Thursday, April 16, 2009

March 10, 2009: The Great Wall to Deep Fried...??

Well, the day has come....we are en route from The Peninsula Hotel to the Beijing airport. I can't believe this amazing adventure has come to and end. Here's a recap of the last few days.... We left Shanghai on Sunday taking the Maklev bullet train to the airport. The train travels the 35 km in 7min 20 seconds reaching speeds of up to 421 km/hr! It was crazy! 

We arrived in Beijing and met Joe, our guide, and Mister 2, our driver...2nd best driver in China - 1st best is in the hospital (apparently). A side note - things are all referred to in numerical order....#1 road, #2 road or #1 university, #2 university...we asked why and they said it was simpler than naming them all. Guess that makes sense especially for foreigners to maneuver easily. Our hotel here was The Peninsula - one of the nicest in terms of amenities and accommodations I have ever stayed at. While at the gym this morning, 3 people were there to assist me with water, towels, etc. Service is paramount...almost overwhelmingly. 

On Monday we went to see the Forbidden City where the Emperors lived. It is 240 acres big and we were there for 2 hours and only saw about 1/10th of all there was to see. For those that remember the movie "The Last Emperor", the story of Puyi, many of the scenes we visited while there. This was an amazing place to visit - the main Hall of Supreme Harmony, Middle Harmony, Preserving Harmony, the living quarters where the concubines lived and the gardens. Quite an experience. 

From there we went to the Temple of the Heaven, the Daoist temple, surrounded by great gardens, which was 3 times bigger than the Forbidden City. As Joe said, everything in Beijing is big. He wasn't kidding. It was also very cold...about 35-45 while we were here with some good winds. We did see blue sky and a bright sun our first day, which was a nice change from Shanghai

We tried to visit Tiananmen Square three times during the trip, but the National People's Congress was in session while we were here so we could only drive by as it was blocked off. 

Our lunch was at a very chic restaurant, My Humble House, from Singapore. The food was fantastic - a little too much, but a very innovative take on traditional Chinese food. One of the "celebrity" news casters was eating next to us and of course Bob went to chat him up. My mom and I escaped out the door before the typical Bob introduction! 

Monday evening we went out for dinner....for pizza. You can tell we were a little Chinese fooded out. After dinner, we visited the night email subject above is in reference to what we saw. We had visited a night market in Taiwan and had seen some gruesome things. This market was much cleaner and the food looked very attractively presented. There was fruit on sticks that had been dipped in crystallized sugar, meat, fish, squid, etc. Many westerners were eating the food...I'm not sure how they managed as our guide said do NOT eat anything. Maybe they didn't make it out of their hotels the next day. 

As we continued through the food carts, I encountered a man shaking a stick at my with some rubbery white flesh wrapped around it. I couldn't understand what he was saying....Sheep something? I looked up at the "menu" and was shocked to read "Sheep Penis"! Holy moly! That same stand had chicken testicles, scorpions, star fish (yup!), cicadas, silk worms, caterpillars, ...I can go one but won't. It was quite a sight! I'll send pictures soon.... 

Yesterday we went to the Summer Palace where the Emperor and Empress spent their summers. It was on a huge lake with beautiful walk ways and amazing sites. It was freezing but well worth it. From there we traveled to the Great Wall. What an amazing site...I hiked up the steep steps and was awed by how this 4,100 mile long wall was built and then guarded with garrison towers by the soldiers from the Mongolians and Siberians. 

Our wall visit was followed by lunch at a very modern Kampinski hotel in the hills adjacent to the wall - another unique and amazing place. 

We are at the airport now...before I send this, a few notes: 

1. Toddlers go around with exposed derrieres...this is because they don't wear diapers and the exposure facilitates a quick "release". 

2. Wine in China is exorbitant. Beer is definitely not their forte either. 

3. The Chinese do not believe in heat during the winter. I had to sit on my mom's feet to unthaw them. 

4. Beijing was a very western looking city with huge avenues and much more organized and intuitive than Shanghai. While we drove around in circles in Shanghai, our travels were much more straight forward here. 

5. People believe in the People's party, think Taiwan is theirs and the Dalai Lama is bad. They "aren't sure" what happened with Tiananmen in 1989. 

So many more thoughts but I'll give you a break...

No comments:

Post a Comment