During our travels, there have been mornings when I’ve ventured out as a #SoloExplorer…generally because @funkstop wants more time to snooze under the covers! Usually this means wandering through the streets with my camera, sitting at a cafe and people watching, or window shopping at local shops (I can spend hours doing this!). In Beijing, I was tempted to stay under the covers also, but my grumbling stomach forced me to get up and head out into the cold! After a delicious coconut bun at a nearby bakery and an interesting experience at the post office (I mean seriously, the main post office in Beijing only has SIX international stamps?!), I found my way over to the Temple of Heaven. Sounds magical – doesn’t it? I only had enough time to spend a couple of hours there, but I can easily say that it is a MUST visit in Beijing! As if seeing buildings named the Imperial Vault of Heaven, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and Palace of Abstinence, aren’t reasons enough to want to see this place, the park surrounding the buildings is where the real fun is.
The large park was filled with Beijingers dancing, exercising, playing board games, or just sitting and people watching like I was. I did read that this park is where locals come to practice leisure activities, but thanks to my years growing up in Scarborough, what I thought I’d see was groups of seniors practicing Tai Chi amongst the trees. What I actually saw though, was a couple of old ladies wearing sequined belly dancing belts and practicing a slow grind to Arabic music blasting from a nearby stereo. Yup, I felt the same amount of shock that you’re feeling now. It was not at all what I was expecting! There were also groups of old men huddled around board games (I honestly don’t even know the names of all of the different games!), a couple putting on a dance show to Indian music, and young teens dancing to a pop song like they were in a club. The scene was incredible. I didn’t know where to look and was just amazed by the activity around me.
It was initially the types of leisure activities that I saw that made me blink several times, but after that initial surprise, what I loved was that people were just doing absolutely anything that they wanted to do! And on top of it, most of those people were seniors! It was actually pretty inspiring and something to be celebrated.
I spent so much time in the park that I didn’t have enough time to explore the Temple of Heaven in detail. I will just have to come back again one day! I hear there is a whisper wall inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven, so maybe the next time I’ll wait until @funkstop wakes up to take him with me 😉