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Thursday, September 15, 2005

 Temple of Heaven

Today was an amazing day of touring parts of the city that aren't
normally part of the typical "adoption" itinerary. It was just Anita and
I, Brian and Gayle Moore, and David and Sarah Bales along with our guide
and driver. First we went to the Temple of Heaven which is 600 years old
and is now a huge park It of course has a spiritual purpose but I
couldn't tell you the exact meaning of everything so I won't even try.
Though the architecture of the buildings was spectacular, what was most
interesting was all the different activities going on in the park. There
was board games, Tai Chi, Tai Ball, Calligraphy, music, and dancing. It
is best to just direct you to the videos I put on the web rather than
try to explain, which are just below the Photos section on the main page
of After the Temple, we were taken to a little more
obscure but popular restaurant since we were in such a small group today
and was served more Chinese food than we could eat in our own private
room. We than went on a Huo Tong tour by way of bicycle driven rickshaw.
After being on the roads and seeing how motor, bicycle, and pedestrian
traffic interact and somehow miraculously coexist, I was a little
hesitant to want to get into a rickshaw. The lack of a bumper and a
layer of sheet metal between me and the oncoming traffic was a little
worrisome. However, we really never went out onto the main roads and the
ride was very comfortable and relaxing and an excellent way to tour the
neighborhood. It was a rainy day so it was also a good way to stay dry.
The Huo Tong area is an old part of town that is comprised of these
little "quadrangle" buildings where there are 4 houses in a square with
a common courtyard in the middle. We actually got to visit one family
and go into their house. One stop on the tour was at the Drum Tower
which sits across from the Bell Tower. These two towers were used to
broadcast the time in ancient days to the Emporer. The Drum Tower has 24
huge drums in it that were played at the bottom of the hour whereas the
bell was rung at the top of the hour (I think this is right). After all
this, we made it back to the hotel and took a 1 hour nap. We then
decided to add a little more road excitement to the list by taking taxis
over to the Hard Rock Cafe in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The food was not
all that great but we had a good time. I don't know how any of these
cars over here have any side-view mirrors. Tommorow, we have negotiated
to be taken to the Pearl Market first, and then to the Zoo to see the
pandas (hopefully to see Ling Ling), and then to the Summer Palace. We
did drive by Tianemen Square and the Forbidden City today but they
aren't on the schedule until Saturday, along with the Great Wall.


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