked, “granary”, although it comes close, ’cause this is supposingly the place where the natural produce oblations are stored before and during the ceremonies.
bei_0076: The “granary”, again situated atop three platforms. The guide books didn’t say anything about them, but they look the same as the ones at the altar. So I guess they also symbolize earth, something I forgot, and heaven.
bei_0078: The roof is said to display a different style than all the other roofs seen in Beijing. Hm, must be something in the very details…
bei_0080: A last shot on the “granary” from the back.
Then we left the Tianan park at about 15:00h. We were a bit hungry and remembered that we had seen a Pizza Hut from the taxi on the way to the park. It was not that far away and we walked that distance.
When we finally reached Pizza Hut at about 15:30h, we were surprised by the sight of a queue waiting in front of the restaurant. What do so many people (mostly locals, by the way) do in the afternoon at Pizza Hut? I mean, we were tourist, all day on tour, and wanted to squeeze in a snack before going ahead. But all these locals…? Anyway, we queued up.
When we finally got our table we were again embraced by Christmas decorations and Christmas music. Unfortunately, it seemed that Pizza Hut US only sent two Christmas songs over to their China colleagues. And they repeated then endlessly, every six minutes the same two Christmas songs. And on top of that, the service wasn’t that good, what meant, that we had to wait quite some time to order, quite some time to get our food, and again quite some time for the bill. Unbelievable, we were really glad when we could finally leave that place, heading for a nearby Starbucks.
bei_0081: We haven’t seen much of Beijing itself. Here’s a crossroads on the way to Pizza Hut.
bei_0082: And that’s the subway. Exciting, isn’t it…?
We took it to go back to our hotel for two hours of rest for Britta and Don, and two hours time for swimming pool and sauna for me.
As we were in Beijing we had to try their famous dish “Beijing Duck”. Don’s guide book recommended two restaurants, we decided for one of them, got a taxi from the hotel (I leave out the story of Don not having the address and us trying to asked the doormen, of Don go back to get the address, which then is only in English but not the Chinese, and the taxi driver having it translated by the concierge) and headed back to the city. The taxi ride was quite long, but as we had no idea were the restaurant was, we just hoped that it was correct.
Eventually, we arrived in front of a restaurant, where a middle-aged man in suite and coat greeted us and asked if we wanted to go to that restaurant, to which we actually really wanted to go. He was awfully sorry but the restaurant was already closed by that time (which seemed to be correct as there we no more guests in sight). But he offered us to go to another branch of the same restaurant only a few blocks further down the street. Same company, same best ducks in town.
As we were a bit lost without a guide book (we only had the one address of this restaurant and the name of a street for a drink thereafter) we agreed to the offer and made the man show us the way. He directed us to a large, but simple restaurant in a side street. We weren’t the only tourists, which was good, and there were also locals, which was even better.
Don and I ordered our Beijing Duck, Britta some dumplings. While we waited for our food we saw our guide again and again bringing new tourists to the place. It seemed, that his little trick worked fairly well, at least this evening. We later compared the name of the place where we ended up with the one where originally wanted to go and found exactly no similarities. We think they are totally unrelated, but the man cared for good turnover using the simple fact that the other restaurant, which was mentioned in the guide books, closed already at 20:00h, while ‘his’ place is longer open.
Anyway, the duck was great. It came out of the kitchen on the whole and was sliced into thin pieces in front of our table. A waitress showed us how to eat it: We were given a plate of thin disks of dough, which we had to fill with some vegetables, a few slices of duck, and some sauce. Then we rolled the disk and ate it with the fingers. Looked a bit like enchiladas but tasted way different.
H…something Street (again something to look up)
The meal took time but we weren’t in a hurry. After it we took another taxi. This time, we got a fairly old one, but the driver knew his place. We directly reached H…something street, a recommendation by a colleague. That place was the complete contrary of where we had been a day before. A lot of small cosy places along a small river. Here we even had too many choices and could select based on additional requirements like not being approached on the street or playing load Chinese music. We ended up in one of these small cosy places with quiet background music, a friendly attentive bar keeper, who also had to take of some locals gathering around the bar. It seemed to be a place liked by some insiders. We were comfortable and had two drinks (my cocktail test drink “Tecilla Sunrise” was astonishingly good) before we catched a taxi back to the hotel.
‘Cause on the next day, we were supposed to be picked up at 8a.m. already for the Great Wall!
Originally Created: 12/27/2004 10:58:07 PM
Last Edited: 12/27/2004