After hanging with Qian for two days, we decided maybe it was a good time to move back into a hostel in the city. Not because he wasn’t the nicest and most hospitable dude ever, but mostly because it took a 1.5-2 hours to do anything inside the city and that bus trip was killing us. With our new home-base established at a little place among the hutongs named “the Red Lantern”, we actually were able to explore the city over the last few days.
We saw a Tibetan style temple named the “Lama Temple” where I took many notes to research some of these incredible many-appendaged deities, both wrathful and good, though often times it’s hard to tell which is which. The temple was also a museum of sorts. It contained old artifacts like period clothing, tiny teapots, tiny statues, large statues, printing press materials, scrolls that had been printing-pressed upon and tapestries that would put any college stoner’s wall ornaments to shame. It’s probably for the best that they’re locked up in a museum, because even the shortest baked-gaze at one of these mind-melters would surely leave even the most experienced Reefernaut plunging into the depths of a rabbit hole so deep they could never emerge. Real talk.
The centerpiece of the Lama Temple is a massive 18-meter statue of my new main dude, Maitreya, sitting on an 8-meter pedestal. It was all carved out of one solid piece of sandalwood. Whaaaaat. Where do you get a tree as big as this thing? (You should take this time to go peep Katie’s site. She’s a much better writer than me, it’s her photo of Maitreya at the top of the post, and she’s covering the same excursion as I am except offers a different and often funnier point of view.)
Over the next few days, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace. Maybe it’s because these places get a lot of hype that they weren’t as exciting as we were expecting, maybe it was the 90°+ weather or maybe it’s because we were absolutely mobbed by fellow tourists and we weren’t ready for it. Either way, they were neat to see but our experience was kind of a letdown. Inside the Forbidden City there is a calligraphy museum that was worth checking out.
I can’t help imagining how cool it would be to be inside the Forbidden Palace with only a few hundred people, but we were definitely dealing with thousands and thousands.
Oh well. That’s pretty much China tourism in a nutshell.
Although, the giant Mao portrait and tomb didn’t disappoint at all.