Thursday, April 30, 2009
Silkworms, Oysters, and acrobats! Oh my!
Beijing is a gorgeous city. I've established that they must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to keep up with the aesthetic beauty on the streets. There are rows of different colored hedges with designs along the highways, flower beds all over the place (some form designs as well), plus the streets are clean of any litter. It's incredible. The sights are also amazing. We woke up at the crack of dawn again so we could get a tour of the city. As the rest of the tours we took with the hostel we were the only ones going on the tour so we got our own private guide. Which was awesome. It made me feel rather special. The guide took us to several different places, it was awesome.
We started our tour by seeing the Temple of Heaven. It is gorgeous and huge! It's also mostly used as a recreational park by the older citizens. We were there before any of the tourists began to arrive so I'm pretty sure we were the only 2 non-Asians in the entire place. We got plenty of looks as our tour guide showed us the various sights. As we were going through one of the sections I got stopped by this lady that wanted to take my picture. I was getting used to this so I agreed, which seemed to make her happy and then moments later 6 other ladies joined us. Apparently her and her sisters all wanted a picture with me and as Kevin was laughing at me and trying to escape he got caught up in a photo with one of the locals. I'm beginning to feel somewhat like a celebrity. Being paranoid I kept a firm grasp on my items and made sure I wasn't being pick pocketed while I was being swarmed for photographs.
On the way to our next location our guide asked if he didn't mind if we switched guides because the other one had lost his group. We agreed and we were off to see the silk museum/factory/shop. The new guide, Leo (I actually remembered his name) spoke great English. It had an odd mixture of accents which turned out to be neat. At times it sounded really Asian, Australian, English, and American. It was awesome. He was also our age which was cool. As we walked through attractions he told us jokes and riddles. It was great. Back to the silk museum, we saw the life cycle of the silk worm and then saw how silk was made (Leo also stole a dried up worm in the cocoon and gave it to me a little later). After we saw how the different silks were made we were shown how they make quilts and even got a chance to stretch some of the silk.
The next location was the Forbidden city. One word. Incredible. Okay it's also amazing and stunning. We went through the entire thing while Leo gave us plenty of history on the building with occasional pop quizzes to make sure we were paying attention. After the Forbidden City we went off for lunch. He took us to a local restaurant and ordered some food for us. It was pretty good. I finally got to try Kung Pow Chicken, it's awesome. After lunch we went to the Beijing oyster manufacturing place. We were briefly shown how they clean out the oysters (and were given a couple of the pearls). There was a lot of really nice jewelry there.
We eventually ventured back to the Summer Palace and Leo gave us a history again on the location. We walked around the lake and took a boat ride to what I believe was the Nine Gate Bridge and walked over it before heading out towards a tea house. On the way we got to see the Olympic stadium. That thing is huge! At the tea place we were able to sample some different teas (which tasted amazing). I ended up buying some tea there, it was too good.
In the evening we had the acrobatics show. Our guide was a little late due to traffic and to make up for it he bought us some really good seats that were really close to the stage. The acrobatics show was amazing. I'm not sure if it was better than last nights or not, they both rocked. Some of the stuff that they did was simply incredible. If you're ever in Beijing go to the acrobatics show. It's worth it.
Another day done in Beijing. The tours were not bad. I definitely enjoyed the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City. The size of the ancient buildings and areas is mind blowing. Regretfully, there were some less enjoyable parts to the show.
First, we were taken to silk factory, where we learned the process of silk making, very interesting. After there was the pearl factory and lastly a tea house. Had it stopped at those, it would have been great, however, after each exhibition, we were guided like sheep to the store area. Once there, a vendor was assigned to us to try and get us to buy, whether it was silken quilts and bed covers, pearl jewelry or pats of tea. The pressure to buy was palpable. They would go on about a product, if they saw you weren’t interested, they moved to the next product in hope of better luck. Our first tour guide told us that China wasn't affected much by the economic recession but after seeing and feeling the desperation coming from those vendors, I doubt it.
I for one, do not take being pressured into things very well and did not like the feeling of being forced to buy something that I don't want. No means no doesn't it? The concept hasn't reached this country yet it would seem.
After our day long tour, we went back to our hostel, ate and waited to get picked up for the acrobatics show. Turns out the bus was late (because of traffic and possibly difficulty in finding our hostel) and we did miss the first act of the show. To compensate however, Tony (the company manager), got us 2nd row seats! We could see those acrobats and contortionists in all their glory. Even better, when it was time to pay, it cost us almost half as what it said on the internet. More cash for us!
Well, now it's time to rest to new muscles I'm developing in my legs, tomorrow we go see the Lama Temple (I sure want to see a lama), and we're going to try the subway, yeehaa!
Ciao X O
Caligraphy painting in the streets. It's for artists to show their skills when they have no other means to do it. They paint with water.