On our fourth day in Beijing, we noticed that the roads were looking emptier and the streets were less crowded. It seemed like most people were leaving Beijing and going back to their Chinese hometowns. As much as we were relieved about this, it still didn’t motivate us to use public transportation. So we asked the people at our hotel to write down all our planned destinations in Chinese and we snared a cab to head to our 1st destination.
Let be known that although this was the most chilled day of our holiday so far, China had made us both frustrated and irritable. So when we arrived at The Temple of Heaven and I realised that Faraaz had forgotten both our cameras at the hotel, I wanted to kill him. Fortunately, the Temple of Heaven is a really peaceful and beautiful place, which helped to calm me down. So the pictures from our visit here are not up to our usual standard because they were taken with Faraaz’s Samsung Galaxy phone.
The Temple of Heaven, more correctly known as Tian Tian was completed during the Ming dynasty and is one of the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. It was here that the emperor would make sacrifices and pray to heaven and his ancestors at the winter solstice.
The Temple of Heaven complex is set in one of the Beijing’s most impressive parks. The temple was the place where earth, signified by square shapes including the bases of the enclosures, communicated with heaven, signified by the rounded top. Today, local retired people, inured both the magnificence of the buildings and their hordes of visitors, use the site as a public recreational space, practising tai ji quan (tai chi), various martial arts, and other exercises, flying kites, and rehearsing Beijing Opera, all of which add to the charm.
From there we went to the Pearl Market, which contrary to the name, sells more than pearls, though that is a large part of the markets. The sales girls on the whole were characters, and the sales pitch usually on the cheeky side. In China, no price is really set in stone. It is up to you, the shopper, to earn a fair price for your purchases. Bartering applies to almost every purchase whether it’s clothing, jewellery, or electronics. When we first arrived in China, I was nervous to barter; I didn’t want to fight with people that didn’t speak my language over how much they were charging for their goods. But later, we put our newfound bartering skills put to the test in the Pearl Market. The Pearl Market is four floors of booths filled with electronics, watches, silk, clothes, and, of course, pearls. We bartered for things first offered to us from 200 yuan down to 50 yuan (about R70/$8). I didn’t buy anything for myself so friends and family look out in the post (Haha!). It was pretty nice to get things for super cheap because as you may know, shopping in Korea or South Africa is a rather expensive affair.
Later we treated ourselves to traditional Chinese massages. Faraaz thought this was a necessity after the tumultuous time we had experienced in China. Unlike in the West where massages are often viewed as a luxury, in China massages are more often viewed as a health necessity! Chinese people who can afford it will often get a traditional massage once a week as part of a normal body care regimen.
I certainly got more than I bargained for. About five minutes into this session, I couldn’t tell if I was going into a trance or going into shock. They are way into pressure points in Chinese massage, apparently. The 22 year old guy massaging me had a habit of pushing right on the points of my bones though. So hard that I thought my bone might pop through my skin. And then I heard these punching/smacking noises and vaguely wondered if the female masseuse was beating poor Faraaz to death. Don’t you worry though; I got my turn at “Whack-a-Foreigner.”
As if things couldn’t get stranger, the guy climbs on top of me and straddles me while massaging my bum for a solid 10 minutes. Uhh awkward. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. A lot of it felt really good, don’t get me wrong. I guess I’m just a delicate little flower.
But afterwards, my feet like they were floating along on clouds and Faraaz felt very relaxed and drowsy. It probably wasn’t a good idea to head to a traditional Peking Opera but it had already been booked the night before so after the massage we got into our organised transport and went off to the opera.
Peking Opera is the traditional Chinese theatre, which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of happiness, anger, sorrow, hurt, surprise, fear and sadness.
Peking Opera performers mainly have two types of facial decorations: masks and facial painting. The frequent on-stage changing of masks or facial makeup (without the audience noticing) is a special technique known as changing faces.
The first half of it had us engrossed but after a while I felt my eyelids grow heavy and Faraaz had is head on my shoulder. Getting a massage before the opera is not recommended!
Here are some pictures so you can get more of a feel for the wonderful experience. I wish we could’ve been more awake to enjoy it fully!
It was our last night in Beijing so after supper we walked around our area and snapped some pictures. The buildings are so pretty when the streets aren’t crowded:
Our last day in China… no dramas or chaos… amazing! 😀