Perhaps the Chinese pineapple hat of my Jordanian friend here will at least give you the feel of how scorching the summer sun is in Beijing.
Don’t think so? How about Ms. Evelyn’s pair of wide glasses neath the striking white fluffy swirls?
First of, Tiantan Park. Also known as Temple of Heaven since the park is in fact one huge sacred place consisting of elaborately constructed palaces, altars and temples to where emperors from the Ming to Qing dynasty held their grand rituals in praise of heaven. The most popular among these structure is the three-tiered circularly built Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. Great architectural design!
But I think I have seen this palaces and temples many times before, either in some Jacky Chan flicks or in my dreams, so I opted for something more different like a stroll outside to the more inward and reflective –Divine garden. Besides, the surge of the crowd to the inner temple is just too much it seemed like the onslaught in the Battle for Middle Earth! What can one expect on a weekend.
There is this “Seventy-Two Long Corridor” from the East Gate leading to the Temple’s main entrance that is just about jampacked with a large assembly of tourists and loungers taking cover from the sun. It’s always easy to tell the urchins from the tourists here by just looking at the business they came here for. The former, they are more preoccupied with card games, boardgames, magic or some good old Chinese traditional sound.
Like this seasoned player here who instantly teleported me to a scene from the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with a familiar solemn sound of his sheng.
A few walks away from the madding crowd at the northern part of the park, the ambiance is simply soothing. Sounds of distant voices, the gust of summer winds and century-old cypress, juniper and scholar trees abound. All perfectly arranged in endless rows outlining the Temple like ancient Warriors-In-Arms in the service to the Emperor. Hauntingly beautiful. What a place for a daydreaming boy. Interestingly, I’m in good terms with some amiable magpies here.
Considering Tantian Park is 4X the size of Forbidden City, and given a limited time here, I barely circled a quarter of the place. One more opportunity to be in this city and I will return to this place –minus the chaperon. Guided tours they operate like clockwork: off the bus, spread out, back to the bus, roll out to the next spot.
Next stop Wangfujing District. A never-never land for shoppers, window-shoppers and food freaks. What’s the big idea bringing us here? Did the C.U of F.E provided us a good deal of daily allowance only to give back to China what is China’s? Be that as it may, shopping is the last thing on my list. I’m on a snapping galore.
I have to give it to Ms. Evelyn, our local guide. Never fails in reminding us to be always on guard and to be always street-smart each time we’re out on market tours. Reminder number one: as much as possible, use only exact amount when paying. Some crooks out there, particularly in cheap street markets, return false money or spurious currencies as change to the most unwitting victims –us, foreigners. (does this explains the Vietnamese dong among my yuans?)
Reminder number two: Bargain for prices. Cutthroat bargaining that is. However, haggling is not applicable to expensive shops here in Wangfujing. It’s always a given for market vendors to jack up their prices (from local to tourist price) by as much as thrice the original price. But of course, one can always say the magic word: tài guì le. Shopping in Beijing may get a little complicated but as I see it, it’s a different kind of adventure! This site here provides some tips how to enjoy the adventure all the more.
And most importantly, reminder number three, a couple of Chinese words : When in need of assistance, the magic word is xiézhù. And when in distress or when in really, REALLY dire need of help, in other words — life threatening, cry out loud bāngwǒ !
But here’s the one thing Evelyn failed to warn me about: once while strolling inside the Oriental Plaza Mall, two dazzling ladies approached me as if they were my long lost friends from high school. Beneath their smiles they told me their “names”, asked more about me, who I’m with. Introduction went to small talks, small talks went to an invitation for some tea. When it seemed to them that the invitation was being turned down, the two motioned like they were ready to strong-arm me. Until Hamza, the gentleman friend from Tanzania came along from out of nowhere, to the intimidation of the two dolls who went off sorely. (So tell me now Hamza, did we spoiled one sure “good time” or what?)
———– 6:15 pm—–
Went back to the rendezvous just before sundown and found a few of my classmates cooling it down like farm fowls on the sidewalk. Humidity, it can melt you like butter. End of Saturday. Wǎn’ān!