This morning – my fifth day in Beijing – I immediately noticed something even through my bleary daze.
The sky was blue!
I’d seriously assumed that the pale grey haze I’d seen all week was Beijing’s permanent blanket of smog and humidity. But no – blue sky does exist here. The flip side is that the sun made it hotter. Dry and hot, so that when the wind picked up it was like being under an enormous hair dryer.
But I wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous sun and clear air. I went to Jingshan Park, a high hill built of the dirt and rocks excavated when the moat to the Forbidden City was built. Gardens surround the base of the hill, and trees and rock formations follow it upwards. Pathways lead past a series of pagodas, two each to the east and west, and the largest in the center, at the top.
I could see all of Beijing: the rooftops of the Forbidden City across the street, the dome of the National Center for Performing Arts just beyond, skyscrapers, construction cranes building more skyscrapers, hutongs, temples, the lake of Beihai Park, the mountains in the distance.
Then I figured I may as well go to the Forbidden City. In the sunshine, the gold on the most elaborate buildings shone, and the intricately painted colors glowed in the sunlight. It was so hot that people wilted in the shade of archways and hid from the sun under umbrellas. But the light – clear, bright, yet warm – was worth it. Every detail stood out, every color seemed at it truest.
The forecast says that all the clouds will return tomorrow. I’ll remember this day when the haze closes back in.