How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Beijing Part 10: The Hutong and a Rickshaw Tour

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the disappointment of Olympic Park, the day became more interesting. We visited The Hutong, once the old walled city. The buildings were ancient, many were decrepit. We drove through the shopping district but did not stop. As the bus meandered through the old town’s narrow streets, we learned a new subway station is planned for the area; buildings are being torn down and replaced. Renewal is everywhere.

Our first stop: a rickshaw ride.

That's a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

                          That’s a lot of rickshaws. This is still a popular draw in the Hutong.

I had been worried about runners pulling us in traffic, as in cars. I suppose I’ve seen too many movies. Ricksaws had progressed to pedal power.

Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We're not exactly featherweights.

                Sue and I not sure what to make of this. We’re not exactly featherweights.

The roads are bricked and narrow. Other customers other than our Group 8 had come for a ride.

Someone else enjoying a ride. It's a wonderful day for it.

                                     Someone else enjoying a ride. It’s a wonderful day for it.

The alleys were full of contrasts: falling buildings and new cars  You wouldn’t believe the electrical boxes and the plugs inserted in them helter-skelter.

An artist's work on display

An artist’s work on display

We all know alleys are a playground for wandering, stray cats.  I saw none, nor any dog either.

Restaurant tables and chairs. Too simple. Let's bring all of the inside out.

Restaurant tables and chairs outside. Simple. Let’s bring the inside out.

Sue and I whispered behind the driver’s back how guilty we felt having this not-so-young man peddling for all he was worth. We had been instructed to tip him, but no more than $2.00 USD.

The driver wasn't young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

The driver wasn’t young but he must have been in good shape for all that heavy peddling.

 Our driver,  a warm and generous guy, was happy to have a picture with Sue and me.

We weren't sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes.

We weren’t sure if he understood anything we said to him but he gave off happy vibes. That’s the man-made lake in the background. How many people and how long did that take?

The things people throw out. I didn’t see anything wrong with the girl’s two wheeler, but I also didn’t jump out of the rickshaw to inspect it.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

Looks like home. All ready for garbage pickup.

I cannot recall if this is a restaurant or a temple.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

Not a great photo because of the narrow street and my amateur photography.

A video you might enjoy on more hutong background  (29.05 min).

 

Next on March 24, Beijing Part 11: A Special Peking Duck Dinner

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

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Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Olympic Park

The Olympic grounds had been built on razed farmland. We were told all the displaced farmers had been given jobs and a better apartment than the farmhouses they’d lived in. Everyone’s happy; a win-win.

To get to the entrance of the Park, a busy four-lane highway had to be negotiated by foot. The bus had been parked on the other side. Although busy, the hazards of crossing presented less chance of being run over than in the midst of the city if you timed your jaunt.

At long last, we were free to wander the grounds. I found our time there boring, however. The sun smirked overhead. Paved walkways, expansive stone-tiled, and bricked thoroughfare stretched miles ahead, too bright and stripped of any shade. Thank goodness for hats and sunglasses. It felt a clear day and I noticed no smog to date.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtjogMtnrjw  (published Feb. 2014, 2.53 min)

or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12e3c6mAzfQ  (published May 2014, 9.45 min)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

Notice the tents with trinkets for visitors. In the background is the 25-story IBM building (in the shape of Olympic torch)

 I recall hawkers in the open and sellers of tourist knick-knacks in stall, after stall, after stall, along one side of the center road. These were actually white tents four or five feet wide with a flap raised on some as a sunshade. At intervals, empty stretches separated one cluster from another. The disappointment lay in discovering they all carried the same products! Every one.

One of the last ones, a larger tent, provided a digital photo opportunity for a mock emperor and concubine, or possibly his queen. Ernesto and Lorena, known for their carefree style, donned the costumes provided and had their royal photo taken. One size fit all as the ‘costumes’ tied in the back like hospital gowns.

Another frustration: no open exhibits.

As we left the Park, the ladies inquired about washrooms. Somebody spied one and pointed. “No, you won’t like that one,” Robert said. “See there? That’s a good one.” We’d heard a similar declaration several times now. I wondered in what way it might be different and not to our liking.

The Birds Nest National Statdium

                                                         The Birds Nest National Stadium

No matter what was served at any of our meals, I would never starve. It struck me, though, lunch and dinner dishes were quite similar, with lots of repeats. Time will tell.

Lunch was served at a restaurant not far from Olympic Village. From where we sat, I saw back-to-back orange hoods / like half pods or huge footballers’ helmets and wondered what they were. Phone booths. Say what? Two by two they appeared on the sidewalk, back to back, closer than girlfriends. Migrants and low-income workers use these Public Phone Booths.

Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant

             Notice the water glasses, which vary in size from restaurant to restaurant. 

Lunch:

  • White rice
  • Tea (always hot and ready)
  • Pork meatballs
  • Chicken with cabbage and carrots
  • Kung Pow chicken
  • Rice (with duck meat)
  • Deep fried pork
  • Cucumbers with chicken
  • Deep fried battered fish
  • Egg drop soup
  • Sliced watermelon for dessert

Some Quick Facts about Telephones:

  • Everyone has a cell phone, sometimes two
  • Use text message vs. phone because it’s cheaper
  • Use’ You Chat’ a lot
  • Two providers: China Mobile and China Unicom
  • Phone fee 200 Yuan per month or $40

Housing:

  • Apartment rent 2 bedrooms: $1,000 per month (all USD)
  • Condo rent good location: $1,600 per month (depending on that location)
  • Condos, 2-bedroom, 1,000 square meters, 1 toilet
  • Condos cost $6,000 per square meter
  • 1,000 metres = $600,000 per condo
  • A house and garage, minimum price 30,000,000 Yuan or FIVE million U.S. dollars

Up Next on March 17: Beijing Part 10: The Hutong

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


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Beijing Part 8: The Pearl Store and Summer Palace

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We left the hotel at 9:00 a.m.

Upon entering the Pearl building, we were bustled into a small room with folding card chairs. Our pearl instruction lady described the different types of pearls: fresh water and salt water and advised the former as best. The many colors pearls come in surprised me: gold, pink, black for example. She presented round and irregular samples as well as the reasons for the various colors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl

Thank you Microsoft

Thank you Microsoft

After this quickie presentation, we sprinted behind the pearl instructor lady into a larger, showier room featuring thick royal blue carpet and plushier chairs. Models, dressed in formal wear, appeared on the catwalk to showcase and model pearl necklaces and earrings. I wasn’t enthralled, but still astonished by the flashy show, and I cannot lie, the jewelry was gorgeous. The fashion ladies withdrew and The Group 8 were bid to again follow by a forward flourish. With a dramatic pull on a set of double doors, a whole new world materialized:  a magical place, with lights so bright they blinded at first. Rows and rows of glass cases, shiny as the jewels themselves, glittered up and down the aisles. I swear a saleslady appeared for every customer. I noticed only one male clerk. A tour group left as we arrived. The showroom hummed and bustled like a beehive. New sales staff seemed to emerge out of thin air as needed.

Set up in one corner, I noticed a coffee and wine bar with bar chairs. No, nothing here was free to pacify/massage the customer. A list of hefty prices hung on obvious display. Avoiding sales staff who followed you like a shadow is thirsty work, but I wasn’t buying anything. I’ve never cared about pearls and most jewelry my whole life (except earrings). Why would I buy them at this age and at astronomical prices?

Lorena and Bonnie in our group bought jewelry. The remainder of our non-buying members huddled together and made for the door at the first opportunity. We found an unbelievable treasure while we wandered around till everyone finished shopping. The walls displayed every size of oyster shell you never imagined, with plaqued descriptions underneath. However, we weren’t allowed time to peruse this ‘oyster museum’ and were hustled out to the bus. Why? We had to go. The French group had arrived. Service to one tour bus at a time, please and thank you.

See the 'pearled' cream. One is for day, the other night.

 See the ‘pearled’ cream. One is for day, the other night. Amazon sells this too. I checked.

A clerk pushing Pearl skin cream caught my attention and said, “This will make your skin look 20 years younger.”

“Can I have a written guarantee?” I asked.

“Sure.”

Such a quick response. “What good is it if my face is young and the rest of me is sagging?”

“Madam, you can use it all over your body.”

“Look at me,” another clerk piped in. “I’m 70.”

We all tittered because she could not have been a day over 29. I gave her kudos for her quick comeback, though. I hope she’s worth her weight in gold. I bought the cream, didn’t I? What a sucker!

The Summer Palace

The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

                                           The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

I enjoyed our tour of the Summer Palace. The park is enormous (over 700 acres, taken up mostly by Kunming Lake); a peaceful place to spend the day. It has a long, remarkable history. This will give you a better outline and will take less time to take in. Enjoy.

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/summer.htm    (2.53 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ple6S_pjFzU (l.09 min)

The Marble Boat

                                                                  The Stone Boat

The Men’s and Ladies’ washrooms were again across from each other with a communal sink in between. The ‘facilities’ tiny cubicles with elbow-knocking walls. I don’t take up much room but had a difficult doing the deed. Ouch. Lucky for me, the door I happened upon offered a pedestal toilet. I heard later, the rest were squats. It was dark as well and I could hardly see. You want to watch for puddles on the floor.

Bridge to a point on the water

                                                     Bridge to a point on the water

Quick Facts on Education:

  • Kindergarten is bi-lingual (Chinese and English)
  • Government-paid until age 15
  • School 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. five days per week
  • For better school must pay $6,000 to $12,000 extra per year
  • Sometimes extra classes on Saturdays
  • Music lessons at school (not outside in music school)
  • Beijing has 70 universities
  • University cost for 2 semesters  $3,500 / year
  • College costs $1,700 / year
  • 70-80% Chinese kids go to college in Beijing
  • School vacation in winter 21 days (for travel)
  • Summer vacation in summer (2 months for travel)
  • $40,000 – $50,000 to study in U.S. paid by parents
  • http://news.at0086.com/China-Universities/The-university-fees-in-China.html

 

Up Next on March 10: Beijing Part 9: Olympic Park

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


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Beijing Part 7: Ming Tombs

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After the Great Wall, a mid-day meal awaited in a local restaurant.

Lunch:

  • Spring rolls (exactly 8)
  • Fish balls with red and green peppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Eggplant with tomato and green peppers
  • Rice
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Soup
  • Cut up orange wedges for dessert
  • Tea
  • The usual one small (free) glass of beer, pop or water
The Spirit Way, original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which only one has been excavated (Ding Ling)

The Spirit Way: original road and entrance to the tombs. There are 13 tombs of which one only has been excavated (Ding Ling) 

Ming Tombs: where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried (1368-1644).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfynyPLm4Q0    (3.04 min)

If you would like a more in-depth version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1BqspVU2HA  (8:43 min)

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building

Emperor Yongle with money offerings at his feet. This money is collected and used to maintain the building and no, no Chinese person would dare steal this money.  

Laundry: 

  • Hung on rope strung the length of apartment balconies
  • Clothes  hung on hangers: socks, T-shirts, sweaters, trousers, shirts, blouses
  • Did not notice any underwear or bedding

 On the way to dinner:

Robert and the driver appeared to converse more than usual. Robert’s cell rang. He talked at length. The call completed, he started another. Both he and the driver seemed tied to their phones for an unusual amount of time. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, yet it occurred to me something might be up. I can pull a rabbit out of any hat, real or imaginary.

Our bus pulled over to the curb and Robert announced he had to leave. The driver would take us to the restaurant, he said. He gave no explanation, but it wasn’t hard to see he was upset. Sue and I looked at each other. We couldn’t see any of the other’s reactions in front or behind us.

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Heavy traffic surrounded us. After Robert hopped off, we drove on for a short distance still in the inside lane. Vehicles crawled bumper to bumper. Another bus slowed next to ours. Sue and I sat on the left of the aisle watching through the window. I squeezed my eyes shut as a bicyclist, with no room to spare, whizzed by between our two buses. I almost had a heart attack.

The other bus moved on. We remained stock-still in the curb lane. Traffic rolled past. I thought the young fellow on the bike might have caused an accident. Traffic shifted moving past, yet our bus waited immobile. Why? By now, the whole group craned necks and raised eyebrows around the seats at each other. We noticed together, a car parked in front of the bus. Another five minutes or so dragged past. What could be happening? A man in a construction vest walked up to the car’s driver window brandishing his arms. I had no idea the car had an occupant. No translation was required. Move now he indicated. Nothing changed. A 20-something Chinese guy in black pants and a white shirt appeared at the side of the bus. The door flew open and he jumped in. The door slammed shut and I don’t recall any words exchanged with the driver. The parked car inched forward. Our bus did as well.

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In minutes, we turned into a driveway and a man, who might have been Security or Police, stepped in front of the bus. He waved his arms and shouted through the windshield and looked as if he wanted to push the bus back. What was going on? Words passed between the man outside and our driver or between the driver and the new passenger who hadn’t taken a seat. Too much going on to follow. The uniform vanished. The bus door opened again and the young man jumped out signaling for us to follow. I felt like a lamb on the way to heaven’s gate or maybe hell’s? All were silent, heads bowed as we passed through an alley and a maze of cars and another lot into a restaurant. I flashed my Travel Tour ID towards an approaching waitress. She led us to Table 6 which displayed our tour group name.

One of our group noticed the young man worked as a waiter there. The picture became clear. This had been an orchestrated event. Before Robert rushed off, either he or the driver had pre-arranged for our escort. The driver had stalled until the black pants and white shirt found us. The driver couldn’t leave the bus to walk us to our destination since there wasn’t room to bring the bus closer. I don’t even know if he spoke English. What teamwork!

By the time dinner finished, and we fidgeted, wondering about our return to the hotel, Robert showed up as if nothing had happened. He looked much better than when he’d dashed off. His voice, I noticed, was still a little odd. At least to me, his reason for the sudden disappearance was suspect.

“I had to see about my next tour,” he said to our obvious curiosity.

 IMG_0249

Dinner:

  • Soup with fresh chopped tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Shrimp with egg and green peppers
  • Corn with lima beans and carrots
  • Sweet and sour chicken balls
  • French fries (surprise)
  • Chicken with fungus and green peppers
  • Green leaf vegetable like spinach but not
  • Chopped mushrooms and green peppers
  • Eggplant, light spice

We returned to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. I picked up my laptop from the room and returned to the lobby for free WiFi access. I had trouble and asked the guy at reception for help. He looked at the list available and pointed to one, even though the words weren’t in Chinese. “Maybe, this one?” His choice didn’t work. He shrugged. I went off on my own, but soon became frustrated and worn out. I wanted nothing more than my bed. I gave up on e-mail.

Finally day's end

Finally day’s end. This is how my brain felt as well. 

Next on March 3rd: Beijing Part 8: Pearl Stores and Summer Palace

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

 


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Beijing, Part 6: The Great Wall

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

I ate too much again at the buffet-style breakfast. We English 8 met in the main lobby at 8:30 a.m., then traveled an hour or so by mini tour bus to the mysterious Great Wall.

A few facts about the Wall:

  • Sticky rice soup and mortar were used to glue the bricks together
  • Started -200 BC
  • Has been worked for over 2,000 years
  • Bullet holes from last battle still evident
  • Needs expensive maintenance due to time and tourism
Some shops

                                                                              A few shops

What a happening place. Tour buses clogged available parking space. Small shops galore offered touristy goods for sale, from postcards to fridge magnets, hot tea, cold drinks and all sorts of knick-knacks. One, a department store type business, carried everything you might imagine. Would you pay $39 USD for a T-shirt or $25 for a kid-sized one? Would you pay six or seven dollars for a two-inch square fridge magnet? They also carried silk, jade, pearls, life-size Terracotta warrior replicas and furniture. Prices included shipping. For the life of me, I couldn’t sort out the prices aside from the shipping costs out of curiosity.

Approaching the Wall Steps

                                                                Approaching the Wall Steps

We left the tourist traps behind and headed uphill to the entrance of the Great Wall. We saved shopping time for later. The walk was steep. We rubbed elbows with people from all over the world (figuratively).  You don’t dare touch anyone. A light drizzle began and Sue and I escaped inside a battlement. Inside and out we meandered. Hordes and throngs of people stared at us everywhere. Our English Group 8 wandered off in different directions with an agreed on time to meet at the large department store halfway down the hill.

Looking ahead

                                                                            Looking ahead

Carolyn lost her camera on the Great Wall. She’d taken off her coat due to overheating and left it on a ledge and walked away. Ten minutes later, she realized it was missing. Dreading it would be gone, she and her husband retraced their steps anyway. Had it been me, I would have cracked under the stress and gone into shock. Forget going back to be heartbroken.

A Steady Climb

                                                                       A Steady Climb

Surrounded

                                                                           Surrounded

When Robert heard the story, he insisted on checking if the camera had been turned in. What were the chances of such luck?  He knew who to ask and was informed an announcement had been made over the Great Wall loudspeakers about ten times regarding the camera. A security guard had picked it up and turned it in. Each of us rejoiced as if it had been our own camera. Carolyn glowed.

http://www.history.com/topics/great-wall-of-china/videos/seven-wonders-the-great-wall

 Higher Now

                                                               Higher Now

At Ground Level Again. Most of these women are over 80, I'm sure, but energetic as 20-year-olds.

At ground level again: most of these women are over 80, I’m sure, but energetic as 20-year-olds.

Beijing driving and cars:

  • Rush hour is all day long, not at any specified times
  • Driving restrictions by last two digits of license number / odd vs even
  • Penalty for ignoring, sometimes 100 points
  • Drivers have 12 points per year
  • If you lose your points for the year, you must redo license.
  • If caught driving drunk, or even after 1 glass of wine or beer, can lose license forever
  • 3 million more cars since the Olympics
  • Cost of a car (i.e. Hyundai), $10,000 each, manufactured in China
  • An Elantra in 2005, cost $25,000 U.S.D.
  • Lots of new models now because more citizen able to afford cars
  • They like German models
  • Gasoline 7.8 Yuan per liter, about $1.30
I'm still standing

                                                                      I’m still standing

~ *~

Next on February 24th – Beijing, Part 7: Ming Tombs

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.

 


60 Comments

Beijing Part 5

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Temple of Heaven:

The entrance to the Temple is a wide avenue meant for masses of foot traffic. It is clean and well-traveled, not only by foreigners like us but by the Chinese people as well. I did not see wrappers or bottles lying around anywhere.

IMG_0164 - Copy

Click below for a three-minute video, which explains better than I can. Sorry for the advertisement. The first few seconds will show you the exercise in the park again but keep watching. Those pink feathers the man is tossing with his feet are the Badminton birdie I had referred to earlier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mo6_cskvhQ

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The English 8 Group (us) had removed our light jackets. The sun rose higher and the temperature grew warmer, yet around us, young Chinese ladies wore (wool?) leggings under skirts, long sleeved jackets, heavy pants (no jeans) and high heels. I love heels and wear them on occasion, but not in this kind of environment. There were lots of stairs to climb and broken concrete and uneven bricked areas all around. How they walked in those shoes without breaking their necks, and for so far and long, I cannot imagine.

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  • The park area is 660 acres
  • Commoners were not allowed inside its gates until 1918
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • All the buildings were refreshed prior to the 2008 Olympics
  • Although the doors remained open, visitors are barred from entering. We fought for a spot to look inside from the blocked doorway but could not make out much.

Forbidden City:

We walked until our feet screamed for mercy. Again washroom locations were uppermost in our minds and where bottled water could be purchased. The following video is an hour and a half long. I cannot remember all the interesting history we learned, but take time to take a peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XRcwAAsNz8

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Lunch:

The bus driver dropped us at the restaurant. The French group followed soon afterward as well as lots of locals. All platters of food were automatically delivered and placed on the large lazy Susan in the center of the table. Choices of one (small) free glass of soft drink, water, or beer were again offered. All the food served was family style. Our plates for eating were smaller than some bread and butter plates at home.

  • French fries (What? Shocked us too)
  • Deep fried, breaded white fish (mild taste)
  • Cooked cauliflower
  • Noodles (tasty)
  • Thinly sliced beef and cucumber platter
  • Beef meatballs with onions and green peppers
  • One large egg pancake (the size of a dinner plate)
  • White rice
  • Soup with ribbons of Nori in it (I didn’t try it)
  • Green tea
  • Peeled oranges, sections pulled apart and arranged on a plate for dessert

Note: Veggies were not plentiful like they are in the Chinese food we order in the West. They appeared to be more for decoration, except for plentiful onions in meat dishes, along with a few slices of green pepper. I ate till my tummy felt happy. I had no complaints about the food.

Tian’anmen Square

We set out on foot as the bus couldn’t bring us closer to the Square. Shortly before entering the grounds, we passed a strip mall across from the Square featuring souvenir shops and the like. Sue asked if we might shop, but Robert shook his head. Not a chance. We had a tight schedule. (Check out the writing on the building, a different spelling again.)

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The Square is so huge, the danger of being trampled during a ceremony or demonstration crossed my mind. The Square accommodates one million people. That’s the size of 90 American football fields. Soldiers still patrol the area,  although they look way too young and of slight build.

  • The monument of the heroes of the revolution is here

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  • The Great Hall of the People (in the background)

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  • The Museum of Chinese History and Revolution. We were there at the wrong time and it was closed. I don’t believe we had been scheduled to visit anyway.

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  • The Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where Mao lies embalmed in a glass case since his death in 1976. We did not go inside the Hall either. This building is at another end of the Square.

IMG_0182 - Copy

http://www.ebeijing.gov.cn/BeijingInformation/BeijingsHistory/t1141051.htm

Dinner:

Tsingtao beer was served, the best beer in China we were told. Ernesto ordered a bottle. I had the one small free glass a change from the water I drank all day. Sue preferred pop or water and the rest chose water.

  • Sliced sausage, fungus (think of weird mushrooms) and cucumbers
  • Cooked green salad (leaves of some kind)
  • Rice
  • Chicken with carrots and cucumbers
  • Duck meat with celery
  • Chicken with celery
  • Battered deep fried fish
  • Sesame bread plus onions and peppers (can’t remember what this looked like)
  • Spring rolls (exactly eight)
  • Soup (forgot to write what kind)
  • Watermelon slices for dessert

Offered separately, for which we needed to pay, were special coffees and ice cream. The waitress quoted 20 Yuan for either (about $4.00 Cdn / approx. $3.30 USD). Sue pointed out the prices posted over the ice cream freezer were 3.50 and 5.00 Yuan. Nope. The price was 20 Yuan. Non-negotiable. We must have stuck out like tourists. With money.

Our restaurant had been backed onto a park-like setting with a large pond of stagnant water. It wasn’t clean and had ugly, black and swampy plants growing in it.

We had time to kill before the bus came at 6:30 to drive to the Opera. Some of our group decided on a walk in the park. Sue and I chose to sit and take a load off. We’d done enough walking all day. My feet shrieked and uttered profanities. No wonder—they must have walked 50 miles on our first day out.

Beijing Opera 7:30 p.m.

Before the performance, a demonstration was given on stage of a male performer applying face makeup and donning a costume with a dresser assisting.

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This is not an art form I appreciated, although the costumes were colorful and dazzling. One of the men in our group complained he couldn’t even catch a nap.

We arrived at the hotel somewhere between nine and ten o’clock. A jam-packed day three had ended. My brain, over-saturated with information, shut down. Goodnight Beijing. Hello, pillow and bed.

~ *~

Next on February 17th – The Great Wall

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


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Beijing: Part 4

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We wandered to another part of the park where parents laid out their child’s ‘resume’ hoping for a marriage connection/partner. A woman yelled at me when I tried to take a picture. Seems it’s bad luck to be photographed.

Spring in all its glory                                                      Spring in all its glory

I understood it puts a pox on the intended. I laid low and managed a non-intrusive video on my iPad mini but I cannot upload it. However, I copied a frame from the video. Note the sheets on the ground.

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Interesting nuggets about marriage:

  • Either you pay for a matchmaker ($$$ if you have lots—probably not) or your mother struggles along in your best interests with or without your knowledge
  • We encountered children in the park, but the majority were boys—yes there were girls—the odds appeared greater than the statistics
  • The ratio: 140 boys are born to 100 girls nowadays
  • Dating services are now common and do a vigorous business, but many cannot afford them and anyway MOM has your best interests at heart
  • Young people pursue good careers and work long hours with lengthy travel times to and from work
  • There is no time to date
  • More and more young people prefer to find their own mate
  • Some young men hold down several jobs and still cannot afford a house or apartment
  •  Every potential bride wants a house or apartment. As well her family expects a bride price—even in the country—a sort of dowry
  • Mismatches between city vs. country/education vs. job level mean less chance of finding a marriageable partner
  • Stories abound about established career women. A female with a good job may be willing to stand in as breadwinners if even a younger male would co-operate. After all, her clock is ticking, but without a job of his own, he’ll shy away.
  • Rich men spent much time and money choosing the right bride through matchmakers since the ratio of females versus males are so uneven

Wikipedia Commons

                                     Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

More tidbits about the people:

  • Diabetes and high blood pressure high
  • Exercises morning and evening, especially seniors
  • China is second highest consumer of sugar after India
  • They add sugar to everything
  • Different breakfast by area/region
  • Average man’s breakfast is in Beijing: steamed dumplings and buns, dim sum, and soup
  • Use straw to drink soup
  • Mandarin is the main official language
  • Written language is the same everyone in China, only the dialects are different

~ * ~

Next on February 10th: Beijing Part 5 (and more photos)

  1. Temple of Heaven
  2. Tiananmen Square

~ * ~

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


25 Comments

Beijing: Part 3

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

My iPad Mini tells me this picture was taken at 6:31 a.m. A thin fog hung over the city our first morning. Sue hadn’t slept well and had been up and down all night. My unconscious-self had not moved all night. I heard nothing. Sue picked up the wake-up call, “You wake up now.” After a quick shower, I felt refreshed and hungry. The previous meal hadn’t been substantial.

Morning has broken

Morning has broken. Taken before we left for breakfast.

Breakfast had started at 6:30 a.m. The eating area this time was on the second floor unlike the first one for dinner the night prior. There was no shortage of choices: buffet style for visitors from both east and west. The usual items such as bacon; sausages; eggs boiled or eggs to order; various familiar cereals; yogurt; bread to slice; rolls; butter and jams were available. As well, roasted potatoes, corn, pasta, congee soups, spring rolls, and a variety of vegetables and more were on offer. Of course, an assortment of juices, coffee, tea and sliced fruits: watermelon, cut-up oranges, bananas, sushi, and tossed and bean salads were available. Prior warnings, by the travel agency, about not eating anything not boiled, were uppermost in our minds. I passed on most of these, though the presentations made my mouth water.

Introductions: At 9:30 a.m., our guide, waited in the hotel lobby and the bus waited outside. The dazzling morning sun had burned off the fog and the fresh air smelled of glorious summer. What a leap from winter, which we’d left behind almost two days ago, to a balmy Chinese spring.

Our tour guide was called Robert in English. I believe he was 40-something. He had the hint of a tummy but otherwise has an average five-foot-five, or six-inch frame. He didn’t avoid eye-contact and his command of English was excellent.

Our bus driver didn’t need to speak but he helped the ladies step up into the bus. I evaded his assistance. I didn’t want help. I don’t need any—not yet. Our traveling companions, the English 8 Group were all retired and eager to start.

Jim and Carolyn (Canada)

Russ and Bonnie (Canada)

Ernesto and Lorena (Mexico). They have a daughter in Canada who fingered the travel ad

Sue and I (Canada)

Upon arrival at the Temple_of_Heaven, the ladies squirmed and the inquisition began. “Where are the washrooms, please?” Who knew the ladies all followed an unwritten rule: never miss an opportunity. My mantra had begun at Chicago airport.

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Each squat had a door though / Thank you Wikipedia Commons

Park Bathroom

  • Had both squat and pedestal toilets
  • Men’s and women’s washrooms across from each other, separated by sink area
  • No toilet paper supplied
  • shared sinks are in between the two
  • Both sexes wash their hands side-by-side
  • Soap supplied
  • Driers weak, no paper towels
  • Counters drowning in splashed water

I lucked out with a pedestal toilet, but the floor and toilet seat were a wet mess. How does this happen? Thank goodness I came prepared with my own paper and dried up the worst bits so my clothes wouldn’t get dirty. I managed not to slip and fall and I hadn’t even needed to use a squat toilet. I hadn’t thought to pack a change of clothing. My first flush was an oopsie. I forgot to put the paper in the basket and instead flushed it. The sanitary system cannot handle paper well due to the extreme volume of usage. We were stared at. I smiled, washed my hands and waved them around when the drier didn’t work. It felt strange standing shoulder to shoulder, next to a man, in what feels like the women’s washroom.

Temple of Heaven (the park)

Short sleeve weather?

Short sleeve weather? Why the coats?

The area was park-like and filled with young people, seniors and everyone in between. We had come dressed for summer and removed our light jackets. The day was warm and the air clear. Most of the locals wore wool everything, long sleeves, hats and quilted jackets.

Even the older folk stretched limbs (legs) against wrought iron fences or practiced Tai chi. The younger groups—most of them female—danced to music (comparable to line dancing or Zumba here).

Tai Chi and in Quilted

Tai Chi and in quilted coat

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A few of the older generation (gulp) were contortionists. Say what? I have pictures to back ME up. See. Ouch. My back and legs can’t do that. My teeth hurt to watch. How is this still possible at this guy’s age? He must be over 75 at least.

Ouch

Ouch!

The man in the red sweater holds something akin to a bird (as in badminton). Demonstrations for its use look similar to a soccer player keeping his ball in motion. The feet and ankles are kept active. An effective exercise, I think and your competition is a small white plastic thing with feathers you must not allow to touch the ground.

  • Hawkers everywhere, with shawls, scarves, kites, badminton-like birdies etc.
  • Hawkers were persistent but not rude
  • Young and old come to the park for exercise and fresh air
  • I saw no dogs walked
  • Birds taken for walks. Their cages were hung on tree limbs
  • It was the weekend, a Sunday
Elastic Man. How old are you?

Elastic Man. How old are you?

We had free time to wander the park for about 20 minutes. Throngs of people surrounded us everywhere we turned. I imagined all these people were occupants of the many tall apartment buildings around the park. Their belief is fresh air and exercise are necessary to a good life. I kept a low profile—I might have gawked once or twice—the locals stared openly. It is their country after all and we were the oddballs.

Next on February 3, Beijing Part 4, 

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


57 Comments

Bejing at Last (Part 2)

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Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At last, we arrived at the hotel and were given an hour to freshen up before the welcoming dinner in the hotel dining room. Would I stay awake that long?


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The hotel is classified 5-Star and this is the lobby. Although splendid and attention-grabbing, it was not spectacular.

Table number 4, awaited, set for eight and covered with a red tablecloth. A yard-wide-diameter glass Lazy Susan (size approximate) adorned the center.

I heard neck vertebrae snap. Sue and I gawked at each other. The waitress attended to the men first. She shook out each cloth napkin and placed one corner beneath the dinner plate—smaller than a bread plate—with the opposite corner on a lap. Picture a square napkin held by one corner with points facing north and south and east and west. This placement also protected the overhang of the tablecloth, I imagine, should anyone dribble while eating. Fallen food could s-l-i-d-e down the napkin and into your lap, but not onto the floor. What do you do with the resulting ‘leftovers’? Mash them into the napkin?

Recreation of place setting

Re-creation of place setting

Did I hear the ruffle of rooster tail feathers? I bet the men in our party hadn’t felt this special since Momma kissed a boo boo. This goes to show how different our east/west worlds still are, and will in all probability never change, or I might be wrong. I giggled into my hand and figured the men might as well enjoy the attention. We females rolled our eyes. It’s possible no one even noticed we did except us.

Once everyone’s serviettes had been organized, the subject of drinks came up. Choices of beverages were water, a soft drink (Coke or ginger ale and never diet) or beer. Once the apportioned amount per table was used up, too bad. The waitress opened two small bottles of water but this wasn’t enough for all the thirsty visitors. Substitutes for soft drinks and/or beer instead of water were unfathomable to staff; no swapping and no flexibility. Our guide, Robert, offered to go to the store to buy more but the hotel staff wouldn’t allow that either. (More on drinks later).

We were called the English Group 8. Another group followed us some time later, a full busload called the French Group from Quebec and area. Busy at our own table, I still overheard a loud voice call: une, deux, trois upon their arrival. Why were these adults being treated like children, I wondered but pushed the thought away.

First dinner in China (menu incomplete due to my befuddled brain)

Robert hung around to describe the platters of food (family style) as they were placed on the Lazy Susan before he left for the subway and an hour’s ride home.

  • Hors d’oeuvres: anchovies sandwiched between thin slices of pork (a guess)
  • Tiny cucumbers, about an inch long, (looked like beginning baby growths) served as a salad
  • Bean salad, French cut
  • Cabbage something (tasty)
  • Corn soup (no corn found, and no corn flavor)
  • Sweet and sour pork (most familiar taste)
  • Cauliflower
  • Fried rice with peas
  • Beef slices
  • Pork, thick slices of boiled bacon (boiled fat, ugh)
  • For dessert: raw pumpkin slices (unflavored, not well-liked) and dates

Dinner over, neither Sue nor I recalled what time we called it a night. I imagine we collapsed into bed soon afterward, thankful for a pillow and a comfy bed.  The unnerving thing is neither of us has any recollection. None. We can’t even embellish a story under threat of pain or suffering.

Take a gander at this, our bathroom with a peekaboo wall. What? Why?

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You’re going to scratch your head and we did as well. After finding this oddity, no-one we asked gave a straight answer. Not even our tour guide. He mumbled something about watching television from the bath. An expensive glass wall to enjoy TV if you ask me. A Venetian blind hangs in place to open or close. Here the bottom half has been turned down for privacy. Check out these links for comments:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/asia-north-east-asia/topics/hotel-bathrooms-in-china

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/travel/05headsup.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

A few additional facts about China:

  • China has FOUR municipalities: Beijing (the capital), Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin
  • There are 55 nationalities, PLUS the Han People who are the majority at 93%
  • The rest are minorities
  • Mandarin is the main language.
  • Although written the same all over the country, the dialects are different. Everywhere.

~*~

Next On January 27th: Beijing (Part 3): First Tour Day

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.


53 Comments

Beijing at Last!

Rapid transit arrived inside the terminal every three minutes.

Rapid transit

Rapid transit

Directed by Robert, our arrival coincided almost to the minute with the train’s appearance. Luggage dragging people that we were, we rushed on and were transported to the parking lot where our mini tour bus awaited. (I have no recollection of exiting the train or getting on the bus.)

We zipped down the highway surrounded by young trees already dressed in delicate greenery. By comparison, Ontario was still in the throes of winter on this March 29th, but I squashed the thought as I gawked in awe. The highways were clean and neat with row on row of countless new tree plantings. To my limited gardening knowledge they were two to three-year-old saplings. I seem to recall some weeping willows (or not).

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

The Chinese writing is overwhelming

It must have been at least a good half-hour or so before the city limits loomed ahead, although. I hadn’t paid much attention to the time. What caught my eye immediately were countless gray apartment buildings: cement shells, without an outside finish; empty openings instead of window-filled; forlorn and abandoned-looking construction sites. There is a reason for this our guide, Robert, told us when I asked him.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the buyer,” he said. “He can choose the cost and type of windows, doors, cupboards, flooring walls etc. he is willing to pay. In addition to hiring a sub-contractor to finish the interior of this carcass, the owner is responsible for hooking into the main water and electrical system.

Unfinished apartment buildings

Unfinished apartment buildings

“But why are so many unoccupied. How long have they been empty?” I asked.

“More and more people are moving into the cities every day. They haven’t come here yet.”

“Who builds these things? Where does the money come from?”

“Sometimes the companies run out of money, it’s true, and must wait till they find new resources.”

Our bus progressed through streets crammed with buses and cars and masses of people. I watched young and old city-dwellers ride bicycles in terrifying traffic, sometimes with loads of cardboard or wood tied in a pile behind them. I saw no helmets and an assortment of non-practical shoes. I noticed a number of girls riding mopeds with waist clutching male passengers. Really? Does this mean more girls own the motorbikes?

Another interesting sight: tuk tuks, which looked like someone had wrapped a sheet of tin around a motor bike for a car-like body with a roof. Actually, these vehicles were not run by pedal power after all from what I could make out. I still have no idea what they were / are.

Newer, old and knocked down buildings stand side by side. As we moved through neighborhood to neighborhood, Robert informed us a lot of the old city was being torn down to make way for the new. During the long drive to the hotel we viewed rubble from many such scrap heaps awaiting removal.

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I noticed a certain rhythm to the traffic. Each time we came to a stop light, our bus driver, pulled the hand brake. Why? We were on a level road not on any incline or stopped midway downhill. All the drivers around us honked horns all the time and after a while I became aware of something else. This was their way of letting the other drivers know, ‘I’m coming through.’ The drivers weren’t angry nor irate. No screeched brakes shrieked. Bikes and buses seemed to play a game of chicken. Three or four lanes appeared to accommodate five or six lanes of traffic. I covered my eyes. Buses and cars dodged in, out around us, but not one transport truck was in sight.

Some quick and interesting facts:

  • Beijing is the same latitude as New York City
  • Beijing is the capital of Peoples’ Republic of China
  • It is the third largest city in China
  • China is shaped like a rooster. Beijing is located at the neck of the rooster and is known for fresh water pearls
  • 20 million people / 5 million cars
  • Since the Olympics, 3 million more cars on the road = work = wages = cars)
  • Odd / even license plate policy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_space_rationing_in_Beijing
  • First car market here was the German Volkswagen
  • The second was Buick from the U.S.

~ * ~

Any mistakes are my own. I admit my attention span and hearing are not always on alert. These few facts I jotted down as I thought I’d heard them.

~ * ~

More about tuk tuks (three-wheeled transportation)

 

Next on January 20: Beijing at Last (Part 2)

©Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles 2017

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014.