After several days in China, we have learned the secret to finding satisfaction with our visit. Always set the bar low, and expect waaaayy less than you are told you will get, and then when “it” happens, either it meets your expectation or you will be pleasantly surprised. By “it” I mean everything you can possibly do, or place you can go, or thing you think you might want to buy. For example, if someone says, “Oh, this fabric is 100% cotton,” or “100% silk” in your mid you must think “In China, 100% cotton or silk = 100% polyester.” That way, when you actually feel the fabric, you aren’t disappointed, and you know what you’re looking at. If you still like it, then start bargaining.
Well, our itinerary today was to go see the “Temple of Heaven” complex. We made our way over on the metro, and bought tickets to get in. In our guide, we read it would be less crowded in the early morning or the late evening, so in our minds we thought “so, there will be like 20 tour groups instead of 50. Super.” As we walked in, we bought a guide map of the place to make sure we got to where we wanted to go. Hyperbole is clearly a cultural norm that we’ve only recently caught onto, since in the description it states that within the Temple of Heaven, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is “the most famous temple in the world.” Which we took to mean “we wish it was the most famous temple in the world.” Now, in fairness, we did recognize the structure, but mostly because we grew up in Florida going to Disney world and EPCOT, and the China Pavillion has a replica of this monument. So, it is famous, but the “most famous?” Well, we got there and there were throngs of human beings there. Crawling like ants all over the monument. We witnessed all sorts of normal behavior like pushing, spitting, hacking, etc. But, a first for us was when we went up to the doorway to look into the monument, I noticed there were puddles on the ground. Maybe rain, right? Well, I thought twice after I noticed a parent getting her child BUTT NAKED and squatting them down to pee right outside the doorway! Not even like on the side, or whatever, but, literally, off the step to the entry doorway. So, yeah, mental note, always avoid puddles. Well, we made our way around the monument and sat down on a far end to relax and let the waves and waves of people walk by. As it got closer to closing time, it started clearing up, but the front of the temple was still packed. So, we took a few good pictures around the back and sides of the monument, and were quite satisfied that we would walk away with decent pictures. Then, the guys will bull horns came out and started corralling people out of the area. We looked at each other, and decided to use the language barrier to our advantage for a change. We were the last ones on the top tier, and set up for a nice picture. A Chinese guy started yelling at me, so in my most intense body language I said I just wanted 1 picture!!! Well, remarkably, he stood back and let us take it! Then, I told Mike to slowly make his way down taking pictures, while I walked much faster to appeal to the men in loud speakers. Our tactics worked, and we managed to get gorgeous pictures of the “most famous temple in the world” with no people in them. We got unprecedented access, lol.
Score! Just look at the pictures.
Well, satisfied and triumphant with our achievement, we walked around the rest of the complex and it just felt that much nicer. Just before sunset, we left the complex, and made our way to Qianmen Street, a famous shopping street in Beijing. It was originally the path used by the emperor from the Forbidden city to the Temple of Heaven. Famous for having a 600 year history of shopping, we made our way over, skeptical of what it could offer. In our skepticism, we found that it actually met our expectations and was a very nice, relaxed shopping experience! Very pretty lighting, a nice variety of old and new shops, and some small restaurants. Well, having only eaten breakfast in the morning, we were hungry and had heard that we could have Peking duck for cheap here. So, we made our way over to one of the many small restaurants on the side alleys. We picked one that was bustling, and where we could actually see duck on peoples plates. At half the price of the duck we had the day before, I’d have to say, it was still pretty decent. The flavor was still good, but the skin wasn’t nearly as crispy and “candied” and some of the actual flesh was at times a little dry. I think this is the type of duck most tourists end up getting, though, since before we got the awesome suggestion to go to “Da Dong,” this was where I figured we would get duck. In addition to duck, though, I was interested in trying something different…Pig Ears. My mom had a Chinese friend who showed her how to make pig ears when I was growing up, and I really like them. So, now that I’m in China, I just knew I had to try them. They were a different recipe than my mom makes, but still had the essential crunch I know and love in pig ears. The cartilage gives a satisfying crispy crunch, but I guess you have to enjoy a variety of textures to enjoy things like that.