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figmentfan2009 07-26-2009 05:42 PM

Enchanted China Trip Report July 26, 2009 - August 7, 2009
Yesterday was amazing. Yes, I'm up at 2:30. Can't sleep to save my life right now, So I'm backing up pictures and video, cleaning off memory sticks and writing. Pre-trip day was awesome. Today is Tienanmen Square and the forbidden city.

Yesterday we got to the Summer Palace at about 6:45. DH thought that going so early was a bad thing since they don't open the buildings until 8:30 but the park itself opens at 6 or 6:30. The cab ride to the park was neat. We passed Olympic stadium and some neat looking buildings.

We got to the summer palace and there weren't a LOT of people there, but there were a lot of people there. We walked about a third of the way around Kenming lake, watched a man do water calligraphy on the sidewalk, watched couples dance not far away from him and watched more people do exercises (maybe Tai Chi?) with walking poles. On the bridge, older men and women (60 and older) were flying kites. DS noticed that there are a lot more people here that take advantage of the awesome quieter things to do than people in the United States tend to bother with. Lots of places were playing traditional Chinese music, there was a guy playing some kind of flute and DOZENS of kids with plastic slide whistles that are shrill and loud.

We took a boat across the lake to see the Stone Boat (which is neither stone, nor a boat... but hey) and had breakfast of Dim Sum and Ice Cream. When we were leaving the food place, a kid on a tour wanted his picture taken with DS and DD (little Chinese boy... the kids thought it was amazing and awesome to get his picture taken with mine and mine thought it was totally weird). That was about the time it really sunk into DS that he's in China.
Then the kids and I walked up Longevity Hill (there is a REASON they call it that). DH made it about 2/3 of the way up but had to turn back the way we went. If we had bone the "right" way, he would probably have made it, but we ended up Billy Goating our way up. The view from the top was awesome. Well worth the effort. DD was even impressed with the view and the buildings. The buildings are so colorful, beautiful paintings. It is amazing to think that they are so old.

Lama Temple offended DD. She realized that not all of the world is Christian. It made her very uncomfortable to see the people paying homage to Buddha and burning incense to him. DS was enthralled with that temple because it is a working temple and these people were REALLY here to do what they were doing... they really pay good money to burn incense, they really buy the incense at the stores along the street on the way to the temple. There was building after building each with several Buddhas and people bowing to him.

Confucius temple was down a back alley (an awesome back alley with little shops that had their pet birds in cages and people on bicycles and REAL people (there was a guy who had deformed legs begging (I think) but not pushy. There were women sweeping the tree droppings (seeds) with brooms made out of bushes. Larry got Pepsi from one of the stores, DD got neat chocolate drumsticks and I got green tea. That temple was very quiet... very few people but SO rich in history. Walked around looking at all of the history exhibits and there was a lady with her RED red wedding dress (peacock on the train) getting her pictures taken. There were wicked awesome trees some of them were HUGE cedars, not sure what some of them are... I will have to do some digging...

Back to the hotel to clean up before the "Meet everyone else" dinner... out after some interesting KFC... walked around a HUGE city block... stopped at a tea shop (a real little hole in the wall tea shop... ). I bought a cup that has its own tea caddy inside and 250g of oolong tea. The shop guy was SO nice, not pushy... very REAL (not like the panhandler on the street or the people who really do try to get you to buy for REAL Rolex watches or Mont Blanc pens [without the white mark on the cap though...] or tour books or socks). He offered to have us try the oolong (no charge). He did the commoner's version of a tea ceremony (we got the royalty version with explanations later at dinner). He had a stoneware table topper with lots of glass tea pots and pour-ers. He had a stoneware tea pot that he brewed the tea in (it was about the size of... a not huge coffee mug... like the ones we drink out of all the time...). He poured water in it and over it. He poured that water on the "cups". Dumped everything out... added tea to the pot (a LOT of tea for a little pot) then rinsed the tea with one pot of water and dumped that over the cups and out. Added more water and did it again. THEN he added the tea water and brewed cups of tea, poured it for each of us. It was HOT!!!! Kids and I had 3 cups each out of the one pot of tea (each cup was about as big as the palm of your hand cupped). DH and the guy were joking about how DH's Pepsi makes your tummy grow but oolong makes it shrink... all of this while speaking VERY little and very broken English. We sat on chairs made out of cut trees (the seats LOOKED like trunks... with legs... and the backs looked like half trunks.. bark still on them... the table under the stoneware top was the same stuff). Tea lined the walls (bricks of tea, circles of tea that looked like small cheese circles... tins of tea)... The walls were made to look like the roofs of old Chinese buildings... so it kind of looked like you were outside with the "stuff" on the walls on the outside of buildings. All with traditional Chinese music playing. The man had HORRIBLE teeth but the most wonderful open heartfelt smile you would ever want to see.

Dinner was really neat. The tea ceremony was beautiful. The girl doing it was graceful and told the story of how and why of everything. The food was absolutely fantastic. Two different kinds of duck, shrimp dressed in fried sweet potato noodles, beef, chicken, green bean soup and bean something squares that were really sweet and had an odd texture for desert. Dressing up like royalty at the end was a fun way to get everyone laughing together and the pictures will make a great way to remember the evening. It looks like there are 6 families on the trip. Guides are Brian and Huan.

DD has yet to even go into one of the 'real' bathrooms. The worst part is remembering to bring your own toilet paper...

Breakfast in just about an hour. Think I'll catch a shower and get ready before we have to go down and join the group.

2GirlsMama 07-26-2009 06:57 PM

Thanks for sharing!
Figment Fan2009,
Thanks for sharing your excitment about your trip. I can't wait to read about your adventures. I hope you have a great trip!

Who are your guides?

2GirlsMama 07-26-2009 06:58 PM

Sorry, I just noticed you said your guides names. We had Brian, too. Tell him we said hi!

LukenDC 07-26-2009 07:53 PM

Thanks for the detailed report. I am eager to read future installments. Have fun!

sayhello 07-26-2009 07:55 PM

Wow, ff2009! Sounds like you are having a wonderful time, and that's only the first day!!!! :cool1:

The tea shop just sounds wonderful. I'd end up spending forever in a place like that!

I'm really looking forward to more of your report!


HappyGrumpy 07-26-2009 08:43 PM

Thank You so much for the "live" trip report! So exciting to read!!

BriarRose59 07-26-2009 09:21 PM

ff2009, its wonderful to hear you had such a great first day! It won't take long for you to be able to sleep, it took me longer when I got back home to get back to a "normal" sleep schedule. I guess because you are so busy there, running constantly from one place to another. I hope you have a wonderful time. Tell Brian and Huan that Rochelle and Amanda said "Hi!" They were our guides in June. They are fantastic!

LisaTex 07-26-2009 09:23 PM

You are going to have SUCH an awesome time! We just got home last night. Not going to spoil any surprises, but i will tell you it just gets better and better!!!

cbcdiver 07-27-2009 12:17 PM

I totally agree with LisaTex, I just got back too...


Originally Posted by LisaTex (Post 32886871)
You are going to have SUCH an awesome time! We just got home last night. Not going to spoil any surprises, but i will tell you it just gets better and better!!!

Just remember to drink LOTS of water, especially when you get to
Shanghai! It is really, really, really, hot! ;-)

figmentfan2009 07-27-2009 05:20 PM

Forbidden Magic
Yesterday... The Forbidden City - Tienanmen Square

"Breakfast" is so incredibly interesting at China World Hotel in Beijing. Sushi (which irritates DD no end because she wants to eat it so badly, and can't) and beans, fried tomatoes and interesting potatoes... I ate a thousand year old egg (which has the weirdest consistency and the "white" looks like brown jello and the 'yellow' is green... ). Tea for breakfast is English Breakfast tea and the juices are different (watermelon, cucumber, carrot, tomato, as well as orange and grapefruit and pineapple). The sugared Brioche is really good, and my kids ate the dim sum like it was going out of style. They have some normal breakfast food too, like bacon and eggs and sausage (pork sausage as well as chicken sausage).

Out to the bus by 8 and off to listen to Huan tell us about Beijing. I loved the bus ride to the destination. The buses and the bikes fighting with the cabs, the different neighborhoods and the PEOPLE. Traffic really wasn't that much worse than I think I have seen it, but the lines on the road are REALLY there as gentle suggestions not really rules of the road and Brian was right, pedestrians may have the right of way but the cars have the right of weight. The water was much needed today as we were out an about... it wasn't a blue sky day but it was humid and everyone was needing water.

Tienanmen Square was massive. Brian pointed out the yellow lines on the ground all over the park. Those are where people line up to view the body in his tomb. The line to view would have to be THOUSANDS long... The amry guards the under the street walkway tunnels into and out of the square. INTO was packed... out of, not a line at all. The dancing waters outside of the forbidden city had even more people...

Outside of the forbidden city, fountains dance to music while people jostle and push to get in. I would LOVE to be able to spend an entire day walking around and looking in the rooms but the people are elbow to elbow and wall to wall. Listening to the history from Huan and Brian was awesome, to start to understand why and how and where... DS wondered if many of the visitors really understand how impressive the place is or how much history they have at their finger tips... How much they get to see and how truly fortunate they are to be able to see it. I don't know.

Driving to the restaurant, passed many more bicycles and busses... neighborhoods where the buildings are all gray, the stores, the houses... Huan explained that this was the difference between royalty and common people, Red and Gold and ornate, emperors, gray, everyone else.

Lunch was family style again. Lots of rice... lots of interesting new dishes to try. Lots of water, too. It is amazing how much more water everyone seems to drink here. Not complaining, even my kids are asking for water.

Free time we walked to Ri Tan Park (temple of the sun). People were flying kites and playing cards, exercising in the free outdoor exercise facility (which really does look vaguely like torture devices). People were fishing with tiny fish hooks for gold fish (which they look like they take home for fish bowls). There is a beautiful water garden on the side, though, that people sit around and play cards at, watch the fish, drink coffee and cuddle. This was where Chines people go to be Chinese people and raise their kids and just be.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to get sodas and I found a brass tibetan singing bowl that I managed to get for half of the asking price. I love the bowl and am starting to get pretty good at making it sing.

When we got back to our room before dinner, there was a cake and a card for DD birthday and flowers for her. She was so happy she was almost crying. The cake was, I think, chocolate moose and we all shared in her moment. She is upset that she can't take the flowers home with her, but she was so touched that they did that for her. It was an awfully special touch.

Dinner was most excellent and was very relaxed. Surprises abound! Loved the kit making, mask making, calligraphy and the easy humor everyone had.

After dinner we went to the skating rink in the bottom of the hotel and skated for about an hour. That was probably the perfect topper to the day. Everyone was exhausted, but the ice was so inviting. The little kids are fantastic figure skaters, but no one, NO ONE but three little boys and their coaches had on hockey skates, we really stuck out.

CBEB 07-27-2009 05:44 PM

Your trip sounds so wonderful! We're planning to go next summer!

Can't wait for your next post!

glassslipper2004 07-27-2009 05:55 PM

Thanks for writing - this is so much fun to read. It sounds like you are having a wonderful trip.

Why can't your DD have sushi - is it all raw?

RweTHEREyet 07-27-2009 09:22 PM

I am really enjoying your trip report and the experiences you are sharing. While we are not going on an ABD tour, my DH and I and some family and friends are going to China in October for 9 days. We will visit Beijing and Shanghai, and a couple of other cities.

I hope the rest of your journey goes as well as the first few days have. :goodvibes

sayhello 07-27-2009 09:53 PM

Really loving this report! What a great trip.


Aburns8 07-28-2009 11:10 AM

I am loving your trip report. I am hoping to do the China trip one day!

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