We were each treated to a rickshaw ride through the hutong of Beijing, an “old city” area from a simpler, poorer time. The tour guide told of of how friendly and happy a place it is to grow up in. Maybe so, but all I can say is sketch sketch sketch. The rickshaw boys have upgraded though; they pull the carriage with motorbikes now. My visions of chinamen running around in straw hats and wooden sandals are shattered.
Well that wasn’t so hot after all. Lets talk about pearls instead – I spent like 2 hours looking at them. And a stuffed toy fat panda. Yeah I definitely want to bring one back with me. Who knows, it might even know kung-fu. So the pearls, we were shown a legit pearl jewellery factory, including a demonstration of slicing an oyster open and showing the pearls inside. Quick tricks to telling fake pearls, try rubbing pearls together hard enough to produce powder; real ones won’t leave a scuff mark. Another test, real pearls apparently don’t feel smooth when you rub them against your [front] teeth.
Now a beautiful recreational park that is both a tourist hotspot and place for locals to relax, the Summer Palace (Gardens of Nurtured Harmony) was once a luxury imperial garden. It later served as Empress Dowager Cixi’s summer resort. There’s Feudalism for you. Apparently the place was trashed during the anglo-french invasion but the good Empress Dowager fixed it up with a mere 30 million taels of silver originally designated to the navy. At least it’s the green option right? Anyway it was lovely: we checked out the area, walked through this long corridor that is very ornately decorated with scenes depicting scenes of folklore, and took the ferry across the mostly man-made lake in the center. And this guy, you’re gonna laugh, grabbed my arm and wrote in chinese characters “I have money but no wife” and then insisted I ask our [pretty] tourguide to translate it for me while he smirked. He did sketch an amusing carricature of my brother Mike on a plate though, so in the end there were laughs for all.
And this, being the last destination in Beijing, concludes today’s blog. Up next, we tour the more quiet city of Xi’an. Here, the group is to be split, with some going on a cruise instead. Goodbye people we have dined and explored with. In particular, the lovely Weigel sisters will be missed. Tune in same time, same place for more of *dramatic emphasis* East meets West!
East Meets West
An account of my experiences during a family vacation in China.
- East meets West: sitting in an airport
- East meets West: Peking Opera, the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, Beijing 2008, and Peking Duck
- East meets West: hot time in the hutong tonight
- East meets West: soldiers of clay and flesh