Last Day in Beijing

We started our last day in the awesome Temple of Heaven park. The temple and associated structures are fantastically beautiful and interesting. But even more interesting to me was the activity going on throughout the park – it was alive in a way unlike any park I’ve ever encountered in Canada. Just past the entry gates, a large group of seniors were doing some kind of ballroom dance class. There was another group of folks having some kind of singalong in an archway not far away. There was tai chi, this cool racket sport where you pass a ball back and forth with your partner, a corner where all kind of dudes were learning violin, and then another huge group dance/aerobics scene.

From the top of the Temple area, the cacophony from all the various activities was actually quite amazing.

We hit up the ‘pearl market’ across the street (which was not just pearls, but also t-shirts, ‘jacket you want’ ‘jeans – I have your size!’ ‘bag, lady lady bags!) and so forth.

From there were trekked out to the Olympic park to knock that off our sightseeing list. I’m glad we did. The Bird’s Nest, yes, is very cool. But the whole area is massive and crazy itself, and was well worth the look (and it where I first encountered a squatty-porta-pottie. Mmmmmm. Not so nice. But still better than a trough!).

I don’t remember what we did for dinner, but I do remember that we then went to the ballet, back at the NCPA. We didn’t exactly know who or what it was, since everything was in Chinese. I think we both figured it’d be good, since it was in the Opera House – the largest of the three main theatres in the complex. And, you know, it’s a fancy performing arts centre.

Before you can get anywhere near the concert halls, you have to go through security – like, airport style. They xrayed my bag and made me leave my camera in the coat check. Strangely, they let you keep your phone (so plenty of people were taking pictures throughout the performance, and also texting. Which is maddening!).

The complex itself is awe-inspiring. Guess what? It’s massive and ridiculous, like everything here. The opera house alone seats over 2100, I believe.

Sadly, the ballet was less than awe-inspiring. Starting with the recorded score – no live music for us! I’m no great ballet smarty pants, but there were things I just wanted to be better – things that were supposed to be matchy-matchy that just weren’t, or that could have looked more graceful and elegant. And then Duncan mentioned during intermission that the recording itself was also really terrible. So I paid more attention in the second half and almost died. There was one french horn solo that sounded positively drunk.

I don’t think we were the only ones who were a little underwhelmed, IF the number of people texting through the second half is any gauge. And the awkward, tepid applause. And! The dude who LOUDLY YAWNED several times. Not your average yawn, a totally-vocalized LOUD yawn.

It was an experience.

Cab ride to the Temple of Heaven – this dude directed traffic at this one intersection, and almost seemed to have control of the lights. His calm with traffic whizzing by kind of blew my mind

then our camera battery died! Dunc has some pictures on his iPhone, but he’s not here. Maybe I’ll post them later. In the meantime, fast forward to that evening- walking home from the ballet

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