We wake up at 6:30am to make sure we arrive early at the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s most impressive parks, in order to witness the morning routine of locals. Local retired people indeed use the site as a public recreational space, flying kites, practicing tai chi, various martial arts, gymnastics, diabolo, dancing, singing… We try some racket game with a nice man, who also tries to initiate us to the ‘jianzi’ but he quickly gives up (probably discouraged by our lack of skills). Jianzi is the ancestor of badminton; it is a traditional Chinese national sports in which players aim to keep a heavily weighted shuttlecock in the air by using their bodies, apart from the hands. We soon after buy such a shuttlecock from an old guy in order to practice at home… Old men also gather in the park with their pet birds and crickets. Others prefer playing cards or Mah-jong. It’s a great ‘spectacle’; we enjoy very much witnessing these scenes of daily life. When you see how flexible some of these elderly are, it makes you wonder…
The Temple of Heaven is one of the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. The visit of this temple was prepared by Florence, who makes a small exposé for us in front of the temple. Nice way to engage the kids (and they seem to enjoy – and they certainly remember more). Very nice and quiet place. I like the colour (purplish-blue) of the temple roof.
We enjoy our morning walk; we’ve already walked 6.5 km when we exit the park at 11am!
We go to a nearby shopping mall with a lot of Chinese goods (electronics, bags, clothes, toys…). Paradise for kids. Vendors are a bit pushy (to say the least). The kids run everywhere and then come and ask me to do the final negotiation. I like this bargaining part of the purchase. The hardest one is for the hoodies that the kids want to buy. It took quite a while but we manage to pay 220 Yuan only (less than 30 Euros) for 3 hoodies (i.e. less than 25% of the initial price). We also bought a solar power bank and a small bag pack for Ludivine + a case for Florence’s iPhone + a hand spinner for Jules. Everybody is happy!
Weather is warm and humid today. Visibility is not great because of the poor air quality.
We go back to our district where we eat very good hand-made noodles in a small cheap restaurant, recommended by one guide book and self-proclaimed “best noodles in China”…. 10 Euro for this nice lunch.
We stay half an hour only in the apartment and then we leave again to go and take the train ticket to Xian and (try to) buy local SIM cards. The kids stay at the apartment.
We go first to Beijing South Railway station to collect our tickets for our Beijing – Xi’an trip in one week. There are a lot of people. There are 27 ticket windows, including one (!) for ‘English languages services’… It’s noisy but people respect the queues in front of each counter (it is not the chaos).
We then walk to China Unicom headquarters where, according to the info that Isabelle could gather from her extensive searches on internet, we should eventually be able to buy local sim cards. And it works! Again, determination pays off. We take 2 sim cards, for 2 months: one with 15 GB of data and another one with voice only (all the family members will be able to connect to my hotspot). It was not easy (and we nearly stayed one hour in the building) but we are happy to be finally able to call each other and to connect to internet (and to get our messages) anytime anywhere.
We come back for a couple of hours in the apartment. We need to analyse the proposal that we received for the Galapagos (where we’ll be in June 2018…). Thanks to Philippe, I’m in contact with a friend of his who owns a travel agency in Ecuador. According to him, we need to book our cruise if we want to have a good boat at this time of the year (and we do need such a “good” boat since the good guides are associated to good boats – and a good guide is essential in Galapagos). The proposal is very nice but much too expensive (also because it is for a 14-night stay while we would rather do 8-9 nights). We answered to him with our comments, proposing a call today (which is the deadline of the option that he put on one of the cruises).
We leave around 8:30pm to go and eat. We are rather tired and we’ll thus try to find a restaurant in our neighborhood. The South part of our district is more active. We go back to Yangmeizhu street, where we saw yesterday a nice restaurant, ‘Meeting Someone’, which seems trendy but not touristy (not in any guide book). It is unfortunately full. We walk to another restaurant (near Qianmen) that we previously spotted, to eat a Peking (roast) duck. It was a nice experience; kids enjoyed. On our way back home, kids took a piece of sugar cane and also a Beijing yoghurt (we quite like them).