I had the most amazing day today and since I forgot to pack my journal, I will just have to document my days via blog posts!
This is the Temple of Heaven. I learned so much about culture during my time here! This is a large park (for lack of a better word) where mostly retired Chinese citizens gather to spend time together and express themselves. I saw them singing and dancing and painting and playing all sorts of games. There was such a wonderful sense of community in this place.
To a foreigner, a few strange things stuck out to me. First of all, there was a long line of people sitting along one side with descriptions of their unmarried children who are looking for a spouse. Another thing that stuck out to me was that a lot of small children weren't wearing diapers. Instead, their pants had two slits (one in the front, one in the back) from which they could just squat and go.
The temple itself was absolutely breathtaking, as were all the other sights to see. The number 9 was all over the place, from the number of steps it took to get somewhere to the number tiles on the ground. The number 9 symbolizes longevity, and is considered somewhat of a lucky number.
This is the Lama Temple, which was one of the highlights of my day. A Tibetan temple in the middle of Beijing was such a cultural treat. There were a group of Tibetans visiting the temple at the same time we did so it was so fascinating experiencing their culture along with them. There were multiple incense services where people would pray in front of the temple while holding incense. For me though, the best part was the chanting monks. This was something to see, feel, and hear. The whole temple echoed the uniform chanting of the Tibetan monks and it is something I will never forget.
Golden hour is magical wherever you are, but there was something extra special about that sliver of time before sunset here in China. We spent some time in Beihai Park before having dinner at Fengshan Restaurant. It is here that the Empress Cixi used to host 120-course banquets. The inside of the restaurant was as extravagant as it gets. Gold everywhere and impeccable details from floor to ceiling.
Last stop of quite the busy day was at the Beijing Olympic Park. The 2008 Olympics were held here at the "bird nest" and the "water cube" which is not pictured. The lights are so dramatic at night that walking all the way to this lake was definitely worth it to catch that reflection.