Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Sunday, April 28, 2013
The good news--David woke up this morning feeling much better! The bad news: I woke up with a sore throat and I’m coming down with a cold--crap! I think we’ve just worn ourselves out, but what a trip it has been!
We managed to get a fairly early start this morning, we ate a quick breakfast here at the hotel and walked to the subway for our ride to the Panjiayuan Market. The subway was really crowded this morning, and we had 3 line changes--but we made it! Coming out of the subway station we weren’t sure which direction to go, but decided to follow the crowd, and that got us there.
The market wasn’t quite what I expected--but it was great fun. I had been expecting a big, tourist oriented market selling mostly souvenirs with maybe a little of the good stuff thrown in. I was so wrong! We didn’t see another caucasian at the market--it was all locals. There were no stalls or booths, each vendor just threw a tarp or blanket on the ground and laid out their wares. It was about half old tools, clothes and household goods, and half wonderful antiques and interesting items. I’m quite sure many of the antiques were of the “I buried them in my backyard for 6 months and then dug them up, so they look really old” variety. But I did see some lovely items, and engaged in some pretty hard bargaining for a few treasures. We wandered the 3 block area, up and down between the rows for almost 2 hours--it was great fun! Don’t tell David I told you, but he enjoyed it, too!
David enjoying the market
Cute little boy and his very proud mama, she was so pleased when I asked to take his picture!
We walked back to the subway, passing up a huge antique “mall” along the way--I figured it would be mostly furniture, or too rich for my tiny budget! We headed to the Nanluoguxiang hutong, where we had a relaxing lunch of panini sandwiches and a cold beer. We walked through the hutong again-it was much less crowded than last week. The lanes were decorated for a festival--lots of hanging lanterns and flowers:
We bought a souvenir Starbucks Beijing mug (stop rolling your eyes, Matt!) for our “worldly” collection, and walked back to the subway--I think we must have walked 10 miles today!
Tai Chi in the park
We came back to the hotel to unload our “treasures”, and I went right back out to do a little last minute shopping nearby and hit an ATM. David stayed at the hotel to start packing--hmmmm, we seem to have a little (a lot?) more than we came with. Good thing I always travel with an extra duffle bag!
Our guide from The Great Wall, Joe, is picking us up at 6 pm for the Peking Acrobat Show this evening. We though we should have a quick bite of dinner, so we ordered a pizza from room service--did I mention we are both tired of Chinese food?? The pizza was just OK, but at least it wasn’t greasy stir-fry!
Joe was here right on the dot, and it was a pretty slow drive in rush hour traffic across town to the theater.
He already had our tickets for the show, so he parked the car and even showed us right to our seats--what a great guide! He found us really good seats--just a few rows back from the stage and right in the middle.
The show was certainly different than we expected--I think we both were expecting it to be just like when the Chinese Acrobats did the Ed Sullivan show in the 60’s. Things have changed a little since then! The acrobats performed in front of an animated screen--somewhat “cartoonish”. The show started with a clown making balloon animals for kids in the audience--kind of corny, but fun for the kids. Even though we both thought it a bit over-rated, the acrobats are incredibly talented, and some of their routines were pretty spectacular. No photos to share--not allowed in the theater.
After the show we walked a block or so to the subway and made our way back to the hotel. We’re just plain tired--but did manage to just about finish our packing--we’re leaving very early Monday morning.
It will be an early night for us--we have an early start planned for tomorrow, our last day in Beijing. Joe is picking us up at 8 am tomorrow to drive out into the coutryside to a small old village, Chaundixia. We’ll spend a few hours wandering and exploring with Joe, then head back into town. We have a VERY early ride to the airport Monday morning.
Friday, April 26, 2013
A very lazy start to our day today--we relaxed, ate a late breakfast and left the hotel at almost 11 a.m. All that climbing and walking yesterday must have worn us out!
Our plan for the day was to take the subway over to Beijing Olympic Park to see the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube. I think the Bird’s Nest is a beautifully designed masterpiece of architecture--so to see it in person was a treat for me.
The beautiful Bird's Nest Stadium--it's HUGE!
The beautiful Bird's Nest Stadium--it's HUGE!
I loved the matching landscape lighting:
We walked around the Park, almost all the way around the Bird’s Nest, looked at the Olympic Torch and Water Cube, enjoyed some interesting sculptures and took a few photos. There were quite a few people enjoying the park, with a couple of children’s events were pretty lively. The main square is huge--I could not imagine being there with tens of thousands of people!
The Olympic Flame:
The Water Cube:
VERY interesting architecture nearby--IBM Building
After wandering around the park we walked back to the subway, made a few line changes and came out in an older area of town. The subway station is right next to the YongHeGong Lama Temple, so we didn’t even get lost!
We decided to have lunch first, so walked along a restored hutong alleyway, checking out a few restaurants. As usual, we passed on the fast food chains, including KFC-which seem to be on every block here in China. We eventually decided on ............Mexican food! Yup--I think we are both officially tired of Chinese food. We shared a plate of nachos and a cold beer. The nachos were very good, and of course the beer was great.
The YongHeGong Temple, built in 1694, was originally designed as an imperial palace for a Manchu prince. It was converted to a Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in 1744. The temple grounds are beautiful, and even though there were bus loads of other tourists, it seemed very calm, hushed and peaceful. The grounds were lush, green and impeccably manicured, and the pagodas and temple halls were very clean and well maintained. We even saw a man on a ladder dusting the wood carvings!
The park like setting leading into the Lamasery:
Inside the grounds:
Scenes from around the Lamasery grounds:
We strolled around the temple, looking in the many halls and pagodas, really enjoying the respite from the noisy city. We took a few exterior photos, but there were signs posted outside the halls and temples: “Please no burning of incense or film inside”, so we didn’t burn film!
Soon we noticed the monks were closing and locking the doors--they close to visitors at 5 pm. Darn--we would have enjoyed more time in this lovely place. We walked out and back to the subway--it was a long ride “home”, with 3 line changes during rush hour. It was pretty packed!
We decided to stay in for the night, we were both tired and a little cranky! We have found that at about the 4 week point in our trips we both seem to have less reserve and tolerance, but we always manage to get through it! Of course, a wise person would just take shorter trips, but you all know my motto: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”!
Dinner tonight? Just a bowl of noodles from room service, and a nice relaxing evening at “home”.
Tomorrow in Beijing: No set plans--but I’m sure it will be something interesting! We have 3 full days left here, and we want to make the most of them.