Thursday 26th July 2018
Thursday began with another 5am start. We said our goodbyes to the teachers from Changzhou Senior High School and left them with some keepsakes of Glossop. Ollie met us at the train station and said his final goodbyes before we awaited the bullet train. Very kindly, he had bought Mr Redfern and Miss Cox a gift which was a beautifully decorated soup/rice bowl in a gift box for any future meals where they may wish to recount the tastes of sticky rice, palate cleansing soup or Chinese noodles back at home!
After this, we boarded the train and, before we knew it, were greeted with a McDonalds upon arrival in Beijing. (This time there were no spicy chicken burgers to Mr Redfern and Miss Cox’s disappointment! For most of us though, this was a welcome home comfort!).
At the train station, we met our new Tour Guide: Linda. From the moment we met Linda, she welcomed us, cared for us and informed us (in lots and lots of detail!) about each of our plans and tourist attractions throughout the day. She expressed warmth when she called us Linda’s ‘friends’ and took us to The Temple of Heaven.
At the Temple of Heaven, we learnt about the Chinese tradition of worshipping Heaven and the 22 emperors that worshipped heaven in the temple from 1421. In The Temple of Heaven, we viewed the place of sacrificial worship and the importance of the number 9 as evidenced in the 9 steps leading up to each building. The colours blue, red, yellow and gold adorned The Temple of Heaven, symbolising the importance of the royal building as a place of worship.
The gardens surrounding The Temple of Heaven themselves were beautiful so had become a social place for the elderly to meet and play Chinese chess etc. One of the best features, was the outdoor gym where we all exercised on steppers, bikes and other outdoor equipment before trying out the ‘foot massage’. When we say foot massage, we mean different sized and shaped pebbles cemented into a circle with which people walked barefoot to enhance circulation. We saw older men walking and decided to give it a go but, for our untrained, usually trainer-cushioned feet, it seemed more like a torture challenge, rather than a relaxation method and, it was not until afterwards, that we appreciated the benefits.
After this, there was a slight change to plan due to the heat and hot sun…This was definitely a welcomed change as it meant we got to return to one of our favourite places and get the bargains we didn’t have chance to get in our minimal visit of only 50 minutes the first time… The Pearl Market. This time, Miss Cox decided that she would ask about the Gucci trainers they had seen previously and was told to follow the shop owner’s sister (who only spoke Mandarin) to another shop. Walking out of the building and into the basement of another building, they found a shop with everything they could have wished for!!! So much so, Miss Cox left with 2 bags and a belt and Mr Redfern a bag and, another 2 pairs of trainers!! When we all met back together, Amber showed off her traditional artisan products – a jade elephant and Chinese bamboo hat which she swore she would wear (if even on her back like a cowgirl) on the plane and journey home!
Our dinner this evening was at a dumpling restaurant where we tried a range of different flavours: pork and carrot; pork and green vegetables; shrimp and mushroom. All were delicious, perfectly formed and decorated, as well as extremely fresh. After dinner, we returned to the hotel and bought a few supplies from the supermarket. Then, an early night was needed by all in preparation for our big day on Friday!