Friday, November 8th - Beijing.
We arrive at Beijing 7:30 in the morning. A tour agency rep is waiting for
us and gets us to the Peixin hotel by 9 am. Seth wants to take a nap as he didn't
get much sleep on the train. Chie-Mie and I take the opportunity to unpack and
start throwing out things that we won't need for the remainder of our trip
Outside our room, the students are performing their morning exercises.
It's a clear and sunny day. A breeze does make it chilly.
The wind howls outside our windows and makes it sound much colder than it really is.
Looking out towards Beijing from the hotel.
Earl decides we should go to the Temple of Heaven. From my map, it looks to be about a mile. We walk through neighborhood "hutongs" and get crepes (eggs, scallions, sauce, fried tofu) being made by a street vendor on a round pan for lunch. A local shopkeeper sells us drinkable sweetened yogurt in glass containers so we drink it there with straws and give the glasses back.
What does Beijing SanYuan Foods leave in these boxes?
Neighborhood street pharmacy
With all our stops, we get to the Temple of Heaven complex around 2pm.
Seth decides to take his own pace and meet us in three hours.
Chie-Mie, Earl and I watch an erhu player and wander through the grounds.
Through the gates, toward the main temple
Saturday, November 9th
This morning, we go on a half day tour of the hutongs north of the Forbidden City.
Our pedicab driver is full of smiles.
Earl and I share the pedicab and he puts a blanket over our legs. The hutong tour has several groups going at the same time. We stop at the drum tower, climb up and look over a hazy Beijing.
Fire buckets outside the drum tower
The English speaking tour stops at a local woman's home and we go in with about twenty other tourists. We then are dropped off at Prince Gong's mansion with the rest of the tourists and seated for a tea ceremony.
Grounds of Prince Gong's Mansion
We are served cup after cup of oolong tea.
Chie-Mie buys a couple of mugs that change design when filled with hot liquid.
I ask the tour guide to drop us off for the afternoon at Wangfujing which is a big shopping street so Earl can check out the musical instrument store. The erhu is a two string bowed instrument in which the bow fits between the strings. After trying out the erhus, Earl gets cold feet about buying one. We have to explain the best we can to the store keeper that we aren't buying one right now.
We have lunch on "culture street" off Wangfujing. There are scorpion and other shish-kabobs which we don't try. At the sit down food court, the vendors are all shouting at the top of their lungs that we need to eat their food over the next vendor.
We walk over to Dongdan park where, according to an internet site that Earl found, the Beijing stamp and coin club meets on the weekends. There is no sign of a stamp club. Chie-Mie and I seek out the restroom while Seth & Earl sit on the park bench. Returning, I see a crowd of Beijingers have surrounded Earl & Seth. I explain in Chinese that we are from America and they are amused, afterall I look Chinese. Earl gives out packets of stamps and there is much enthusiasm.
It's getting late, so we hail a taxi back to the hotel. The secret is out. The taxi cost us $1.25 for all four of us. There will be no more walking the rest of the trip.
Sunday, November 10th
We go to the Ghost Market which is only open on weekend mornings. There's no difficulty in hailing a cab as one tour guide book puts it "You can't throw a cat without hitting a cab in Beijing". The Ghost Market turns out to be a huge flea market of antiquities, souveniers, jewelry, precious stones, furniture and clothing. One has to assume that the antiquities are fake and bargain accordingly. Earl buys a costume of some minority ethnicity and Chie-Mie picks up a magnetic necklace.
The boys are in shock after this marketplace and need to go back to the hotel
and recuperate for the rest of the afternoon. Chie-Mie and I go back to Wangfujing
to do the rest of the Frommer's Guide walking tour. We check out the Beijing
Hotel to see the ball rooms left over from the French 1800's. There is a recreation
of an old Beijing street in the basement of one of the big shopping malls. McDonald's
has red bean pies and Kentucky Fried Chicken has soup instead of cole slaw.
There are bronze statues of a barber, scribe, and other occupations during the
Qing dynasty. We visit St. Joseph's Cathedral where a young person snaps our
Monday, November 11th
A trip to the Natural History Museum. The dinosaur exhibit is under renovation so we have to content ourselves with the animatronic Chinese speaking dinosaurs for the children. "I'm T-Rex, won't you join me for dinner". "No, thank you" says Apatasaurus.
I read enough Chinese to figure out that there are paper-cut out dinosaur books for sale. We buy 5 sets of 4. The Natural History Museum has an aquarium with live and pickled fish. We watch a long movie about insects with wonderful macrophotography made in France. On the top floor where there is no English translation are cadavers and other things not for the queasy. Earl & Seth don't come up. Chie-Mie claims to have seen these things before in medical school.
It's a tourist tradition to go to a Peking Duck Restaurant.
So we go for lunch. The menu is in English with pictures. It's not cheap at $4 a person. The best thing is the deep fried duck leg. We walk along the hutongs looking for the Beijing underground city entrance, but don't find it. That's okay, as no one really wants to pay the $3 entrance fee. We walk along Dazhalan Market Street and Chie-Mie finds cheap souveniers at the dollar store. A young couple befriends Earl and practice their English with him. They buy us all candied fruit. No one's hungry for dinner and it's getting dark, so we grab a cab back to the hotel.
Tuesday, November 12th
We take a long taxi trip to the Confucious Temple, North Beijing.
I deliberately do not bring my heavy camera equipment. However, I do have the little polaroid that makes postage stamp size pics.
Old tree........................closeup of bark.............turtle head.....................Confucius.
This area feels touristy because of its close proximity to the Lama Temple.
The Confucious Temple itself is not so restored and therefore has more character
than some of the temples we have seen. It is quiet and the old trees around
the temple create a most serene atmosphere.
stone "drum" with old chinese characters
There is a very nice museum on the history of Beijing. Some of the art items are steadied with nylon anchors. I suspect that is to keep the item from breaking in case of an earthquake. There is a large warehouse of stelae that list all the scholars.
We lunch nearby with Steamed fish, Tender sizzling pork and clay pot boiled spareribs, all good. Despite having an English menu, one doesn't know what something really is until it shows up on your table. The Lama temple is close by and there is a sixty foot Buddha carved out of a single tree there but as we walked towards the entrance and looked at the lines of tourist buses, we decided not to bother. Instead, we take a cab to the silk market. The silk market is near the diplomat district and the area looks pretty ritzy. There's not so much silk there, perhaps because it is winter now and many of the goods are geared towards the season. There's cashmere, jackets and heavier gear. We buy ties, shawls and other presents. Chie-Mie has been wanting hot pot for dinner, so tonight we oblige her. We get chicken, fish and vegetables and cook them in the boiling hot pot.
Wednesday, November 13th
Another long taxi trip to the National Military Museum, West Beijing.
This area is modern. Most of the business hotels are located here.
The Military Museum tells the history of China through its wars and I find it a easy method of remembering the dynasties. Chie-Mie liked the section about the Korean War and the gifts received from different nations. Seth liked the first floor of war machines, missiles and planes. Having Seth explain each item was like having a personal tour guide. Earl liked the part where you get to sit down.
There doesn't seem to be any restaurants nearby, so we catch a cab over to
the Zoo. By the zoo there is a Japanese Restaurant and before anyone can say
"Sushi", I inform them that this is a noodle restaurant. We catch
a quick bite and its' off to the zoo.
We bypass the pandas and the additional charge to see them. There are lots of tigers, bears, pheasants and a wonderful reptile house with pit vipers and kraits. The Yangtze crocodile is tiny.
Earl & Chie-Mie feed the giraffe leaves.
We take the taxi back through 5 pm rush hour and watch our cab driver dodge traffic with some dismay. We go back to our very first restaurant and I decide to order some more exotic stuff - tripe for Earl and beef parts (which turn out to be chitlins) spareribs and dumplings. We go to the mini mart to buy some booze for gifts.
Thursday, November 14th
Last Day. We go to Liuluchang Antique Street for the morning. It is early and
bargaining is reasonably good. Seth picks up some Tibetan necklaces as he wants
more like the ones that I have. Earl bought a Tang pitcher and I bargained for
some boxwood animals. Chie-Mie is born in the year of the Tiger so she was hankering
for the carved Tiger, so I got it for half price, once I promised to buy three
animals. We arranged for late checkout at the hotel at 2pm. Our travel rep arrives
and gets us to the airport.
Toll gate at airport
The flight home is uneventful and I manage to sleep for half of the flight.
Hope you enjoyed the travelogue. Earl says he's willing to go again to China.
Perhaps we can see Shanghai and Guilin next time.
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