Sunday, August 12, 2012

China Post #1

We have finished our 2nd full day of touring in China. We arrived safely on Sunday, and immediately met up with our tour guide. Traveling went well including my back and leg. I had to take some extra pain medication and it worked fine. We have a very nice tour group, a total of four families consisting of four couples, four 9&10 year olds, and three teenage girls. As I write this we have the Chinese coverage of the Olympics on our hotel TV. We miss the US, especially since FB is blocked! Ethan is very kindly putting this up for us. When I say FB is blocked, what I mean is that it is blocked completely for everyone here! Before I go into detail, I want to say it's been very interesting so far doing pretty much a repeat of everything we did the first time around, the main difference being summer vs. winter. Yesterday was very hot but we started early so enjoyed fairly good temperatures for awhile. Today was raining all day. Yesterday the day started out by touring the Temple of Heaven and surrounding park. It's a very impressive series of round courtyards and temples. Everything has been preserved well. In the park, many people were playing games, dancing and exercising, and just hanging out in general. The kids had some opportunities to do paddle ball and play with streamers. We visited some shops and tried to avoid the vendors by constantly saying Bu-yao. After that we made a quick stop at Tianemenn Square. From there we went to the ancient part of the city that's under restoration. First stop was the drum tower, sort of like a bell tower but with several huge drums. Then a rickshaw ride along a canal to our next stop - lunch provided by a local host. It was delicious food and a fascinating experience. More and more dishes kept appearing, and at the end they explained the layout of each shared household. The individual dwellings are about the size of a living room, and the one we were in had the cook's bed, serving area with tables, a small couch, and some highly valuable family heirlooms as the hostess would have been a Manchurian princess. Other dwellings served other purposes, such as laundry etc. In the afternoon we went to a tea house and had a private presentation. Really fun! Sort of like a wine tasting but with tea and a demonstration of how tea is made, special teapots with cool features, even a jasmine tea ball that turns into a flower in the water. Finally, the kids enjoyed watching "pee-pee boy"; I'll leave that to your imagination but his purpose is to show that the water is hot enough. The adults enjoyed it too and it was certainly a selling point for tea since a free one came with each purchase. Today as I said it was raining, but we still enjoyed our excursion to the Forbidden City where emperors lived for a long time. The next place was a silk factory. The presentation there was fascinating, and of course we did some shopping afterward! Then onward to a very nice restaurant for lunch where we had a full duck meal, minus bringing out the whole duck this time like they did our last trip. That was sort of a relief because Samantha would not have liked that! Finally we went to the free market and did shopping for about an hour.

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