|The day started with another buffet breakfast then a bus ride to the park that contains The Temple of Heaven. The park prior to the temple was filled with people doing all sorts of things – a musical group was playing a variety of instruments, a number of people playing cards and chess, several Thai Chi groups, and an interesting “Thai Chi Ball” exercise group – using a weighted ball and small pliable (some knitted) racket to toss the ball and move it in a variety of directions. Alice was so fascinated by it that she bought a set!
There were also a great number of cedar trees – some with green ID tags – those were over 150 years old. Some with red tags- over 300 years old, and a couple with gold ID tags – over 500 years old.
Then we entered the Temple of Heaven complex – with the Temple of Good Harvests rising up into the sky. It was built where heaven and earth meet and was constructed without the use of a single nail. The four massive pillars inside represent the seasons, and twelve smaller ones the months. Art work is extremely intricate and every surface is covered with something.
We then walked to “the mound” where the emperor would sacrifice literally thousands of animals to the heavens to assure a bountiful harvest. The stone the emperor stood on (Ming mostly) was still there, with a line of people waiting to have their picture taken on it.
Then off to lunch at a great restaurant next to a golf course in the middle of the city. Best meal of the trip! This was followed by a visit to the site of the 2008 Olympics and a view of “The Bird's Nest.” Quite a spectacular sight. There were also vendors selling strings of kites and the normal trinkets.
The highlight of the day was the trip to the Summer Palace of the Dowager Empress – pretty much the last ruler of the Ming dynasty. A huge lake surrounded by lavishly painted walkways (the “long Corridor” has about 24,000 unique paintings) and spectacular residences and temples. The wonderfully curious “Marble Boat” was quite interesting, though you couldn't get on it. The visit was finished with a trip across the lake on a “Dragon Boat” - really a barge with dragon head...
The other interesting thing about this area is that it is well visited – 42,000 visitors the day before! Indeed, the crowds made things quite difficult, and the vendors, while not as aggressive as at the great wall, were numerous and varied - from selling vegetables to doing caricatures on porcelain.
An early dinner at a Cantonese restaurant and then off to he airport – where we found our flight was canceled due to bad thunderstorms. We hung around the airport for about four hours, then were bussed back to our hotel. We're scheduled to leave at 8:00 tomorrow morning. Travel is an adventure!