The next morning Helen and I left the hotel just before lunch. Rick was as sick as a dog, so he was laying low. We were going to the Great Wall of China tomorrow and he wanted to be well for that.
I saw this guy as we were walking along the road towards the shopping centre. Looks pretty relaxed.
After eating the biggest bowl of soup I think I’ve ever seen, we took a train ride to the MONATRTY. Across the road, Helen pointed out a KFC.
This was the entrance to the Llama Temple. The day was pretty warm, but the trees here made the walk up to the gates seem cooler. There were lots of people here – it seemed to be a popular place.
This place was originally built in the 1690’s as a residence for the court’s eunuchs, but soon a guy called Prince Yong took it over. And honestly, why wouldn’t you? It was pretty gorgeous. When he became Emperor a few years later, half of it became a monastery while the other half remained a royal residence.
During the Cultural Revolution it was lucky enough not to be damaged. It’s easy to get to – it even has its own subway station named after it.
Each person was given a bundle of incense to burn as we went in. You are meant to burn it a stick at a time, bowing in all 4 directions before tossing the stick into one of the big containers that you see here.
But that was too slow for me. I burned the whole lot at once.
Helen, on the other hand, did everything she was supposed to.
As we moved further in, there were buildings and courtyards and lots of statues under cover.
A pomegranate tree It reminded me of my old garden back in Malane st.
This looked really impressive.
I liked the way they bent the tree to look like it was blowing back in the wind.
I really like the metal bells. This is to remind myself to get some when my backyard roof over the paving finally gets built.
While Helen was busy using up her incense by bowing at yet another shrine, I saw these monks ahead of us. I picked up the pace and followed them in.
This statue was IMMENSE! It towered over us. It looked like there were 3 floors built around it.
Standing directly under it. I think that hand was almost as big as I am.
I love these next two photos. I don’t know about you, but when I think of monks, I don’t automatically link them with mobile phones.
Yet here they were, doing the same things as all of the other tourists. Of course, they were chanting and praying as well.
I have a friend I’ve known for the last 20 odd years who is on the dharmic path. This made me think of him.
Who wouldn’t love this guy?
The buildings were ornate, but not over the top. I loved the shape of them, especially when they were crowded together –
– like this. See the little Bridge of Sighs? That’s not what it’s called but that’s what it reminded me of.
Monks just chillin’.
See how close together some of the buildings were? As we got further towards the back, the closer together some of the buildings got. But look at the gold!
This was at the bottom of the steps leading to the women’s loos.
After we left the monastery, Helen wanted to wander around the neighbourhood so we set off.
I had to get a shot of this. A dog wearing little shoes!
Once we were back on the main drag, one of the red doors was open. Normally they’re closed, so I grabbed this shot of what lies beyond. The reason that there are so many public toilets in Beijing, and why they are usually very clean, is because these old homes don’t have their own loos, so the public toilets are actually everyone’s toilets.
But the little bar that we found to refresh ourselves looked extremely sanitised and homogenised.
We met up with people from the tour for dinner. Peking Duck! Well, we couldn’t be in Beijing with trying this, could we?
Maria, Marjo, Matt (who had spent the day doing paperwork so he’d be free to take us to the Great Wall the next day) and James, who was supposed to be flying back to Dublin but his plane was cancelled. I was so happy to see him again. 🙂
We were half-way through our meal when Niall joined us. He and Wally had gone to the Great Wall that day and they’d just got back. Niall told us a harrowing tale of how Wally had insisted that they go past the end of the renovated wall and start climbing the ruined part.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Niall said. “We were swinging from one hand-hold to the next over rocks and heights that’d kill you if you fell. I could’ve killed him!”
We were laughing. It was so typical of both of them, but especially Wally, to go where they weren’t supposed to go. Then they hitchhiked back to Beijing when they finally made it down. Wally was exhausted and went back to his hotel to rest, while Niall, who is clearly made of sterner stuff, came out to see us.
Then we all followed Matt as he took us to all of these hip and happening places in the hutong district. We walked down what seemed like miles of anonymous alleys, past lots of red doors with Matt checking his phone and following maps, then he’d open a door like all the others and this is what we’d find.
We had a great time.
The Great Wall tomorrow!!!!