I think it would be fair to say that the Temple of Heaven and I have something of a fractious relationship. On the two occasions I have visited, scaffolding and heavy restoration work have made much of the grounds in which it is situated, off limits. As a consequence of this on both those occasions I have skulked around the place feeling disenchanted at being deprived of great chunks of culture and a bit agitated at having to pay the full admission price when I was not getting the full temple.
The most photogenic and famous part of the temple is the circular, two-tiered, deep-blue Hall of Prayers of Good Harvests. Alas it was this, that on both my excursions there, was closed. On my first visit almost none of the structure was visible as it was virtually cocooned in scaffolding; I managed just to catch the odd glimpse of blue paintwork and was forced to leave mightily disappointed. Five months later the restorations had progressed enough for the hall to be at least visible, but not open to visitors. I took consolation in the fact that I could thankfully take a few pictures from a distance.
Whilst I may have missed out on one of the best aspects of the Temple of Heaven, I was able to enjoy some of the others. The grounds are genuinely beautiful and are exceedingly pleasant to stroll around, this is particularly true in summer when the tree-lined boulevards are lush with leaves and the grass is green and full-bodied.
The Echo Wall is also a wonderfully interesting little thing. It is semi-circular in shape and—in theory—allows sounds to resonate along it, making it possible to talk in whispers with a person thirty meters away. When I tried it though it proved impossible as hundreds of other tourists were trying the exact same thing. All I got was a cacophony of chatter ion a variety of languages.
A similar situation exists at the Triple Sounds Stones. It is alleged that on the pyramid of five flat stones a clap of the hands or a stamp of the feet will reverberate according to the stone upon which you are standing. So if you are on the highest stone, each noise will echo off the stones below. Again, this proved impossible to verify as my claps were drowned out by hundreds of others around me.