Long flight from Boston – Arrived in Beijing at 2:30 in the afternoon – were picked up by a college student guide named Rita. (Everyone we meet – students and guides who speak English – has given themselves an English name. So far we have Rita and Nancy – a charming Beijing guide.) We find ourselves with 8 or 9 families with 14 kids, 12 girls ranging in age from 6 to 14 and a 10 year old boy named Ben – who fortunately loves his DS Nintendo – and a 16 year old named Gideon. Gideon is patience incarnate and one night over dinner educated the 5th and 6th grade girls on the interesting things awaiting them in high school – expurgated I am sure! Only Gideon is not adopted from China and one 11 year old is from Vietnam. Amazing to watch the kids bond. No need for explanations – they all know hat the others have a similar life experience.
Sybille was here before us and sent us off to nap, waking us around 7 to get up for dinner. With the help of the concierge who followed us out to make sure we could get through the swinging security gate behind the hotel, we had a marvelous dumpling dinner in a tiny restaurant in the alley behind the Novotel.
Forbidden City – hot – it hit 40 C – Walking with kids, pouring water on their heads. They loved the beginning and the big spaces and the bronze animals and pots (you could boil a person in them!) But the heat and the unbelievable numbers of people were exhausting. I’ll post some photos soon – need to down load to the computer and that takes time.
To get us out of the heat they are taking us into nice cool shops 😉 That means you are enticed in to spending money. In the government pearl shop we had a nice talk about the farming of freshwater pearls complete with an oyster which our guide had us bet on the contents. Celia our youngest – 6 – guessed 21 and won a small pear prize. The kids then went off to make bracelets and necklaces with pearls and beads while the parents SHOPPEd again…China, a shopping paradise 😉 The pearls were amazing however….$$$ not surprisingly China is much more expensive than it was 9 years ago.
Rickshaw ride around the Houtong area and the children learned how to make kites from a kite master. She makes hawks with wide wings and the tiny ornate kites of the south, which she says are not as marketable. The kids decorated small kites to take out an fly later. Lunch with 15 in the Kung Fu family house – best meal yet – dried tofu sauteed with celery was the highlight for Bridget. The dumplings were good too! The older son of the house is a Kung Fu master and teaches in houston. 4 generations of the family have been Kung Fu masters. They open their home to tourists and cook the most amazing simple food for visitors.
Then off to the Temple of Heaven to fly kites on the top of the hill. Hot, Hot Hot! Before we went up the hill we watched a group of people dancing under the trees and Bridget and Jim and Kathy joined in. (Bibi has decided that parents dancing is mortifying and asked me not to do it again…dancing parents is just the beginning of teen mortification!)
Too hot to fly kites although the kids did run with them a bit.
Dreadful meal in a tourist place near the Temple of Heaven – high point of the meal was slices of melon in the pork dish and Gideon’s discourse on high school.
Packed up the bags and off we went to the train
Night train to Xian – Car No. 4 on Train Z19 a non-stop
Dumpling feast – 18 different kinds – the most memorable was the last – a walnut sweet dumpling tha tasted like a German Christmas cookie and then sitting at the same table a folk dance and music extravaganza. Not an opera but a mixture of dances with ribbon and flowing sleeves and traditional music. An amazing man sang like a duck – kids loved it –Bridget slept sitting up.
July 5, 2010
Biking on the Xian City wall – Jim, Patti and Sybille on single bikes and Bibi and Bridget raced along on a tandem. Hot Hot Hot! But up on the wall there was a breeze.
Off to the Terracotta Warriors and Lunch –
We went to a replica workshop and the children were taught how to press the clay into forms to make small replicas of warriors. The workshop is part of a government factory which makes amazing replicas of the terracotta warriors in all sizes. The lifesize replicas are fired right a long side the miniatures in kilns built in to the wall of the shop. The firing takes 4 days and then a day to cool after they break the door.
This was an endless store – workshop an d replicas, embroidered pictures – a specialy of Xian – rugs with 2 looms running, lacquer work all made on the spot and you could even order to your own size and specifications – black, gold, inlaid with jade or butter flies or simply engraved with Chinoiserie – Bridget nearly persuaded Jim to buy an engraved leather lauquer sideboard in the red that is the theme of our living room. Instead and for considerably less $$$ we found an embroidered picture of carp on a silk fabric, a traditional symbol of family unity. Bibi chose her own replica of a general – she had worked on a simple warrior in the factory workshop but he had one topknot on his head and she liked the more ornate general.
Lunch – Lunch in another big tourist restaurant. The Indians on one side were eating vegetarian food with saffron rice. The Chinese tourists on the other were eating a different array, including a whole fried fish. Syb and I were envious. Louie explained that it was carp and the bones were too much for the Americans. Probably true – we’ll check it out when we split off from the rest of the group in Guilin – fish bones don’t scare me! Syb says that based on Fuschia Dunlop’s review of the fish farming operations in China you might want to think twice about the quality of the fish, but that probably applies to all the food sources…so don’t think about it. Just eat and do a aeyurvdic cleaning regime to rid oneself of poisons when you get home 😉 Jim’s Note: We are all losing weight. I’ve learned that when you eat with chop sticks you eat more slowly and less-no shoveling nutrients in with serial forkfuls. We are eating more vegetables, drinking more fluids and walking miles every day.