Despite Beijing being the capital of the most populous country in the world it doesn’t feel like the bustling metropolis that you’d expect. It’s main attractions appear to be of the quiet and relaxed nature, like the Forbidden City.
It seems to lack a natural centre for commerce and for people to gravitate to, other than the Tiananmen Square area, and that seems to be a place frequented by tourists not locals. That said as we wander along the streets doing some chores (changing some flights, buying contact lenses) we do see a lot of people, but it doesn’t feel like a place with much of a pulse.
The Temple of Heaven provides the focus for our last day before we take the overnight train out early evening. A 267 hectare site enclosed within walls, having gates on each point of the compass, and the location used by the Emperor twice a year to hold ceremonies praying for a good harvest, and to say thanks for the harvest.
These days it is simply a lovely park type location scattered with beautiful buildings (that are used for couples having wedding photographs taken), covered corridors that locals use for impromptu dancing and card games, and paths and gardens to stroll through. I manage to get embroiled in a game with a local man that involves catching cotton rings filled with beans over your head, which attracts a fairly large crowd keen on taking photographs of the crazy white man.
We finish our time in the Pearl Market, which, like every other market we have visited on the trip, is generally full of pushy vendors selling mostly the same wares (tacky souvenirs and fakes) that you almost universally don’t want. That said I succumb sufficiently to part with some Yuan for a fake watch and a mobile phone case having left mine on a bus.