Monday, January 28, 2008

When Starbucks really matters

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a stroll out in the cold rain-slash-snow and visit the Yuyuan Gardens. They have a pavillion in the middle of the gardens that serves tea, so I thought I'd combine my adventurous spirit with a hot cup of tea and take in the view.
That would've been a great way to spend the afternoon, and of course that's NOT the way it happened yesterday. Instead, I got confused between Yuyan Garden and Yuyuan Temple, also known as the city god's temple. I don't know how I would confuse GARDEN with TEMPLE but the name was the same so I didn't think about it. After following the Lonely Planet map and getting a little bit lost along the way to the TEMPLE (I only realize this afterwards), I found myself at a place like home - Starbucks. Yep, apparently Starbucks is more than just coffee around here - it's also a great place to meet other people who speak English and to get directions. Turns out that the temple was right in front of the Starbucks - a huge building that blended with the other ones, in the traditional Chinese architectural style. The only thing that distinguished it from the other buildings were the red walls, and it was easy to find my way to the entrance.

So, do you know what they do at the temple? Pray to the gods and ancestors. And not much else. Man, I stuck out like a sore thumb - a tourist with a little camera taking pictures. Everyone else was burning these large sticks of wood and bowing down to the temples. I was tempted to buy a stick just so I would look like I knew what I was doing, but with my luck I'd probably set myself on fire and make a big fool out of myself. I entered one of the minor temples and took a few shots but I was too intimidated to go into the big temple. It had a huge statue there, and because I didn't want to be disrespectul by taking pictures inside, I stayed out and peered in. Which probably made me look even more strange, but whatever.

I decided to call it a day and walk back to my hotel after twenty minutes. On the way back I passed several shops selling decorations for Chinese New Year. Most of the buildings out here are decorated with something red and festive, and it was nice to see entire stores decked out red. It's like Christmas all over again for me.

Anyway, I didn't do very much after my little sojourn to the temple. The rest of the day was spent defrosting and getting ready for my last week here in China.

More pictures here.

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