Quite a few touristy places, museums and galleries seem to be closed on a Monday in Beijing, so I thought I’d head over to Lama Temple first as we’d been in that area twice the day before. Also Happy Cow informed me that there was a completely vegan place just round the corner. Win! I decided to pack my leftover sesame pig and peanut buns into my bag just in case, along with a few nak’d bars before I set off.
I woke up feeling refreshed but also very, very scared. Whilst I had somewhere to stay with Sam and Daria, they both had work to do throughout the day, so I was on my own every day until around 5/6pm. Due to booking my trip just a month before leaving and the fact I was staying for only a week, the only Mandarin I knew was ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. My phone also did not work while I was out there, not just calls/texts and such but pretty much everything on the internet is banned in China. No Facebook, no youtube…no Google Maps so even if I could find a wifi connection, it would not help me. I also have zero map reading skills and have never travelled in another country alone. I was so anxious that first day.
I left early, at around 9.30am and it was already boiling hot. I do not cope well with heat. I picked up a few drinks on the way (bottles of fizzy drinks for 2 yuan (20p)?? Hell yeah! I love China!) before jumping on the subway. Beijing is super busy during quiet periods…it is not nice at rush hour. So many people, so little respect for personal space and zero chance of getting a seat. Luckily Lama Temple wasn’t far away.
When you leave the station, you’ll come out on a street with a huge wall alongside it, you just need to follow that wall and you’ll find your way to the temple. Once inside the walls you’ll need to get a ticket before entering, it was only 25 yuan (£2.50) for a ticket 50 yuan (£5.00) if you want an audio guide. I decided to skip the guide.
Lama Temple is a well known Bhuddist temple, lots of folk come to visit, so if you’re going to visit a temple while you’re in Beijing, I hear this is the one worth seeing. The temple is filled with lots of beautiful halls that contain statues and tapestries. Taking photos inside the halls is prohibited, but I got some lovely shots outside of the halls. You also get a free pack of incense to burn. I spent a good few hours wandering round and taking photos…and also hiding in the shade. Boy was it hot.
I’d managed to work up an appetite at the temple so thought I’d try to find this vegan place, The Veggie Table. For the first time in my life I needed to read a map and get it right. The restaurant was down a Hutong pretty much opposite Lama Temple subway station so I was hoping it wouldn’t be too hard…luckily it wasn’t, I found the Hutong really easily. From the temple you need to cross over to the road opposite and head back towards the station, if I remember right, it was about 5 minutes walk. As you’re walking along you’ll see a Costa Coffee, when you see this you’re at Wudaoying Hutong. Turn left and walk down until you see The Veggie Table, it’s just a few minutes walk and will be on your right.
I loved The Veggie Table, it was a really nice cool and airy space plus the staff there were super friendly and didn’t seem to mind that I was obnoxious enough to not know any Mandarin. I was given an English menu and luckily there were signs in English on the tables that explained that everything was vegan and also mostly organic, yay!
The menu is full of typical western foods – burgers, hummus, pizza, pasta, falafel, couscous as well as dal and curry. I decided to go for the Shiitake Mushroom Burger – 86 yuan (£8.60) and a pink lemonade.
I’ll start with the lemonade…this was no lemonade that I’ve ever tasted. It tasted like fizzy pink, I wasn’t very keen on it but I was hot and thirsty so I drank it all.
On the other hand, the burger was fantastic. I was a bit concerned when I saw the bun, it looked pretty dense and too healthy for my liking. Whilst it was a fairly dense bun it was really delicious and the mushroom patty was incredible. It was so tasty that I immediately wanted another one when I’d finished. Whilst there weren’t a lot of the, the chips were great and despite the coleslaw not resembling coleslaw, it was tasty. I think they must make their own mayo there as it was quite beany tasting, so assuming they made their own with soy milk and oil? Either way it was good.
There were also some great looking cakes on the menu but sadly they were all out while I was there. This was probably a good thing though honestly, as my meal came to just over 100 yuan (£10) which is pretty pricey just for a lunch, in Chinese standards of course.
I was a bit scared of the heat so I chilled at The Veggie Table for a while before setting off to find Temple Heaven Park in Dongcheng. This was around a 40 minute journey from Lama Temple which includes a 20 minute walk, which required more map reading. I got the subway line 5 to Tiantan East Gate and walked from there. My map reading skills were working a treat, whilst it felt like a long walk in the heat I’m pretty sure I went the quickest way. As Beijing is so massive, what can look like a short walk can actually take quite a while so try to be aware of that when you’re planning.
Upon leaving the Subway station, I remember finding the park quickly, only problem is, is that it’s surrounded by a huuge wall so quite a walk alongside it until you reach an entrance. It feels like you’ll never get there but I promise you will. During my walk I had a few rickshaws offering to take me there, I didn’t want to get ripped off so declined, they kept telling me that I was going the wrong way, if this happens ignore them, they’re most likely just trying to scam you, especially if you have a map out and look as touristy as I did.
When I arrived I got a through ticket for 35 yuan (£3.50), a regular ticket is a bit less but if you want to see the sights within the park it’s easier to just get the through ticket, otherwise you’ll have to pay later on or miss out. This park, like pretty much every park in Beijing is massive! I would have had to spend all day there to get round it all, but I spent a good 3 hours or so there. Before buying my ticket I thought it was a bit cheeky to charge entry for the parks but after going inside them I can see why there is a charge. They are big, beautiful, include temples and they’re kept really clean and tidy.
I saw the main sites of the park; the Round Altar, Echo Wall and the Hall of Prayer and then walked around the rest of the park. I did a lot of sitting too because oh my god, did I mention that it’s boiling hot in China?!
Word of advice, don’t do the Round Altar in the middle of the day when it’s at its hottest. It was nice and all but the heat was unbearable and there’s very little shade. Also super bright as sun reflects off the stones. Maybe I’m just super fat and unfit but I did struggle getting around when it was so hot.
I decided to head back to my brothers when my feet started to get sore. Was a bit of a mistake to wait until this point before heading back as it took forever to get to the closest exit. Damn Beijing and it’s massive parks! By the time I got out, I still had a pretty long walk with my map to the station.
Unfortunately I must have walked past the closest station because I ended up walking for about an hour before I found a subway. I don’t want to complain about the heat again but IT WAS HOT! I WAS TIRED! Luckily there were lots of folk selling fresh melon on the street so I bought a few to help me along.
When I finally got back to my brothers at Liu Fang I was exhausted! The heat also meant that I wasn’t very hungry so we stayed in and I ate my leftovers from the night before and drank all the water in the world. We watched Kindergarten Cop and it was awesome. I also made plans for the following day. I went to bed feeling super proud of myself for exploring by myself and not getting lost. Go me!