How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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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.

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.