After a long (11 hour ) flight we arrived in Beijing in late evening. After clearing customs and picking up our baggage, we were met in the arrivals hall and transported to our hotel in downtown Beijing. Fortunately, even though we had slept a little on the plane, the flight was sufficiently exhausting so getting to sleep that evening was not an issue. We slept soundly, awaking bright and early the next morning. Although this was a free day for us as the tour did not officially start until 6:00 pm that evening with a reception and dinner at the hotel, our tour director had arranged an informal tour to the Lama Temple for all who were interested. After meeting some of our fellow travelers we traveled to the temple via the subway.
The Lama Temple was constructed in the 17th century and was converted to a Tibetan lamasery in 1744 AD. There are a number of halls and pavilions, each with a statue of Buddha. The highlight is in Wanfu Pavilion, where there is a 55 ft statue of Maitreya (the Future Buddha) said to be carved from a single block of sandalwood. The Temple halls are quite striking with Han, Mogul, and Tibetan motifs. Continue reading