Monday, October 31, 2011

Beijing, China, The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, The Summer Palace, Chinese Markets, The Great Wall, An Overnight Sleeper Train to Xian and the Terracotta Warriors

This was a whirlwind trip. 8 days is not much time to see anything but we crammed as much into it as possible. David's sister and her family are living in China for only 3 months and so we decided we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go while they were there. David could squeeze out only that much time in the middle of the semester but we made the most of it. Becky, another of David's sisters came with us and it was one big party.

China was such a different world and I just fell in love with it. I felt safe and I felt that the people were very friendly and hard working. Everything was cheap and we could walk anywhere and do anything. The only difficulty was the language. Not many of the Chinese people speak English, but at Least Dana and Paul had picked up enough to get us around. They were awesome.

You must read my sister in law's letter to China at the end. It is beautifully written and gives you a real taste of what it was like for her living in China.

This is the building where Dana and Paul and their 3 children are living. It's nice and new and there are other Americans that live here. I was quite impressed

We rode Subways, buses and taxi's all the time and it was fun

The entrance to the Forbidden City

David, Dana, Sarah, Ellie, Becky and Daniel

Persimmons Trees

A model of the Emperor and his two concubines

If you rub your hand on these door whatevers it will bring you some kind of luck- I'll find out and get back to you

The Forbidden City is huge. It goes on and on

Sarah is going to a Kung Fu school and she was teaching me some cool moves!

Dana and Daniel- He was quite the show stopper

This is as close to Tiananman Square as I got

We rode the bus for about 30 cents

It was National Week or just after and they had all these beautiful flower displays all over the city

We went to a bunch of different markets and they were oh so much fun! We found everything imaginable

I was almost seduced by the beautiful silk robes but not quite

This is probably the main mode of transportation, though we also went by subway, bus and taxi

The Temple of Heaven- A Taoist Temple

Only the Emperor could walk on this path

For some reason I loved the corners of the buildings

Looking back toward the temple from the circular alter

This is the Circular Mound Alter. Sarah is standing where the Emperor would pray for good weather and harvests. It was built so praying from there would resonate off the guardrail higher and so reach heaven easier

Speaking to natives was the only real issue. Luckily this restaurant had pictures on the menu

There were some awesome dishes like this fish. We left the tail and head but ate the rest

It was delicious food and cheap! This meal probably cost about $6 per person

We took a calligraphy class. It was my husbands idea because he has always wanted to try it. Also he knows a lot of Chinese characters since he went to Korea on his mission

It was a cool class

Typical China at night- we felt very safe there

Paul works for Microsoft and they put them up in an apartment in this new building. It was very nice and cozy

One day we hired a driver for the day and he took us to all the different places we wanted to go. We went to a couple of different markets. This one was called the dirt market because it was laid out on the ground

I met a nice Chinese lady there

Bargaining was the funnest part

We never did figure out what these things were

I couldn't get enough of the different modes of transportation

On the way to the scorpion (as we called it) market we walked by a cathedral where we saw a couple of brides getting wedding pictures. All the foreigners were taking pictures of them and so I did too 

Downtown Beijing

These were made out of something rare I think. At least they were expensive

And yes, you could buy big scorpions, little scorpions all still moving and alive on the stick , beetles of various kinds and even starfish. They would fry it up right there for you to eat. Unbeknownst to me, Paul bought a stick of little scorpions and tried them. He even gave one to Daniel. Had I been there I would have tried them too. I think. He said they were crunchy 

Looks yummy whatever it is. David bought some of the hot dog looking things which are actually hot pasta type things. He said they ate them in Korea a lot. He'd forgotten that they weren't that good

Hammering some nut and candy confection

I bought one of the top middle ones. It was all kinds of nuts and a little dried fruit in some molasses type syrup that holds it all together. It was so yummy!

After the scorpion market we took a tour in the Hutong district which is a preserved older part of Beijing. Hutongs are alleyways that are surrounded by siheyuan which are homes with inner courtyards. First though we got introduced to a famous Calligrapher and he showed us how he does his work. It was beautiful just watching him

Hutong District

I couldn't get enough of what people were hauling on their bicycles. I should have done a series just on those

The Drum Tower in the Hutong District which we climb later

We got to visit a siheyuan

This is the courtyard

They were growing gourds

The inside of a siheyuan

The tour was taken by pedicab. Ours was great

Real China from China- we stopped at a place to shop. This would have been a little difficult getting home

Bell Tower which we climbed

Hutong rooftops from the Bell tower

We climbed the Drum Tower too

Daniel was so dang cute!

There were pretty sights from the Drum Tower

Inside the Drum Tower- They do musical shows. Both Towers were used for time pieces until 1924

Of course when you are in Beijing you must have "Peking Duck" which we did and was delicious

You mix all this stuff including the duck in a tortilla and eat it

That night we went to a Chinese Acrobat show. It was amazing

The next day was our local day. We walked to a local park area and market. It was cool. You will see groups of older folks sitting playing games

You can also get a haircut and a massage for really cheap!

The market was the most amazing place ever. I wasn't sure what some of the foods for sale there were and neither did Dana

This was Dana's favorite butcher

She was in a long line of butchers

No idea. Some kind of hand maybe?

Fish section

They were selling these cute little turtles. It just wasn't clear if they were to eat or to keep

Dana found that everything here was much cheaper than the supermarkets

I'm pretty sure I stand out in China


This guy could cut pasta exactly to the milometer without even looking! Very impresive

I just want to hug some of these people

Daniel loaded down with groceries

The kids were very cute too

David and I got massages for at least 1/3 the price in the States. They put us in these cute little get-ups. We loved it so much we went back for another one later. I got some good pictures of David. I'm pretty sure I can use them for bribery later

Taking a break to play cards

The Summer Palace

We got there too late to see everything so we mainly just walked to the marble boat and back. This is Longevity Hill in the distance. It was overcast and hard to see distances but it was a lovely place

They had a beautiful long walkway with pavilions every so often. This is the inside of one of the pavilions

You can take boat rides on Kunming Lake which is entirely man made and the soil used to build up the longevity hill north of the lake

The Marble boat that does not float

We saw some cloisonne vases there and they were beautiful. Thin metal separates the colored enamel to make this piece. It's an ancient art form

We went to the Ming Tombs and The Great Wall on a tour

We walked down the long, sacred path to the Changling Tomb

This artist obviously hadn't been around elephants much

One of the gates

Between all the steps they have these beautiful stone carvings. This is my shadow picture

Beautiful umbrellas for sale

This artist was painting a picture inside the bottle

This is a replica of a gold crown excavated from the Dingling Tomb. It was a disastrous excavation and most everything was destroyed

There was a big pile of money in front of the Buddha inside the mosoleum  

Looking at some of the other tombs to be seen in the mountains around

The brick layers left their stamp on their work

I think these are called Asian Pears and they are a cross between a pear and an apple and it was delicious and crunchy

My first view of the Great Wall

We stopped at a restaurant to eat just before the climb. Our companions on the tour were from Norway and Ireland

My reflection picture

Taking a tram up to the wall

I have to say that this was almost a spiritual experience. I've never felt that site seeing before. The Terracotta Warriors was fantastic but nothing I have seen yet has compared with the great wall. It was privilege to be there.

Enjoying the experience

My feet on the Great Wall

I bought a candy bar from this handsome Chinese man just so I could take his picture. Some vendors climb the hill everyday with their wares and sell it on the Great Wall. This is part of the reason why I fell in love with China- just look at that happy face!

We came down from the wall on a luge. It was fun except we had to keep stopping for some scared girl who would only creep along. Everybody in front of us kept yelling at her poor girl

Now I could really believe these guys came from the time of Genghis Khan 

We had 45 minutes after the wall to make it all the way across Beijing on the subway to get to the train station. It was an adventure but we made it with 5 minutes to spare

We took an overnight sleeper to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors

I don't usually put bad pictures up on my blog but this was the only one I had. There were 8 of us and we expected to have 2 rooms but instead we had all top bunks in 4 rooms. I guess the lower bunks sell out first. Anyway, we talked this nice guy into trading one bed with us so we had one lower bunk. We took over the room but Sean on the right back was very nice about it. He just fit right in with the family!

In the morning I took some shots of the countryside going into Xian

We hired a tour guide and driver and they were there to pick us up at the train station. The first thing we did was head to McDonald's for breakfast

Then we rode bikes on the old wall that is now inside the city. It was awesome! We got to see a glimpse of how people live in the city. It is actually quite diverse

There were a couple of miles of this wall

This guy saw me taking pictures and waved. The people are so nice here

They even had tandem bikes to rent

Sarah and Ellen tried one out and liked it

We saw Monks there doing their thing. It was pretty cool when one of them pulled out a cell phone right in the middle of it!

David loves these Chinese characters

We climb the temple and then we could see in all four directions. It was fantastic for me since I love vista's

This view was out our nice hotel's window.

People were in groups doing their thing. I loved watching these ladies dance with their swords

We went to a muslim market which was just as cool as all the others but you can still see different things

Pancakes of some kind I think

You can bargain here even if you can't speak Chinese. You just use a calculater!

The Mosque looked Chinese to me

But not the inside

We even found fresh squeezed pomegranite juice. See the cute, little man sitting at the machine. I want one of those!

They love candied crab apples on a stick over there

We ate some street food for breakfast and didn't get sick

We got to learn how they made Terra Cotta Warriors

And you could buy any size you wanted!

That first sight of the Warriors was unbelieveable and astonishing

The warriors had these dividers between them and then the builders put wooden roofs overhead and piled dirt on top of that. It was originally found by some farmer digging.

As you can see they all had different faces

Many of the wooden roofs had already caved in and so saving much of it is not even possible

Here is an unexcavated part of this first building. There are four different buildings

This was some kind of general

This is a picture of a picture of how they looked being excavated. They were not able to save the colors of the warriors once uncovered

Coming out of one building

One of the chariots they saved

They even had an Obamunist there!

It was extremely interesting to sit in Dana and Pauls living room and just watch this intersection. The only rule that seems to apply to driving is "watch out for everybody"

The chefs out getting their morning motivational speech

We went to the LDS Church on Sunday and it was in this building on the fourth floor. It was very large for a branch and I quite enjoyed it. They do read a warning every week about proselyting. This is one branch of three in Beijing. This branch was spending the next Saturday night on the Great Wall and then having church up there on Sunday morning. How cool is that?
This is Dana and Paul's toilet. Even Paul didn't know what all it was capable of

That fascinating intersection again!

On Sunday evening we went to a lovely park there in Beijing. I wish we did our parks like the chinese do!

On the way home we couldn't seem to get a taxi and so we broke up into groups. This guy talked me, Dana and David into riding his little motor bike with the silver metal box in back. I was sitting on David's lap. You wouldn't believe what they can squeeze through! Just one more amazing adventure in China. I love you China!

Mao, Mao and more Mao!

Please read my lovely sister in law's letter to China. It's beautiful!

Dear China,

I'm so sorry; My public school education in America did not teach me enough about how awesome you are.  Before we came here, I didn't even know when the Ming dynasty was!  I didn't realize there was a whole lot of 'something' going on in China when the western world was miring in the dark ages.  I didn't know how good your people are.  I'm sorry.  But I have changed, I'm learning about you, I now know exactly when the Ming Dynasty was, and I see that your people are courteous, kind and wonderful.  You have a lot to be proud of.

You do have a few quirks.  I'm not sure why people have to spit so much, and you know, don't you, that split pants on babies means that they are doing their business in places where people step, right?  Do we really have to stand that close together when we're in line for something?  Also, Mao was NOT actually good for your country, you realize that don't you?  But for the most part, I see that your quirks make you unique and wonderful.  It's awesome how just anyone can set up a stand anywhere and make a business out of it, it makes me want to get my own bike cart and set up shop right next to you and sell something!  Cam's taco stand would have thrived here on a corner.  And it is really remarkable how cheap you can live here if you put a mind to it, I have had many meals that cost less than a dollar, and I can get to the other end of Beijing on the subway for only 30 cents.  That is amazing!

I love your sense of style.  Where in the world  are you all buying these darling coats?  Or is it just darling people wearing regular coats?  I don't know, but mix those coats with your leggings and boots with fringe and your awesome scarves, and you are really stylin' fashionistas.  It's great.  And all of your old chinese women too, way to go on the subtle plaids and tailored jackets, you are SO cute.  And thank you for bundling up your children in super warm clothes, it makes us all feel warm and happy. 

And speaking of that, thank you for caring that my Daniel is warm enough.  I love the way you stop me wherever I am and feel his little hands and make sure he's warm enough.  It takes a village to raise a child, I can see that you understand that, and I love it.  I do dress him warmer now, thanks for showing me!  Thanks for helping us all remember how precious children are. 
I love your sense of community.  Way to go on getting together at the park for a big sing along or sword dancing or waltzing, this is how people should live in a community; interacting with each other, and being around each other.  You do it really well.

We have only five more days in China and I will be sad to say goodbye to your ordered chaos.  I will miss walking past the back door of a restaurant and seeing a big bag full of cabbages sitting by the door.  We don't have cabbages by the back door in the U.S.  I'll miss seeing a horse and cart, mounded high with qumquats, pulling past a tall grey building with sparkly windows. Nobody drives their horse into town where I live (If you happen to write back, China, can you please tell me where that horse sleeps at night?). I'll miss seeing groups of people gathered around a card game, and pedicabs with red velvet seats, and grandparents proudly watching their grandchildren at the park.  And you, old man who sits at the subway playing that chinese violin thing (you know who you are!) you rock. 
I still haven't figured out why you walk around smacking your body with your hands, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to start doing that, because there must be something to it. We could all benefit from a weekly massage, I'm sure of it, and why is it that barbers aren't set up in parks all across the U.S? It couldn't be more perfect, the hair just all blows away!
I know there is another story going on, one that you don't talk about, and we who come for a short time can only start to guess.  I know that there are alot of people who have no way of getting out of what they have been handed by life.  I know that neighborhoods are bulldozed for "progress", and that you just have to deal with it, because there is no one to go to and cry 'injustice!'.  You are patient, and I hope that things will get better for good people everywhere, because it must be very hard to have no certainty in your future.  You are very brave, and you are very hardworking.  We will hope and pray for China, that things can get better for everyone together. 
Your people are beautiful and kind.  I've been lucky to have a little window into your soul as you gaze at Daniel with your adoring smiles.  I get a sense of who you are; lovely people with open hearts.  I hope you can find God soon, because you can do amazing things with faith. 
China, Just wanted to tell you how much we like you, how much we appreciate your hospitality for these three months, and how grateful we feel to have gotten to know you just a little. 
Hope to see more of you again,

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