Forbidden City and Lama Temple

14 04 2010

Benno’s birthday- we were planning on walking the wall on Benno’s birthday, but the tour was only available the day before, so we did some tourist sites around Beijing instead.

First up: the Lama Temple. The air was thick with incense- it was a busy day of worshipping at the Lama Temple. The fires were tall and people lit at least 3 incense sticks at a time and bowed in front of every building and statue, leaving huge piles of incense behind when they finished. People would walk around with huge shopping bags of incense sticks- hopefully the gods were listening or that was a lot of incense to waste… There was a huge buddha inside one of the buildings- maybe 20 m or more tall. I took a photo, but perhaps I wasn’t meant to, oops.

On the subway exit sign it pointed to a vegetarian restaurant. We thought it was interesting that a veg restaurant should be so popular that it would feature on a subway and street sign so we went there for lunch. It was busy and we had to wait for a table before having a HUGE buffet lunch. There were heaps and heaps of options with mostly vegan options.

From there we continued the tourist trek by visiting Tianamen square. The square itself is not very interesting and we walked through without looking at much.

Past the gates into the Forbidden city/Palace Museum (Palace Museum is written everywhere and had us confused for a while before we worked out that the museum IS the forbidden city). Lots of tour groups, lots of gold but the gardens at the back were a bit bare. People were touching, walking over and sitting on everything in the gardens so I’m not sure how long the Forbidden City will last. Perhaps some better tourist management is required.

We walked up behind the Forbidden City to the garden behind and climbed the hill to the top Pavillion and looked down on all of the Forbidden City. Too bad it was a little smoggy but I guess it’s hard to avoid in a city like Beijing.

Benno was interested in visiting the city museum but it was closed for 3 years for renovations. So we thought we’d check out Mao’s mausoleum but it is only open in the mornings. We were just hanging around, deciding what to do when the Tea Ceremony couple approached. See Benno’s post for more on that. I must say, the fruit tea was so sweet and delicious, the jasmine is always my favourite, and the bamboo tea was something we’d never heard of before.

Benno’s birthday dinner was at another famous and historic veg restaurant called Gongalin. It was near our hostel so we walked… had some trouble finding it as there was no signage in English. Eventually Lara asked outside a restaurant if they knew where Gongalin was and the staff pointed behind them- we were already at the restaurant! It was quite upmarket – throne like chairs to sit on and staff waiting constantly on you, but the price was still cheap (about $15-20 for our meal).