Back in August 2014, I did one of the craziest things I’ve done so far. It happened during a short trip to Beijing that my family took to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was my first time in China, and I was so excited to go to all the notable places. My family made sure to visit The Great Wall, The Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square, but there was another place I knew I couldn’t miss that wasn’t on our itinerary— The Temple of Heaven.
It is known to be the most holy temple in Beijing, about 4 times the size of The Forbidden City. It is a large complex where sacrificial ceremonies used to be held, and is known for its outstanding architecture and landscape.
So what did I do?
On our last full day in Beijing, I woke up at 4:30 am to go on a solo trip to The Temple of Heaven. The night before, I did my research on how to get there and how much the whole trip would cost. I checked my cash and since I had more than enough, it was all systems go!
I was sharing a room with my brother then, so I did my best to quietly get dressed and leave without waking him. I feared that he wasn’t deep into his sleep yet because he normally retires to bed at 3 or 4am. It was a little tricky, but thanks to Mr. Sandman, I managed to get out with him still in slumber. Yay!
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Dongzhimen. There was a train station nearby so commuting wasn’t a problem. I took the subway from Dongsishitiao to Tiantan East Gate station, with one transfer. (Thank you, Google maps!) I don’t remember what time I got there, but it was a little too early. The gates open at 6am, while the attractions open at 8. Once the park opened, I bought my ticket and went inside.
The beauty that welcomed me filled my eyes with wonder. I was greeted by rows and rows of tall trees. I took a leisurely stroll and found many locals performing their morning exercise.
Even though the temples and altars were still closed, there was so much to explore inside the park.
It’s a wonderful place for alone time because of the calm surroundings. The scenery, the breeze, the scent —it was all perfect for reflection.
I didn’t take as many pictures as usual because I was overwhelmed by the majesty of the place, but I consider myself lucky to have been able to capture this photo of an old couple that I crossed paths with. The woman was assisting her husband in walking. Seeing them filled my heart with joy. If you look close enough, you can find magic in the simple things.
Later that morning when the temples opened, I rushed to visit every attraction. I wanted to be back in the hotel before my parents woke up.
Despite being in a hurry for the latter part, I left in awe. I knew in my heart that the charm of the Temple of Heaven isn’t in its altars and temples. It is in the atmosphere in the gardens and the vitality of the locals which I was able to experience and witness.
So I ended my journey with gladness. Plus points for me because I made it back to the hotel before they closed the breakfast buffet.
For anyone planning to go to Beijing, don’t skip the Temple of Heaven. It’s best to go early in the morning, and don’t hesitate to go alone. In fact, I highly recommend it.