Sunday, November 18, 2012


Checked out early, stored my luggage and met Suzanne in the hotel restaurant. I’d already eaten my last protein bar and Suzanne got the buffet with plans to push a coffee across the table at me.  An unnecessary criminal collusion, as the restaurant host approached me and offered me one—score!

Old hands at the Beijing metro now, we took the short jaunt to Lama Temple. Its easy to tell you are near a temple in China, as incense shops pre-dominate the area and this is about the only place you will ever encounter beggars.

Entrance Gate to Lama Temple, Beijing

The very few beggars we saw in China were not of the Squeegee Kid variety, but  were seriously physically-deformed or injured individuals. Neither health care (nor grade school education) is government-provided in China- a fact that came as a big surprise to me.

Buddha shrine, Lama Temple

Lamaism is a branch of Buddhism, practiced mainly in Tibet (ever heard of the Dalai Lama?  He’s the spiritual leader).
The beautiful and extensive temple was built in 1694. The entrance is marked by an ornate gate followed by an allee of lush, sunshine- yellow gingko trees.

Gingko tree allee- Lama Temple

Monk's quarters, Lama Temple

We were lucky to view a fascinating onsite exhibit of Lama religious statuary from India and China, documenting the doctrine of Buddhism and explaining different facets and figures of that religion in detail.  I absorbed a wealth of information.

Shrine with bell, Lama Temple

Prayer Wheel, Lama Temple

The Temple’s most prized possession is an 18 meter tall sandalwood Buddha, considered to be the largest sculpture carved from a single tree in the world. It was incredible, and the temple’s other Buddha statuary were similarly beautiful in colour and detail.

The Maitreya Buddha, Lama Temple

It was soon time to head to the airport- just enough time for a quick lunch of green beans and dog meat near our hotel.
Suzanne and I had both wanted to try it on the trip, but neither of us could manage more than a few nibbles once it was laid before us. The blackened skin - it’s morbid origin forever etched in our minds thanks to the Yangshou market -really did us in.
I‘ve had similar experiences with other exotic meat on other trips (alligator, camel etc)—I can chew it, appreciate the flavour, but have a devil of a time actually swallowing…

Dog with tofu and parsley

My Starbucks Americano misto stoically washed it down and settled my stomach for the start of the long haul home. A heartfelt goodbye hug to Suzanne as I shouldered my now-bursting bags and hopped the airport express for the Beijing airport.

Good thing I had left plenty of time to spare- the Beijing airport is among the largest I’ve ever been in and the security and exit procedures are accordingly lengthy and frustrating.

At long last I boarded my flight— an exit row seat with plenty of leg room and a Globe and Mail newspaper for my first Western news update in three weeks.

As we lifted off and I watched the Beijing city lights spread out underneath me, I whispered farewell to one of the biggest adventures of my life.
Good bye, China.
                                                                And thank you.

Full moon, Beijing

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