We started off the day going to the Temple of Heaven. It is where the emperor went to pray for good harvests. It is 600 years old. Pretty amazing! One thing that was extremely interesting to me was all of the older people at the park around the temple. There were hundreds of older people doing different types of tai chi for exercise, a dance class, a group doing a fan dance, and many, many older people playing cards. Even more intesting is that it was well below freezing this morning, but there were still so many people outside.
Next we went to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City where the emperor lived. Here we discovered how agressive the vendors can be. I’m sure it doesn’t help that we are obviously foreigners. The Forbidden City is humongous. We only walked through some of it. I also had my first squatty potty experience here. The public toilets in China are mostly squatty potties, toilets in the ground that you stand over.
For lunch we went to a Sichuan restaurant in a hutong. Hutongs are the oldest neighborhoods in China. They are the old style courtyard homes where several generations of one family live in buildings surrounding a common courtyard. I would have liked to take a rickshaw tour of a hutong, but it was just too cold. The lunch was interesting.
In the afternoon,we went to a silk factory. The guide at the silk factory was very boisterous and tried to make friends with Caleb. First, we saw the different stages of the silkworm’s life. Then we saw workers unwinding the silk thread from the cocoon. Next we saw how they stretch the silk from double cocoons, cocoons with two silk worms, to make quilts since they cannot get a single thread from this kind of cocoon without breaking it. We were able to help stretch some of the cocoons to form the filling for the quilt. Our guide was very persuasive in trying to convince us to buy a silk quilt. But we disappointed him. I did by a Chinese dress for Rachel and silk pajamas for me.
Next we went to the Summer Palace where the emperor went during the summer. This was also a massive place. Very beautiful! There is a large manmade lake that was frozen and people were ice-skating on it.
We also drove alongside a river that was frozen with people ice-skating, ice-fishing, and even some insane people swimming!
This evening we went to an amazing acrobatic show! It is impossible to describe. The lights, costumes, music, and stunts were beautifully done and overwhelming. Interestingly, we ran into Andy and Rebecca Miller who we met on the plane outside the show. They had been to the show also. You just don’t expect to see someone you know in China.
After the acrobatic show we went to a restaurant famous for its Peking duck. Caleb wanted to try Peking duck. At both lunch and dinner we were served many, many dishes of food, far more than we could eat. We watched a waiter carve the roasted and glazed duck into thin slices. We decided that they need to give you instructions before the meals. There are so many small dishes of food. We didn’t know if you were supposed to eat them with something else or just alone. The waitress did give us instructions on the Peking duck. You dip a few slices in this tangy peanutty sauce and place them on a flat piece of thin doughy bread sort of like a tortilla. Then you add these thin slices of some sort of oniony vegetable which none of us liked and roll it up and eat it. The duck had a delicious flavor!
There are many, many people walking wherever you go in Beijing. There are also many people riding bicycles. I’ve heard that there are far fewer bicycles than in the past, but there are still a lot.
We did so much walking today that we decided to take a taxi to a shopping mall near our hotel to look for some warmer coats and maybe boots. Our tour guide said that it is going to be colder and windier tomorrow. We asked the bell boy outside the hotel to help tell our taxi driver where to go. He tried to convince us to walk to the shopping center because it was only 10 minutes away. But Caleb was especially tired, and it was bitterly cold and starting to get windy. So we convinced him that we wanted to take a taxi. We had no luck shopping. The mall we went to was very expensive. I guess we’ll just wear more layers tomorrow. When we showed a taxi driver the card to our hotel, he laughed. I guess because it was such a short drive. He’s probably thinking, “Wimpy Americans!”
Caleb had a hard time today. You know it was cold if it was cold enough to dampen his spirits. When it warmed up in the afternoon, he had a burst of energy and was literally running circles around us at the Summer Palace. I took a nap in the van on the way to the acrobatic show. Sitting still at the acrobatic show Caleb got very sleepy. He and Tommy have already crashed. It is 10:00pm here.
Eli and Titus, we love you and miss you very much! I wish you were here, but I think you would have been miserable today.
Tomorrow we go to the Great Wall.
We still have not figured out how to post photos. If we do not figure it out before Monday, we will e-mail photos to someone at home to post for us.
Only 2 more days to Rachel!!!