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Old 07-26-2009, 05:42 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 236

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.
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