A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about cold

Hutongs of Beijing and Lama Temple

semi-overcast -4 °C

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We'd gone into hibernation mode, killing time in the morning in the misguided hope that it would warm up, although it never did. We also had an unhealthy addiction to the Logos game/app that coincidentally amped up our desire to stay inside.

Once we eventually left, we tried out the Taiwanese sandwich shop that my friend recommended. Boy were they good, like little egg or egg and bacon crepes, with a flaky yet oily exterior. They were salty with chili sauce, ketchup and pepper. The vendor even spoke some English so I could be sure mine were meat free. We regretted only buying one to scarf down before the subway ride.

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We came back above ground at Lama Temple, a Tibetan temple that had withstood battles that desecrated other buildings. Originally a residence for Emperor Yong Zheng, Lama Temple was converted into a Lamasery in 1744. Since, it helped to serve as a liaison between China and the Mongol people when relations were healthy.

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By this point, we'd admit that we'd seen a lot of temples, most looking very similar and this one also fit the bill. A unique feature was a giant wooden Buddha statue, so large in fact that they earned a world record (posted in the temple museum) for their statue. They also had the prayer wheels we saw in Sichuan province that were more typical to Tibet.

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Most people visited to pray and bought bundles of incense sticks. There were many sites where they placed the sticks as an offering for each prayer. That incense shop made quite the healthy business. We were pretty cold just wandering around, economically snapping photos when interest topped the desire to have warm hands. The only place to warm up had been the museum with a collection of bronze statues and worship items. Monks stood in the corner, I assumed to supervise, although their phones caught their attention far more than any visitor.

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We found a vegetarian restaurant which was quite far from the temple. It didn't always pay to avoid meat, but the place was nice. It had a health grocery section at the front and then a dining area with several sections. It felt like a tea house out of a kung-fu movie with round windows in the stone walls, dark furniture, an indoor courtyard made to look outdoorsy. We split a kung-pow mock chicken dish that I was a bit sceptical of and I tried some flowery Roselle tea.

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It took a few wrong turns to find our way out of the hutongs and head toward the other hutongs that Lonely Planet recommended. We passed some sweet Christmas decorations like life-sized lobsters wearing Santa hats. Ryan also spotted a few guitar shops that we stopped in to 'warm-up'. Most of the recognizable brand guitars were wrapped in plastic which killed most of the fun for him. There was also a hotdog stand with veggie dogs right near the start of our self-guided tour.

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We opted to do the tour backward based on our location, which was much easier in theory, especially without street names. We started with nice residential hutong alleys that led to the Drum and Bell Towers currently under construction. It was for the best anyway as we would have likely been too cheap to pay the entrance fees.

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Across a busier street, we got a bit more lost trying to decide how far was enough based on the poorly scaled map. Rarely did Lonely Planet produce useful maps in the books themselves. Since our interpretation was that they wanted us to go through someone's yard, we made our own route past vegetable vendors, homes and other one or two story constructions that didn't contribute to the skyline.

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We found a nice little park with a frozen lake that the book forgot. Soon the hutongs got really commercial and trendy as we tried to locate so-and-so's former residence even though it turned out we could only look at the front gate. Our fingertips and cheeks were burning so we went back.

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My friend recommended a nice Chinese restaurant a few streets away from her place for supper so we had a nice feast of lamb wraps, eggplant, a refreshing cucumber dish and fried beans. It was sad to think we'd be saying goodbye soon, felt like yesterday we were having adventures in Thailand together. It was also awesome she put us up and shared her living space for a whole week.

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Posted by Sarah.M 07:44 Archived in China Tagged tower park temple beijing drum lama cold bell frozen hutong closed sandwich taiwanese Comments (0)

Xi'an

semi-overcast 0 °C

We arrived in chilly Xi’an via sleeper train mid afternoon. We were both pretty exhausted having not slept well due to our screaming baby neighbour on the train bunks. We exited the grimy train station and made our way to the bus stop. Luckily, there were some English speaking locals who helped us get to our accommodation.

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Since we wouldn’t be spending much time in Xi’an, we decided to take the metro and visit the old city walls despite the evening’s chilly bite. Using our “valid” student cards to score some cheap admission tickets, we entered the large, completely restored, old city walls of Xi’an. Built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, the 13.7 km long walls contain about 14 square kilometers of real estate. The city has grown considerably since the original walls were built; now the walls were filled with only a small portion of the city. Arches had been cut into the walls allowing roads with busy traffic to pass through freely. The fortified wall was built with a fake entrance, where the attacking armies would think they’d gained access inside, only to run into to a dead end. The defending army could then easily ambush the trapped attackers.

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Walking inside we caught the end of a performance of men dressed in traditional army uniforms marching and doing drills to some epic battle music. Excited local tourists ran up immediately after to have their photos taken with the performers. We climbed up some narrow steps to reach the top of the wall to be greeted by a freezing wind. Despite the cold, we saw some tough locals and few foreigners ride the rented bicycles and the ever adorable, tandem bicycles, around the 13.7 kilometer long wall. They also had battery cars for those too lazy to walk it.
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The wall was lined with red lanterns hanging from street poles and speakers playing the soothing Chinese traditional instrumental music. We headed West along the ancient wall to watch the sun set through Xian’s modern skyline. After the sun went down the lanterns and temples nestled on the top of the walls lit up beautifully.

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We walked for over an hour we and climbed down the wall to try our luck at finding food in the nearby Muslim district. We eventually found a build-your-own pita type food cart that you could fill with just about anything. After we devoured our tasty pitas, we visited Chinese Wal-Mart and picked up some snacks which included Great Value Pringle like chips from Canada, Delicious.

Posted by Sarah.M 20:23 Archived in China Tagged walls xi'an cold Comments (0)

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