I made it to Heaven after all despite all fears to the contrary. I cheated and took the Stairway to Heaven at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing – yet another of many places in China inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious structures from the Ming and Qing dynasties and it is said the complex symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. I stood on the circular mound altar known as the Heart of Heaven and whispered a prayer of hope that I would make it to the true heart of heaven someday and requested guidance throughout my life on Earth to ensure I do.
Then I came back down to “earth” and wandered through the cedar trees and the park in hopes of joining a Tai Chi class but learned that I was about 12 hours too late for this. The locals do these classes for exercise but generally between 5:00 and 8:00 a.m. So instead I participated in a different type of Tai Chi – another universally popular form of exercise and meditation – shopping!
I started at a Japanese franchise company -Miniso – which was highly recommended to me by a number of people who have been to Japan. There you can pay next to nothing for travel goods, make up, skincare etc. For $12USD I walked away with bag full of items that will make any girl feel like heaven.
After that I went to what was a surprisingly leisurely walk at the “Fake Markets” as they are referred to. The calmer/quieter one is seemingly Pearl Market across the street from the Temple of Heaven and worth a walk thru for things you might want personally or gifts you might want to purchase for your family and friends. Bargain and bargain and bargain some more as the price is usually a tenth of what they are asking and you can get anything your little heart desires like a “Guci” or “Luis” bag or electronics or silk or prescription glasses (I got these and they are great!) or jewelry or toys or clothes including the popular “I love BJ” t-shirt…BJ standing for “Beijing” people but funny nonetheless or a classic t-shirt with the inscription “You don’t hate Mondays, you just hate your job”. Truth be told if I needed anything then I would have gone crazy here but it just so happens I don’t need anything. I will say be careful about taking enough smaller bills as you never know whether the change you are getting from the vendors at the Fake Market is real or counterfeit and you probably shouldn’t expect whatever you purchased to actually last – maybe not even through the night. It’s probably more like buying a used car that says the ac works but really they just put in coolant so it works while you test drive it but as soon as you pull off the lot it doesn’t anymore – happened to me twice in my life! But if you know what to expect then go, have some fun working on your negotiating skills and if you don’t have a lot of patience or hate the very aggressive and pushy sales people, then go to Pearl Market rather than Silk as it wasn’t so bad except in the hand bag section. Better yet, go to Taiwan where everything is better and there are no crazy aggressive sales people in the markets at all which makes it a rather enjoyable shopping experience. If nothing else, get one of the infamous Chinese masks to protect yourself from the Beijing pollution. While browsing for one, I learned that the President is actually working on this by making it illegal to use coal and providing the poverty stricken with an alternative source i.e. electricity for free. Who knows but it’s safe to say that it has been cooler here in Beijing given the fact the sun is blocked by the pollution. Which reminds me, don’t expect to see any skyscrapers, city views, any views…you can’t see them…it’s that bad here. In fact, it is very difficult to breathe here in Beijing so while I used to think the Chinese wore the masks to protect from infection, I now know the real reason for them and am frankly thinking of wearing one myself despite how ridiculous you look. Also, notice the “whitening” products here and I don’t mean teeth whitening. I didn’t understand this at first either but it makes sense now why no one here wants a photo with me but some of the really white people I’ve met from the U.K. they hound for photos. In China, the whiter your skin is the higher class you are. If your skin is dark from the sun like mine then you are a low class farmer. Ironically I grew up on a farm but my skin is tan from traveling under the hot Asian sun. Turns out I’m therefore unworthy on two accounts 😉
On another note, I want to comment on something you will not get here and that is news. As you know by now, everything is censored here including the news. One of the most obvious example of this would be my attempt to learn more about the DPRK’s recent missile launch 45km off the coast of Japan which, according to China, the US State Department had no comment about. Now when have you known any American to not have a comment about something! Particularly Trump. Funny but not so funny at the same time. Just to be clear, I met a producer of CCTV and he confirmed that nothing generated by CCTV is actually noteworthy or accurate. It is all straight up propaganda. If you want some non-censored news (or some FB, IM, Google, youtube), you must download a VPN. It will make your device seem like you are in a democratic country like the USA and nothing is blocked. Having said that, the news remains the same – mere propaganda and totally inaccurate. If you haven’t figured that out about American media yet, then you are seriously behind the curve. Media in America may be uncensored and decorated by the word democracy unlike here but it appears as though it is absolute rubbish just like it is here.
That’s all for now from Beijing.