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Rising at 5am I had a quick shower, then packed, my clothes having dried overnight due to a temperamental washing machine. The bus was due to leave at 5:55, which was earlier than I would have chosen to leave, but Glen bought the tickets. It was clear running all the way, and we arrived at the airport with the need to kill for a couple of hours before meeting our tour organiser at 11am.
We also met most of our group, which aside from Glen and I was composed mainly of girls, many of them Irish, and most of them blonde. The airplane ride was smooth, and we made it to Beijing despite worries about China Air having the worst safety record of all the airlines. After clearing customs we were met by David, our tour guide, and we joined with the remaining two members of the tour. This pictures of us was taken at the great wall, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first stop was the temple of heaven. The temple of heaven is situated in what appeared to be a park, of which we saw very little. We viewed the centre stone, raised on three concentric circular platforms, each with 9 steps leading to it. The stone was surrounded by 9 rings of flagstones, with each circular ring containing 9 more than the previous. The outer ring contained 81 stones. It was at this point that David mentioned that 9 was the most magical number, and that the forbidden city had 9,999 rooms in it.
Further on from the dias was the temple of heaven proper. This was a relatively unimpressive building (compared to others we saw) contained in a circular, walled courtyard. The inside was nothing special, but perhaps sacred as there was a 'no photography' sign up. The circular wall was called echo wall for it's acoustic properties, which was tested by Glen who clapped to get an echo.
We moved on down a long, straight walkway to the hall of prayer for good harvest, which was considerably more impressive.
We then went to the bamboo restaurant, where we had the first of the really great Chinese meals we were to enjoy during our stay. We had red threads tied onto our wrists in honour of it being new years eve (on the girls' right wrists, and the boys' left). We were entertained during our meal by what was claimed to be Chinese traditional dancing, but how would I know, I was a tourist.
We then moved on to the wonderful New World Courtyard hotel. I actually got my own room due to the odd number of male/females in the group. I sat in my room and wrote a few postcards, and my red thread came off my wrist. The downside of being by oneself is that it's difficult to tie a thread onto your wrist. I went the rest of my time threadless.