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Today's highlight - Hutong, Lama Temple

The first highlight - Huong! These Huongs were a few hundred years. The Huong is like a little village in the middle of Beijing, where generations of families live in quite simple surroundings. Many of the Huongs have been bought out by the government for quite a good profit to the locals - in their place are now high rise apartments. This Huong was a few hundred years old and is now filled with the older generations as many young people prefer to live in the modern apartments - as many of the houses here don't have their own bathroom... instead you need to use the local toilet. We went on a Rickshaw ride through the streets of the Huong so that we could get a better look at how the locals lived. This was quite an interesting experience although many of the rickshaws had little or no brakes and there were some near misses.

The second highlight - Lama Temple! The temple is Beijing's most visited religious sites and one of the most important functioning Buddhist temples. Only about two dozen monks live in this complex today. We were dropped off at the entrance and the first thing you smell and see is the thick spicy smoke of incense. There are five main halls to visit. One of the halls houses a 85 foot Maitreya Buddha carved from a single sandalwood block. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside any of the halls. The entire open courtyard is full of people burning three sticks of incense and bowing to the Buddhas. Our tour guide Emmett explained to us, even those that are not practicing Buddhist in China come here to ask for a wish and light the incense. If your wish is granted you are supposed to come back and thank the Buddha. She also said during one of the Chinese Holidays celebrated on January 1st the entire area is covered in smoke and the line to get into the Temple is very long. Outside of the temple are shops after shops selling incense. We wonder how they all stay in business.

After lunch in a restaurant (the food is chinese typical lunch, very delicious) move to next highlight - Panda zoo! Haha, they had olympic games pandas, asian games pandas, and baby pandas. They were all so lovely. Some were always keep eating, some were sleeping, some are playing together, very funny. Then we saw the one up in the tree and got some great photos.

We were so grateful for this funny tour, and the tour guide told us a lot about China. I have a very good tour. Thanks.