How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


Xian, Part 1 – Old City Wall (and more)

Before leaving for the day’s tour, I exchanged $100.00 Canadian to 547 Yuan and paid no commission. A Bank of China specific area was available at the reception desk. The man was pleased with my brand new polymer Canadian bills unlike the ones I’d converted at a machine in a previous hotel. The machine didn’t like polymer bills. Too slippery?

Our first stop of the day was at the old Xian City wall, which stands 12 meters high (13.1234 yards). A lot of stairs to climb to the top surface (15 meters or 16.4042 yards wide). We saw pedestrians and bikers, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Due to the short time allocated to look around, we didn’t walk far. There wasn’t much to see on top where we’d entered anyway.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                        © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall – bikes for hire)

On one side we looked down on modern buildings and the other a market in progress. Buyers and sellers moved in and out at a brisk pace. The location made me think of a wide alley. Old buildings had been removed and continued to be knocked down.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (bright weather for market day)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                              © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (brisk shopping and selling)

Next we visited the Shaanxi History Museum: thousands of artifacts, too many people, and stifling.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                  © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (entrance in museum)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (magnificent wall)

Steve, our tour guide, felt ill and stopped at a pharmacy for something to settle his stomach. Instead of leaving us for the day, as I’m sure he might have preferred, he soldiered on, lime-white faced.

 Our third stop in was the factory where the Terracotta Warriors were made. Reproductions of the originals (we will visit next week) are made by way of molds. No two faces are alike. The dedication to fine detail is incredible.

Warrior Wannabe

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (A tourist warrior wannabe)

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                             © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Life-size, headless and eerie)

Lunch:

  • Eggs and tomatoes
  • Beef with onion
  • Rice
  • Vegetable soup with spinach(?)
  • Noodles
  • Spicy chicken with celery and hot peppers
  • Tofu
  • Cubed potatoes with caramel
  • Sweet and sour fish
  • Mystery meat on a stick (delicious)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Sorry this is fuzzy. Too much beer?  lol

Xian Quick Facts:

  • Total population of China 1.4 billion
  • 200,000,000 Chinese still living in poverty
  • Floating population, living in country-side live on $2.00 a day and scavenge cardboard, paper etc.
  • Some farmers built rooms out of scrap on their property to accommodate the scavengers
  • Scavengers collectively work together to afford a room like this
  • If you own an apartment, your kids inherit it after you die. Cannot sell for profit.
  • If you are a real estate developer, or magistrate, you’ll manage to sell it
  • $300,000 USD + four-unit apartments were given to farmers moved off their land (so the story goes)
  • Some farmers did so well in new environment (new location), they became millionaires (so the story goes)
  • First day of Sweeping Festival begun (April 5-7)
  • Now more people are cremated
  • Traditionally one day for Sweeping Festival bit extended by government for travel to grave sites of dead relatives and loved ones.
  • http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/14Traditions278.html
  • Cars with 7 or less passengers go free because of Sweeping Festival
  • Vehicles with more than 7, still have to pay toll
  • 6 billion trips are taken around the country during holidays and New Years
  • Our bus driver’s father is a millionaire farmer. Why is his son driving a bus?

~* ~

Next on May 5th, Xian, Part 2 – Terracotta Warriors (at last)

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Shaolin: Kung Fu Training and Shaolin Temple

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Already I was confused regarding the day. My iPad said Thursday but its calendar highlighted Wednesday. My laptop also showed Wednesday. Sheesh, different time zone. The reason for my disorientation was our itinerary had been flipped and I could not keep the changes straight.

This is where we slept the previous night. Pretty swanky hotel, but we saw no other guests.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

From the hotel, we drove to the Shaolin School of Kung Fu. Our guide, Lisa, told us the attendees were 95% boys with 5% girls. I saw no girls.

Lisa wore the same clothes as the day before: red track pants and a red quilted jacket. Too warm for the humid weather.The forecast for the day: 20 degrees.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

We sat inside for a thirty-minute-plus Kung Fu performance. The place was run down inside and out, needed paint and refurbishing. I took a couple of videos but deleted them because they were too blurry.

The little guy in white, the youngest but a rapidly advancing pupil, demonstrated clutching a bowl-shaped object to his midriff by muscle control. To prove authenticity, a pole inserted through a hole in the object (was it a bell?) allowed two young men to lift it shoulder length and carry the boy as he hung firmly attached, belly-up.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4-s8TBB6dw  (4.49 min) A peak at Kung Fu training.

Quick Facts:

  • Shaolin Home of Shaolin School of Kung Fu
  • Established 495 A.D.
  • 10,000 students
  • Ages 3 to 18 (complete education here, equivalent to finishing high-school)
  • 95% boys / 5% girls
  • Half-day school / half-day Kung Fu training
  • This is a private school (parents pay for room, board, and tuition)
  • One month holiday in February during Chinese New Year
  • Parents can come to visit on weekends
  • Costs (10,000 Yuan) under $2,000 U.S. per year
  • Attending this school is good for finding a job later
  • Can open own Kung Fu school in other countries instead of finding a job
  • Famous personalities from this school: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan

Pagoda Forest / Shaolin Temple

A short distance away we visited the Pagoda Forest. Rain drizzled as we walked around. Young girls giggled and stared, and begged to have their picture taken with the foreigners (‘the big noses’).

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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

This is what the tombs look like. The size depended on the monk’s life achievement and the number of  financial contributors.

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved by Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

Quick Facts: 

  • Graveyard with 248 tombs for important monks
  • Depending on life’s accomplishments = size of tomb
  • Depending on number of supporters (donations) = size of tomb
  • Tombs built during an eminent monk’s lifetime, not after death, and added to till he died

Some highlights at the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8. (The well is picture below)

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.  (This is the preserved well.)

Protectors of the Temple

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

An Altar

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.

~ *~

Next on April 28:  Xian

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Luoyang Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

At 5:00 p.m., it was still 25 degrees Celsius when we left the Longmen Caves. All around us, the Chinese people dressed in sweaters and wool leggings. Our tour guide, Lisa, wore red sweat pants and a fleece jacket. We foreigners sported shorts or cargo pants and short-sleeved tees because we were hot. The boulevard back to the bus was again another l-o-o-o-n-g walk and the air was sticky.

Our driver turned into a pot-holed dirt road in the middle of no man’s land. What? I don’t recall buildings or much of anything that looked like civilization for a short while. We rounded a tight corner on the bumpy road and like an oasis in the desert came upon the strangest sight–at least to me. Two long buildings materialized meeting at right angles at one corner. I can only describe it as a motel—with a second story.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8 The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8
The building is in the back. A lovely bridge and flower garden decorated the middle courtyard.

Dinner was served through Door 111 in the front room barely large enough for a round 6-foot diameter table and us squeezed around.

IMG_0351

IMG_0352

Dinner:

  • Noodle soup
  • Fritters
  • White rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked sliced potatoes and ground beef
  • Pork and scallions
  • Garlic sprouts with sliced red peppers and fungus
  • Greens

This time we were served—count them—two baby glasses of drinks. I had beer. Twice.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles No doors

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
No doors on outside washroom

The bathroom was an open-ended building across the yard with six or eight stalls. No outside doors or plastic against the elements did I see at either end. All were squats but someone had taken a card chair, removed the seat and stuck a toilet seat on it. I opened the door and slipped inside. Afterward, Sue grumbled because I had lucked out somewhat with the only ‘throne’.

Along the way to the facilities after dinner, we passed two young ladies with a plastic container filled with cutlery (forks). I saw no soap in the water, no sponge or wash cloth. Agitation seemed the customary /accepted practice to clean the flatware.

Maybe this was a restaurant after all. At the end of the building opposite the facilities, we heard kitchen noises and a teen in a not quite pristine kitchen jacket appeared. He ran to the washroom and out again without stopping at the open sink. Had he touched our dinner?

Another man (not from the kitchen) washed his hands with the liquid Palmolive soap before entering the facilities and washed them again on his way out. Sue and I gaped at the scene and then each other.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Five outdoor sinks and Palmolive liquid soap. No towels of any kind.

A large fat bug floated in one plugged sink, legs pointed heavenwards, sunning himself, unaware he was dead.

I asked Lisa about the building. The year before, she had brought a tour bus of visitors when only the ground floor had been finished. The second floor had just been added and was just a decoration. What did that mean? I noticed a couple of large windows revealing cardboard boxes stacked high and wide inside.

I asked her again what we call this place.

“A restaurant. A different type of restaurant. I think this is a different experience from other restaurants.”

What? Never mind.

We arrived in Zhengzhou a couple of hours later. The time: 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. in early spring. Is this how dark it is at home in the spring? The hotel was attractive but appeared empty and quiet. The interior design cost more than the building. We dragged out luggage inside. Lisa went to the desk with our passports to get our room keys.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
Old furniture decorating hotel lobby

I asked why the furniture was so big since the people were not. Answer: It was a sign of wealth and prosperity.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Quick Luoyang facts:

  • Population 2 million
  • This is a tourism city
  • Copper mining, glass factory
  • Heavy industry: tractor, first built in 1959
  • The Peony is the city flower (blooms in April)
  • This is an old capital city
  • Buddhism  popular

~ * ~

 Next on April 21:  International Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center and Shaolin Temple

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Luoyang, Part 2: Longmen Caves

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We were supposed to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but our schedule had been switched.  Our new guide, Lisa, met us at the airport in red sweats and a quilted  jacket. It was warm (forecast 25° Celsius). Our luggage loaded on the bus, we headed for the mysterious Longmen Caves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdYUkvT19g  (length 4.37 min)

OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf_ZzgwxrmI  (length 30.12 min)

We walked a long way from the bus to the grottoes. The day was humid with a hint of rain. I wore flip-flops until we got off the plane. Yes, those cheap dollar store kind to wear in the hotels, proof of how little I’ve traveled. We had slippers at every hotel. Duh. Had I known I’d be wearing them out, I’d have packed my fashionable pair. I switched to my runners on the bus. Soon my blistered and bandaged toes, although wrapped in three bandages each, growled and complained.

Bridge at Long Corridor © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Bridge at Long Corridor
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

The area we walked was a long and wide to accommodate hoards of people. It was a well-maintained park setting with flowers, trees, surprisingly pristine, alongside the River Yi. Again we saw no wrappers or garbage anywhere. No empty water bottles lay around either. Recycle containers were everywhere and well-used.

River Yi at Longmen Caves © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

River Yi at Longmen Caves
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

So much destruction had occurred to the caves and carvings over time: vandalism, smashed faces, missing heads and time/weather-wear. Stolen pieces had been mysteriously secreted to museums in various parts of the world, but are slowly being returned.

Our tickets to Longmen Caves allowed a choice between a postcard and a pack of peony seeds. I chose the latter as a souvenir because peonies are the city flower. There is a natural rock in this area that looks like it’s covered in peonies.

Peony Stone © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Peony Stone
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

I hadn’t planned to climb to the top as my feet balked at the hundreds of stairs (thousands?), but curiosity changed my mind. When would I have the opportunity to see for myself what I’d traveled so far to see? Going up wasn’t too bad. I don’t think anyone noticed how I gripped the railing with both hands. Coming down was another matter. Heights and I are not on friendly terms.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles A few caves

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
A few caves

Would you guess the biggest Buddha is 17 meters tall?

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

This is a close-up of the largest Buddha, Losana, or Mona Lisa so-called by the locals because of the smile.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Below the many stairs are shops with tourist trinkets of all kinds and postcards etc.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

By the time I’d walked, photographed, snooped in the shops and sat to rest my feet, my tummy reminded me it was starving. The humidity continued and the rain stayed away. Soon everyone gathered together. There was no more to see. Dinner awaited somewhere. I hoped we didn’t have far or long to go.

~ * ~

For an in-depth history, you may like to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmen_Grottoes

 

Next on April 14th, Luoyang, Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


Luoyang, Part 1 – Domestic Flight

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

So far, our English 8 Gang has traveled from Toronto to Chicago to Beijing, approximately 7,041 miles (give or take). This does not include the bus trips in the three days since our arrival in Beijing to Tiananmen Square; Forbidden City; Temple of Heaven; The Great Wall; Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and old Beijing Hutong.

IMG_0792

The night before we scrambled to assemble our suitcases and sort out what we’d need for the morning and left our bags in the hallway for pickup as instructed. It seemed odd the next morning when the bags were in the lobby–sitting there looking abandoned and crammed together for protection. We could have brought them down when we met in the lobby after breakfast. What a headache for nothing. No tour was planned for the morning.

Bikes galore

                                                                            Bikes galore

We were off for the first of our domestic flights to Luoyang. Robert, our guide, came with us to the luggage drop-off and as far as Security, which made it easier to find our way through the airport.

Someone brought up tipping (the tour guide) at dinner the night before but no conclusion had been reached. A new tour guide waited in Luoyang. Before Robert said goodbye, there was a scramble to cross his palm with Chinese money.

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

I stood behind Sue at the Security Check and was yelled at to step back behind the yellow line. Scared me silly. Okay, unnerved me because I don’t understand Chinese. When my turn came, the (young) clerk looked so stern, I was nervous, but I also felt she was milking it. You know, a power trip? I waited while she took her time before returning my passport and boarding pass. Once through, the body scanning wand went off. What’s going on? Deep breath. The problem:  my purchased-in-Canada-made-in-China earrings.

Russ waited in line behind his wife who cleared in no time though she has knee replacements. She carries a letter in the event the Gong Show starts. We waited and waited for him in consternation. Finally, we watched him being escorted to another Security Desk. When his carry-on had been x-rayed, they couldn’t figure out what set off the alarm. Turned out, he had a camera charger which wasn’t labeled with voltage information (there is a maximum allowed) and it had to be turned in. The security guard, who escorted him, laughed silently. I saw his animated face and shaking shoulders. Even the fellow at the desk, taking possession of the charger, was apologetic, but rules were rules.

Our arrival at the airport was 10:00 a.m., too early for 12:30 boarding. Take-off was 1:00. Would you believe we were given a meal on such a short flight (about an hour and a half)? Then again, it was time for a mid-day meal. The boxed lunch consisted of rice with scrambled egg mixed in and a piece of chopped ham; a dried fruit bun; coffee; water, and cookies. A lot of Chinese were on our flight. One guy, I watched across the aisle, wolfed down his food as if he were starving.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. I estimated we’d flown 420 miles on a ticket worth about $143.00 USD. We did not pay this. Our trip was all inclusive.

Another new home

                                                                   Another new home

 

Lots of fantastic pictures next time.

Next on April 7, Luoyang, Part 2 – Longmen Caves

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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


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.


46 Comments

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.


55 Comments

Beijing Part 8: The Pearl Store and Summer Palace

word-cloud-7

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.


50 Comments

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.

IMG_0241

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.

IMG_0243

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.

 


53 Comments

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.