We are often amazed at how excited the dogs are when they visit somewhere new. Their noses are assaulted by all manner of new smells. By the time we get back home, they collapse with exhaustion. I think we now understand why.
Today we visited a Chinese hot food market. Scorpions on sticks, whole deep fried ducklings, starfish, all vied for our sensory attention. The visual explosion was pretty extreme but it was nothing compared with the assault on our noses.
Smells like nothing we’ve smelled before and, quite frankly, I’d be happy to never smell again.
And crowds! I think we were the only westerners in the narrow streets full of strange food and Chinese people.
Actually, everywhere today was quite crowded. Even outside St Joseph’s church, where the bridal parties are on a conveyor belt. We arrived in time to see the final photographs of one couple.
As we stood and watched, a second wedding finished inside and the happy couple (and delirious hair obsessed friend) processed down the aisle, followed by family and friends.
As we left them to their photography, we noticed the next wedding party start to enter the church by the side door.
The one place we visited that wasn’t crowded was the quaint little house that once belonged to the novelist and playwright, Lao She.
He had a lovely house with an internal courtyard. In the courtyard are two persimmon trees which he planted. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to his house.
We then went down our first hutong, a sort of traditional Chinese alley. They are supposed to be full of atmosphere and attractive. This one missed out on both counts.
Now, at this point, I have a confession to make. We went into McDonalds. We needed a sit down after the rigours of the market and not finding a second Starbucks, we headed into the closest haven of western imperialism and altar to capitalism for a latte and two pink lamingtons.
General food stuffs are a bit of a problem here in Beijing. Tea bags, for instance, and milk. The sort of things we take for granted. They sell Nescafe in the familiar jars so coffee isn’t a problem. Tea though, is.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of tea. Mostly it’s green, white, jasmine, buckwheat, etc. While they have Twinnings at the hotel, we’ve not seen anything anywhere else.
Which is why we visited a giant tea shop in Wangfujing Street and found what we think are normal tea bags. At least they came in a very attractive box.
Speaking of shops…we caught a cab across town to visit the Panjiayuan antique market. What an amazing place. So much stuff, it’s difficult to know what to talk about.
Suffice it to say that there are so many stalls, that each row is devoted to the same thing. So you’ll have, for instance, great stacks of tiny teapots in stall after stall after stall until you get to the next row where there’s lots of jade. And so it goes on, for longer than a normal human has attention span.
Our next destination was to be the Temple of Heaven but, first, we stopped off at a typical Chinese restaurant for lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the Mongolian lamb though Mirinda wasn’t that keen on their food hygiene rating. Still we paid, we ate, we left.
The Temple of Heaven is in a massive park of 273 hectares. It’s a complex of buildings where once a year, the Chinese rulers would carry out an elaborate ceremony in order to guarantee a good harvest for the next year.
There were so many rules and regulations attached to the ceremony that there was always someone to blame for the lack of a good harvest. Typical.
We managed to wander through a lot of it and what we saw was pretty amazing. Especially amazing was the long corridor. Try and imagine an extremely long verandah with scores of card players perched on the edge, slapping down winning hands, smoking and crocheting temples. All very bewildering.
Nice to add that the whole place is a World Heritage Site. That’s another one we’ve accidentally visited.
So, essentially, the whole day has been about food. And sore feet. We both have quite sore feet. There’ll not be so much walking tomorrow…I hope.