We started our day at the Temple of Heaven, an enormous Taoist temple complex. It is like a Chinese Stonehenge, for it is factored around the solstice. The main structure is not only beautiful, but also extremely impressive due to the fact that it is all joined wood –not one nail was used in its construction! In addition to touring the many sections of the complex, we enjoyed watching parents match-make for their children and the elderly do dance exercises in the park.
Then we traveled to the Pearl Market. It is similar to New York’s Canal Street, yet in a large multistory building. Our haggling skills were in full swing here as we made friends and family happy by purchasing the pearls we promised them.
Olympic Stadium was next! We traveled north towards what was farmland a few years ago, now home to towering apartment buildings, wide streets and the Olympic Complex (much in contrast to the hutongs of central Beijing where we spent the past two days). The Olympic park is open to the public, and is a source of pride for the Chinese people. Chris fulfilled a lifelong dream of riding a Segwey along an Olympic track.
Next we went to a nearby silk museum where we learned about the history of silk production as well as the processes for which it’s made. This was fascinating to see first hand. I held a silkworm cocoons while pulling out the one continuous stand of silk. We certainly have a new appreciation for the strength of this fabric.
During the evening, we walked to the Forbidden City, which was even more dramatic when fully lit. We decided to take the subway back to our hotel. The subway system, which was extremely modern, was not for the feint of heart, as it is extremely crowded even late at night. While I am used to taking a crowded L train to work this was a new level of sardine-like feeling. Subway etiquette, as New Yorkers know it, is thrown out the window!