The Mysterious Case Of The Satsumas At The Security Checkpoint

Discussion in 'UK Trip Reports Board' started by dolphingirl47, Jan 31, 2018.

  1. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    Day 2


    I managed to sleep most of the flight and once I woke up, we were less than an hour from Dubai. I used my complimentary inflight data to check my emails and post something in one of my Facebook groups. I then read for a bit and soon we were starting our decent into Dubai. In the end we were only about an hour late into Dubai. Things worked like clockwork. It did not take long to get off the plane. We quickly used the bathroom and then went through security. There was only a short line and we were through security a few minutes later. At the other side, we checked the screens for our departure gate. I did not like what I saw. Our departure gate was on concourse C, which is the old terminal 1. My very first flight with Emirates was still from terminal 1 and this is nowhere near as nice as terminal 3. It is also a bit of a hike. We had to walk halfway through concourse B, down and escalator and though a tunnel. The tunnel was quite interesting though as they had photos displayed on the wall showing how Dubai changed since the 70s. I had seen something similar before, but it will never cease to amaze me.

    We went to find a seat near our next gate. I was still trying to find the Arabic coffee pot charm for my Pandora bracelet. Even with the delay, I figured would have more time this time then on the way back. I also wanted to get both of us something to drink. We had walked through quite a large duty free area on the way to the gate, but I was out of luck on both counts. So I headed back over to concourse B. There is a Starbucks near the escalator down to concourse C and I also knew that there is a Pandora store there. In the end I did not have to walk quite as far as the Pandora store which is the opposite end of concourse B as there was a jewellery store close by that had a Pandora counter. Better still, they had the charm I wanted. I paid for my treasure and then I backtracked. I got a white mocha Frappuccino for Graham and a green tea Frappuccino for me and then I went back to join Graham. As I walked past, I noticed that our gate was now open so I collected Graham and our hand luggage and then we went to the gate.

    [​IMG]

    We still had some time before boarding so I made use of the free Wi-Fi while I enjoyed my Frappuccino. At the gate, I got an idea that this would be a very different flight. I think we were the only people there that were not Chinese. Once boarding started, this went very swiftly. I think this was the quickest I have ever seen an A380 being boarded and the flight was almost completely full as well. We also were really surprised how quiet the plane was. There was just a really calm atmosphere on this flight.

    [​IMG]

    Graham was asleep before we were even up in the air. I browsed the entertainment system to decide what I wanted to watch later and then I read for a while. Soon they started to serve lunch. Graham passed and just had some water and a red wine. I had white wine and mango juice. I had noodle salad as an appetizer, which I did not really like so I gave up on this. The main course did hit the spot. I had grilled chicken with mushroom and pepper sauce, fried potatoes, sautéed spinach and carrots. I was a bit disappointed that they no longer have the snack boxes that used to have various crackers, cheese and sweet chili sauce in them. Instead they now give out just cheese and crackers. For dessert, I had cream cheese mousse with salted caramel and white chocolate, which again was very nice. After I had some coffee and the tray had been cleared away, I also settled down for a nap.


    I woke up about an hour and a half later and started reading again. Not long afterwards, the purser came to see us. I wondered what this was all about and unfortunately the news was not good. He advised us that my suitcase had not been loaded in Dubai. He handed me a card with a claims reference and also the details of which flight the suitcase would be on. He also gave me a form to fill in for the delivery details. I have to say that although I would have much preferred that all of our luggage had arrived at the same time as us, I was very impressed with how this was handled. It was a lot easier to take care of the formalities while we were a captive audience anyway rather than at the airport. He advised us to come and see him when we were getting off the plane as he would check with the ground handler on arrival at Beijing if we needed to do anything else for customs clearance. I decided to pay for Internet to see if I could get into World Tracer. World Tracer is the tracking software that most airlines use and I am only too familiar with this. I took me a little while to get in, but the description on there did not match my suitcase. I started to wonder if somehow my luggage tag got mixed up with somebody else’s luggage.

    I spent the rest of the flight alternating between reading, napping and checking emails and Facebook. At some stage they served an afternoon snack which was a turkey roll with mustard mayonnaise and triple chocolate cookies. The sandwich was very nice, but the cookies were a bit hard for my taste. We both had some wine and water. Not long after we had our snack, we started our descent into Beijing. Once we had landed, we realized very quickly that when it comes to getting off the plane, Chinese people seem to be even more impatient than people from other parts of the world. We were not even firmly on the ground yet when people started to get up. We took our time.

    The purser was waiting for us as we got off and confirmed that there were no further formalities to take care of and that we would be contacted once the suitcase had arrived in Beijing. I told him that I was not entirely sure that it was my suitcase they had in Dubai as the description did not match. My suitcase is a plain gold upright Samsonite hard-shell case. The description matched only as far as it stated that it was a hard-shell case, but it was described as a patterned horizontal American Tourister case. I agree with the purser that I would see the baggage handlers if both of our cases had arrived.

    When we got off the plane, we both headed for the bathroom. This was the first round of the hunt for the throne. Most public areas in China have some Western toilets although this is not always a given. However, they are often somewhat tucked away and in the bathroom that I used at the airport there was only one Western toilet and the rest of them were the traditional squat toilets. For all my sense of adventure, I was not brave enough to try one of those. Unfortunately the person using the only stall with a Western toilet took her own sweet time. It looks like she used it as a changing cubicle as when she came out, she had an armful of clothes. Eventually it was my turn. I went back to find Graham and then we headed to immigration. I was not quite sure what to expect. As we approached immigration, we had to walk through an area first where they check body temperature with infrared cameras. We must have passed muster as nobody stopped us. Then we got in line for the immigration desks. We did not have long to wait. I was processed by a very friendly and smiley female immigration official. She checked the passport and visa, took a photo and then stamped my passport as well as my departure record. Then I was on my way. Graham was not far behind me. We were positively surprised how smoothly we had cleared immigration and we felt genuinely welcome. It may not have been quite as low-key as in Australia, but this was still one of the best immigration experiences we had. This was no more difficult than clearing the formality in let’s say Paris.

    Once we were through immigration, we went on a train over to the main terminal where baggage claim was. As soon as we approached the luggage carousel, I saw my suitcase come round. I quickly retrieved it from the luggage belt and checked the baggage tag against the receipt I had been given in Manchester and the baggage tag number on the card I had been given on the plane. It turned out that it was Graham’s case that was missing. This did not really match the description either so we waited a little longer just to make sure it did not turn up. Unfortunately it did not. That was not good. I was wearing my winter coat and hiking shoes on the plane, but Graham was just wearing a hoodie and sandals. We were also supposed to head for the Great Wall of China the following morning where it was likely to be below freezing. Suddenly I saw one of the things that I had looked forward the most slip away.

    Once we gave up waiting for Graham’s case, we went through customs. They asked me to put my case through an x-ray machine and then we headed to the exit to look for our driver. We did not have to look for very long. Shortly after we stepped out, we saw Mr Gao holding a sign with my name. We went across to him. He did not speak any English and we do not speak any Mandarin, but somehow he communicated to us that he needed the bathroom before we left. We were soon reunited and headed towards the parking structure. We soon realized that we were not in England anymore. It is amazing how many Chinese people fit in an elevator as the concept of personal space is definitely overrated in China. Mr Gao made a beeline for the already very full elevator, but when we realized that we were a little reluctant to follow him, he stepped back and we waited for the next one. I don’t think even with our reduced luggage, we would have fit in the first elevator. We were soon on our way and he directed us to the car. He quickly checked with us what hotel we were going to. I did not understand what he was saying, but I recognized the name of the hotel so nodded and repeated the name of the hotel. I have to admit that I was very concerned about the language barrier particularly in China, but I really did not needed to have worried. Things just kind of fell into place. I learned very quickly that there is a lot more to effective communication than just words.

    We got our first impression of China. The first rule in Beijing seems to be that traffic rules are merely there for guidance. This is very much survival of the fittest, fastest, strongest and probably the most stubborn. Lane discipline is nonexistent and everybody has a horn that they use frequently. To a lesser extent, I have seen this in Dubai, but in Beijing, they take this to the next level. The parking structure resembled a pool table with cars scattering in every direction and blocking each other in. This did not get any better when we got outside to the area leading to the ticket booth either. Mr Gao at one stage had an animated conversation with the driver in the car next to ours and then he decided to cut across all the lanes to get to a ticket booth with less cars. As chaotic as traffic in Beijing is, I never felt unsafe.

    Once he had paid for the parking, we were on our way and had a smooth run to the hotel. We said goodbye to Mr Gao and then went inside to check it. They were renovating the lobby so this was a little chaotic. Still, the check in process did not take long. They took photocopies of our passports. In China, hotels have to register all guests with the local police station within 24 hours of arrival. Then we were given our key and were on our way to the room. Graham got ready for bed straightaway. I spent a little time trying to see if the tour could be rescheduled. I found the phone number of the local tour operator. By then it was about 1:00 AM, but I hoped as they are quite a large company that they may have a 24 hour number especially as no opening hours are listed on their website. Unfortunately the phone did not connect. I then decided to send an email to the company in the UK that we have purchased the tour through. They are a subsidiary of Attraction Tickets Direct and I have to say, I was very impressed with them, but this did not unfold until later that night. At this moment in time we had two issues. Not only was Graham not equipped for the tour until his suitcase arrived in Beijing, but we also had no idea when we would be picked up the next morning. We had been advised that the tour guide would advise the pick-up time the evening before by 21:30, but there was no message for us at reception or on our phone. So we were not even sure if and when somebody would show up. There was nothing I could do at this point so I got ready for bed, too.
     
    TCB in FLA likes this.
  2. tiggrbaby

    tiggrbaby <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2004
    Messages:
    4,462
    Very pretty charm!

    I can't believe that the suitcase did not make it on the plane! How nerve wracking!
     
  3. Avatar

    Advertisement


  4. jedijill

    jedijill Chiefs fan living in Bronco country

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Messages:
    6,890
    Yikes! No suitcase is no bueno! Glad the pick up in China went well. It's disconcerting to be somewhere where the language and culture is so different.

    Jill in CO
     
  5. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    I really like this although it is not the favourite of the charms I picked up on this trip.

    This was an experience I could have done without, but fortunately we always knew where the suitcase was and we were reunited with it as soon as possible.

    I suppose with all the traveling we do, it was always going to happen at some stage.

    I was quite worried about both things before we left to the point that I was starting to wonder if I was about to make the biggest mistake in my life. Once we got there, neither was an issue. I fell in love so completely with China that I am now learning the language.

    Corinna
     
  6. franandaj

    franandaj I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    32,292
    I remember reading your posts on FB while this transpired. How frustrating. If we ever go to China, i will pick your brain on transportation. Every other TR that I've read the people took the train, but Fran and i will definitely want to hire a car service like you did.
     
  7. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    It was, but as they say "All is well that ends well". Fortunately everything resolved fairly quickly.

    Pick away.

    The train was not really an option in either Beijing or Shanghai. In Beijing we arrived too late and left too early and in Shanghai, it would have required multiple changes. We did use the subway quite extensively for sightseeing. Having used transfers in Beijing and taxis in Shanghai, I would not use transfers again as they are totally overpriced (and even more so in Shanghai). I found that printing out directions from Google Maps and handing them to the taxi driver worked fantastically well as they were in both Mandarin and English. Taxis are so cheap in China.

    Corinna
     
  8. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    Day 3

    I did not have a very restful night. Part of this was down to jet lag and my body clock being completely out of synch. Part of it was also down to me worrying about the tour. At some stage during the night, I went to the bathroom and while I was up, I checked my emails. I had an email from the company in the UK apologizing for the inconvenience and advising that they had sent a message to the tour operator in Beijing to contact us in the hotel first thing in the morning and that she would also follow up with a call once it was morning in the UK. That put my mind at rest and I got at least some sleep.

    I was still wide awake at around 6:00, but settled down again. About 7:30 we got up and got showered. I updated Graham with what had transpired overnight. The idea was that we would get some breakfast and then explore Beijing. We were hoping that we would be able to reschedule the tour for the next day and by then Graham should have his suitcase. I had also found a contact email address for the tour operator and sent them an email directly. I was just finishing getting dressed, when our room phone rang. It was our tour guide Molly, who was in the lobby. I advised her that there was an issue and said that I would come down to meet her.

    I went down to the lobbyr. I explained what had happened and also that we were not sure if this tour was going ahead anyway as we had no pick up time confirmed. Molly explained that she had called the hotel around 20:00 the previous evening and left a message for us and had been told that they were not expecting us until late. She had then called again that morning to check if we had arrived. Neither of this was ever passed to us. She did call the office to see if there was any chance to reschedule, but the same tour was not available the next day and we were already leaving Beijing again first thing Monday morning. She did mention that there were shops selling jackets or even rent them out at the Great Wall of China. I asked her to come upstairs with me so that she could explain this to Graham. She did and Graham decided to give it a go. He had thick socks and a fleece in his carry on and borrowed one of my sweatshirts. Molly waited for us by the elevator while we got ourselves sorted out. Once we were ready, we headed down together and went to meet the driver.

    Although the section of the Great Wall of China we were visiting is considered to be part of Beijing, it took about an hour and a half to drive. Fortunately the traffic was relatively light and we had clear run. Molly asked us if we had been to China before. When we told her that we had not, she gave us a quick overview about the different regions of China and what made them special. Then she told us a bit more in depth about Beijing. I had not quite appreciated the scale of Beijing. What is considered to be the Beijing metropolitan area covers around 6500 square miles and is divided into 16 districts. Beijing has a population around 22 million people, with a large proportion coming from rural areas. Molly shared that during the annual spring festival, Beijing is virtually empty as this is the one time in the year when everybody returns to the villages they come from.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Beijing is the political and cultural capital of China. The financial centre is Shanghai, which we were visiting later in the trip. Between hosting the Olympic summer games in 2008 and the successful bid for Olympic winter games in 2022, China has made a concerted effort to improve the air quality in Beijing. This meant that they have moved all the heavy industries out of Beijing. The main industries in Beijing now are government and related services, agriculture and tourism. I have to say though, the kind people of Beijing are up against it when it comes to air quality. When we were there, we had beautiful clear skies and according to the likes of AccuWeather and Weather.com, the air quality was good. Yet I struggled more in Beijing than I did in Shanghai where there was a warning in place for people with respiratory issues and you could actually see the pollution. The difference is that the air in Beijing is very dry and there is more moisture in the air in Shanghai. I never would have thought that this made such a difference.

    Once we got further into the countryside, we saw some traditional arches and other traditional architecture. Soon we arrived at the visitor centre for the Mutianyu section of the Chinese Great Wall. This is where people have to park when visiting this part of the Great Wall of China and they then take a shuttle to what is referred to as the scenic area. There is a small museum, a tourist information centre and a ticket office. Most importantly though, there were stalls there selling clothes. Graham found some shoes that he liked and that fit him. This was when we got our first idea that our credit and debit cards would be of limited use this trip. Fortunately there were some ATMs in the ticket office. Molly walked us over there and helped us with the ATM. It was at that stage that I realized that that I had left my wallet in the hotel with all the rushing around. We had enough cash for the day and we agreed that Graham would pay for the cable car that day and I would pay for the various tickets what we needed the following day.

    [​IMG]

    Once Graham had purchased his shoes and also a pair of gloves, we walked back to the car and the driver dropped us and Molly off at entrance to the scenic area and then he went to park the car. On the way, Molly explained a bit of the history of the Great Wall of China. It did not take long until we got our first glimpse of the Great Wall of China and it took my breath away. When we entered the scenic area, Molly asked if we needed something to drink. We took her up on this offer. Graham had an Americano and I had a lemon tea, which consisted of a Lipton tea bag and a wedge of lemon. I would find out later in the day just how much of a sacrilege this was. Even at that stage, I was decidedly underwhelmed, but it took the edge of the thirst. Once we had our drinks, Molly pointed out the closest bathroom and Graham made use of this. She then took some photos of us in front of a map of the Great Wall of China. We went to the ticket office and Molly purchased the admission tickets for us. The cable car was extra and I went to get the tickets for this. I got a combination ticket for the chair lift and the toboggan run. Molly then told us when and where she would meet us. We had just over two hours to explore.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    I finished my tea and then we headed towards the cable car. There are two cable cars at that part of the Great Wall of China. One features enclosed gondolas and takes you up to watchtower number 14, which was further away from where we were. The one we took was a chairlift and took us up to watchtower number 6. I have been on countless enclosed cable cars, but never on chairlift unless you count the one at Blizzard Beach, which is pretty tame. Neither Graham nor I are very good with heights, but I tend to be OK if I am enclosed. I was not sure what I would make of this and the watchtower where we were heading seemed very long way up. Still, it was not too bad and soon we were at the top. We headed up the stairs and then right towards watchtowers 5 and 4. We actually ended up walking through watchtower 5 and that was pretty amazing. I did notice very quickly that the Great Wall of China was misnamed. It should be called the Great Staircase of China as stairs was all we encountered on this first stretch. It was absolutely amazing to stand on the Great Wall of China and seeing it wind along in the distance further than our eyes could see. Suddenly there were some very steep stairs and I decided that I did not fancy tackling those so Graham went on by himself. He came back not long afterwards and pronounced that there was nothing special in that direction. We backtracked towards the cable car station taking photos along the way.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When we got back to where we started, we headed in the opposite direction towards watchtowers 6 and 7. On the way, we passed a souvenir shop and the entrance to the toboggan run. This time, the stairs ended just outside the watchtower. This part of the Great Wall of China did not consist purely of stairs, but most of it was a gently sloping path. This was a lot more to my liking. We headed towards the next watchtower, but there were no stairs leading down to this, but a ladder and we both passed. We were more than happy to just stand on this stretch of the wall and enjoy the amazing views. We were asked to take some photos of some couples and small groups of people and some them offered to take photos of us in return. It was nice to see people from so many different places being as much in awe of their surroundings than we were.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After a while, we had seen enough and decided that it was time to return to our meeting point. Our combo ticket meant that we were supposed to head down on the toboggan run. The parts of this that we had seen from the chair lift on the way up did not look too bad and I thought I would rather enjoy this. From near the entrance to the toboggan run, this looked rather different and I thought this would totally freak me out. Graham was not concerned about this, but thought it looked rather uncomfortable. So we retraced our steps to the chair lift. The cost of a single ticket was the same for the toboggan and the chair lift so we figured that there would be no issue taking the chair lift down. We were right. The fact that the staff in charge there were utterly fascinated by Graham’s telescope and asked if they could look through it may have helped our cause as well. Once they had seen enough, we were directed to the chair lifts. This time round we were signaled to go separately. Strange enough, going downhill did not bother me at all. Graham felt exactly the same.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We still had some time until it was time to meet Molly. I went to use the bathroom and was quietly relieved to find a “throne”. As I came out of the bathroom and headed back to where Graham was waiting, I encountered two ladies, who I assume were mother and daughter. The younger one of the two was waving her camera at me and I assumed that she wanted me to take a photo of the two of them. I was happy to oblige, but this was not what she wanted at all. She wanted to take a photo of her mum and me. This was a bit strange considering that we were complete strangers and did not even speak the same language. Still, I agreed to this and was rewarded with the two biggest smiles in the world. I then headed back to meet Graham and shared this story with him. He thought it was rather strange, too.

    [​IMG]

    We still had some time and I wanted to check out the little souvenir stall near where we had our drinks before heading up on the wall. There were some nice things there, but nothing I could not live without. At that stage, I was still under the impression that we would visit a Cloisonné factory later in the day and I was planning to get a souvenir there. Out of the sun, we got pretty chilly so we went back where Graham had been sitting earlier. His telescope attracted some interest again. I have to say, as much as China had been on my bucket list since I was in my teens and as excited as I was to finally get to visit, in the run up to this trip, I was utterly terrified. I was wondering just how big the culture shock would be and how hard it would be not to be able to communicate. During this downtime, all the worry disappeared. I realized that there are ways to communicate that do not require words. I also found the people we encountered to be very warm and welcoming. I think it was in this half an hour that I fell head over heels in love with China.

    Shortly before our meeting time, I decided to see if Molly was in the restaurant where we got our drinks earlier on. My hunch was right as she was just coming out as I was about to go in. Once we had met up again, she asked if we were ready for some lunch. We definitely were as we had not eaten since we had the turkey rolls on the flight over. We walked a short distance downhill to what she referred to as a farmer’s restaurant. She took us upstairs and checked if we had any special dietary needs. She then ordered some food for us before going downstairs to have some food herself. There were a number of different tour groups there. We were brought some rice and then it took a while until something else materialized. We were offered some drinks. I had a Coke and Graham had a bottle of water. The lunch was included in the cost of our tour, but the drinks were extra. We had a bowl of rice each before our first dish was brought out. This was tofu with carrots and cucumber in a chili sauce. This was very different from any Chinese food I had before, but we both really enjoyed this. We were also brought some chicken with onions, which was even nicer. Soon we were absolutely stuffed. Just as we were finishing our meal, Molly came back and we went back to the car that the driver had brought up from the visitor centre.
     
    TCB in FLA likes this.
  10. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    Molly told us that we were going to attend a tea ceremony. We had a crash course in all things tea on the way. She explained what different kind of teas there are in China. She also gave us some pointers as to where the best places are to buy tea. Apparentlyit is best to buy tea from government shops as you apparently you never know quite what you get from commercial shops. One thing that surprised me the most is that she told us that Chinese people reuse the same tea leaves a number of times. That never would have occurred to me. She then explained that the place we were going was a government tea house and they were offering us a free tea ceremony as a welcome gift to China. That was a really nice touch.

    Our driver parked the car and Molly, Graham and I went inside. We were invited into a small side room and we were given our second tea lesson of the day. Some of it was a repeat of what Molly had told us, but we also got a lesson in how to prepare and drink tea in the proper way. Our host explained a bit about each tea we tried and its medicinal properties. I have always had a lot of respect for traditional Chinese medicine, but at the time, I took this with a pinch of salt. I have to say though that I am converted now. I have been suffering from a chronic bowel condition most of my life and ever since I have been drinking Chinese tea on a daily basis, I have been largely symptom free. Who would have thought.

    We got to try 5 different teas. The first one was a ginseng oolong tea , which comes in little pellets rather than tea leaves. We were told that this had a natural sweetness. Again, I was a bit dubious about this, but we saw her make the tea by just adding hot water to the tea pellets and the resulting tea was definitely sweet. Next up was a personal favourite of mine, Jasmine tea. I have loved this since I was a child. We learned that this brings down the body temperature and I realized that I have always instantly gravitated towards this when I was fighting an infection of some sort. I enjoyed my Jasmine tea. I could not get enough of its delicate perfumed flavour. Graham was not quite so keen, but it did start to grow on him during the course of the holiday. The next tea we got to try was very unusual. It is called Pu’er tea and is a fermented tea that like a good wine is supposed to improve with age. The tea leaves are pressed into various shapes. For me, the taste was a little too robust, but Graham really enjoyed this. We could both agree on the next tea. We were given some lychee tea, which is what we call black tea scented with lychee peels. This is another naturally sweet tea. Our host added some dried rose buds to the tea leaves and the combination of the sweetness of the lychee and the perfume of the rose buds worked together perfectly. The last tea was not actually tea at all, but a mix of dried fruit and neither of us really rated this.

    At the end of our tea ceremony, we were introduced to the lucky boy. This is a small ornament made from unglazed clay in the shape of a boy. The lucky boy was kept in a glass of cold water. Our host removed him from the glass once the kettle had boiled. She initially poured some cold water over the lucky boy and nothing happened. She then poured hot water over the lucky boy and he peed. She explained that many Chinese families have a lucky boy to make sure that the water has the right temperature. She rather gleefully told us “No pee, no tea”.

    Once we had finished our tea, we were then escorted to the attached shop. Graham wanted some Pu’er tea and I wanted some lychee tea and Jasmine tea. We were advised that if we bought 4 tins of tea, we would get a fifth free. Tee tried rosebuds were included in that deal so I got a tin of rosebuds and Graham got another tin of Pu’er tea as the free tin. I kind of regretted afterwards that I did not pick up a tin of the ginseng oolong, but hopefully we will be back in China in the not too distant future and I can right this wrong. When we paid, our host brought us a lucky boy of our own as a gift. He is now sitting on one of the shelves in the living room with all kinds other ornaments.

    We used the bathroom and then we went back to the car. We had just got in the car when a police car turned up. One of the police officers spoke to our driver. Molly explained that the road just ahead of us had been closed to allow a VIP to pass through. Molly wondered who the VIP may be and then found out on her mobile phone that it was an important politician from Myanmar that was visiting. It was only afterwards that I found out that it was Aung San Suu Kyi that had had gone past us only a few yards away. We had to stay in the carpark for about 20 minutes and then the police signaled us that we could carry on. We headed back towards Beijing.

    Molly told us a little more about life in China. One thing that I had not realized was that China changed the law that only allowed couples to have one child. They can now have two children, but Molly commented that most couples still only have one child due to the cost involved in raising a child. She also asked us a bunch of questions about life in the UK. I think we all realized at that stage that despite the obvious cultural differences between our two countries, there is more than we have in common than what sets us apart.

    At some stage, I fell asleep. When I woke up again, we were in the middle of Beijing and close to our final destination. Unfortunately it was not the Cloisonné factory that I had been looking forward to. Instead it was a silk factory. Molly explained to us about the Ancient Silk Road and then we went upstairs. We learned all about silk and what different kinds of silk cocoons are used for. We also got demonstrations on how the different cocoons are turned into silk. It was interesting, but I would have preferred the Cloisonné factory. Inevitably, there was a shop attached. The only thing that was tempting me were the silk quilts. They were really good value as well, but I was worried about our luggage allowance. Something good has come out of this visit. Shortly after we came back from China, I invested in a quilt that is a mix of silk and synthetic fibres. We both have had a cough since October that we could not shake and I started to wonder if this was linked to our feather quilt. I had learned that silk quilts are hypoallergenic. Sure enough, as soon as we had the new quilt, my cough disappeared. The quilt is a lot thinner and lighter than our old one, but yet it is actually warmer. When we next go to China, I will definitely bring back a pure silk quilt.

    After our visit to the silk factory, we made our way back to the hotel. This is where we got a proper impression of traffic in China. If there are any traffic rules at all, then nobody adheres to them. There is no such thing as lane discipline and the only rule that seems to exist is survival of the fittest. I also got the impression that rather than having brakes, Chinese cars have been fitted with extra horns. Molly asked us if it was OK if the driver dropped her off at the office on the way and then took us back to the hotel. We were fine with this. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Molly and not long afterwards, we pulled up to our hotel.

    When we got back to the hotel, we had a little nap. I don’t think I had been asleep for very long when my phone rang. Graham asked why I had set an alarm as I use my phone as my alarm clock. I had not. It was Beijing airport to advise that Graham’s suitcase was in their possession. They wanted to double-check the delivery details. I tried to pin them down on when it would be delivered, but the closest estimate I got was between 19:00 and 21:00.

    At that stage, it was around 17:30. I asked Graham if he wanted to get some food. I knew that if we waited until the suitcase had arrived, we would be too tired to go out to eat. So we headed out. There was a quick service restaurant right next to the hotel. Not only did they have pictures of the food displayed, but they also had English menus. This looked good to us. Graham had boiled lamb chops with salad and I had chosen Chicken Kung Po. The trouble was, there was no chicken in this dish. It consisted of tofu, peanuts, very sharp onions and chilies. It was tasty, but I ended up just picking out the tofu and the peanuts as the onions and the chilies were to spicy for me.

    After dinner, we quickly went to the convenience store on the other side of the hotel. I wanted to get a bottle of some soft drink to take back to the room. I ended up with orange Fanta. Graham continued his nap when we got back to the room and I read while I was waiting for the suitcase to arrive. Around 20:30, there was a knock at the door. I went to answer and there was the courier with the suitcase. I was quite surprised by this. I had expected that I would get a call either on my phone or the room phone and would have to go down to collect it. I made sure that it was the right case, which it was. Either Emirates or customs had put a cable tie through the two parts of the zip, but fortunately that came off quite easily. Graham had woken up and got some stuff out of the suitcase. I posted an update on Facebook and then we got ready for bed and settled down for an early night.
     
  11. tiggrbaby

    tiggrbaby <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2004
    Messages:
    4,462
    How wonderful that you were still able to see the Great Wall! Your pics are fabulous!

    You may enjoy the fiction book The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.
     
  12. jedijill

    jedijill Chiefs fan living in Bronco country

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Messages:
    6,890
    The Great Wall is amazing! I had no idea that section was so close to Beijing. So happy the tour ended up working out. It would have been so sad to go that far and miss out. The tea sounds lovely. Glad Graham's suitcase caught up to him.

    I've found with travelling, language is really not a barrier. One of my favorite memories was getting on the wrong tour boat in Capri and getting a personal tour from the boat captain in broken English and mostly Italian.

    Jill in CO
     
  13. franandaj

    franandaj I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    32,292
    I'm glad you guys got your tour. Obviously the Great Wall of China is a place that Fran and I could not tour. It looks quite impressive, but I'm amazed at the amount of pollution in the air.

    So what is so wrong with Lemon tea?

    I don't know how you two get so tired that you can't eat dinner? Well I guess Fran does that, but I can't fall asleep on an empty stomach. I would have been all over getting something to eat before the suitcase arrived, but if we hadn't been able to do it, I would have HAD to get food afterwards. I think I had some kind of trauma with respect to starving as a young child which has traumatized me for the rest of my life. If I don't eat before bed, I lie awake unable to fall asleep. :laughing:

    When did you cut your hair short? Did I see that on FB? I've been slightly out of it lately with the kittens and all the incidents they've caused in the last couple months!

    Nice that you realized how nice silk blankets are for your health and that the tea is making you feel better.
     
  14. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    I was so relieved. It would have been such a shame to miss out on this. Graham had originally said that I should go by myself, but I would never have considered this.

    I am pretty pleased with those, but they do not even start to do the real thing justice.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just got this for my Kindle app. It looks very much like something I will enjoy.

    It definitely is.

    It is not the closest one either. That would be Juyongguan, which is only 50km north of Beijing, but is nowhere near as pretty.

    I would have been absolutely gutted.

    I agree with you there. If you approach travel with an open heart and an open mind, then all challenges can be overcome. Despite not speaking the same language, we had no issue navigating China or Japan.

    Mutinanyu absolutely not. However, Badaling is wheelchair accessible and much flatter. It would mean a fair bit of research, but should be doable.

    Badaling.jpg

    Nothing is wrong with lemon tea and everything is wrong with tea that comes out of a tea bag in China. They call the stuff in the tea bags tea powder in China and this is just about the worst thing to Chinese people. Basically that is what is swept off the factory floor after processing proper tea leaves. I have to say traditionally I have always had tea from tea bags, but since I have tasted proper tea made from tea leaves, this no longer cuts it for me.

    Back in June I got fed up with the long hair and had it cut short.

    You may have done. I was tagged in some photos from a ship visit the day after I had it cut and then posted a photo from the awards ceremony in July, but the lighting in that was awful. I did post some photos from Disneyland Paris in October and then from this trip.

    Corinna
     

    Attached Files:

  15. bex7583

    bex7583 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Messages:
    1,199
    the wall pictures are stunning. But oh gosh you wouldn't get me in that chair lift. Good to hear you were quickly reunited with the bag and it did not spoil your tour
     
  16. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    It was really not too bad at all. It was a nice smooth ride.

    I was very impressed with how this was handled.

    Corinna
     
  17. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    Day 4

    Graham had suggested the night before that I set the alarm for 9:30 just in case, but of course we were up long before then. We were up, dressed and ready by 7:30. The plan was to get some breakfast and then head out. This proved to be easier said than done. I had seen breakfast advertised at the hotel, but on closer inspection, it turned out that you have to get breakfast tokens from the hotel reception that could then be used at a nearby restaurant. I had found out previously that the reception staff did not speak a lot of English. The prospect of trying to buy two breakfast tokens and getting directions to the restaurant just seemed like too much like hard work. We figured we would find something on the way. On our way to the subway station, we came past two shopping centers with various cafes and restaurants, but with it being early on a Sunday morning, everything was closed. Oh well, we were heading to probably the most touristy part of Beijing and figured we would find something there.

    It did not take us long to get to the local subway station. There are two subway lines there: the airport express line and the circle line. The airport express line is going in the wrong direction, but the line we needed intersected with the circle line. There was a metal detector and an x-machine near the entrance to the subway station. We went through security and then tried to work out the ticket machines. It turned out that the ticket machines we were looking at were for the airport express line and they are different than the normal subway lines. We went over to the other end of the station where the right ticket machines were. There were also some ATMs in the area so I finally got some cash. Graham tried to get some tickets, but the machine kept refusing the notes that he put in. I spotted a ticket and information desk and a couple of minutes later, I had our tickets. Apart of the hiccup with the tickets, using the subway in Beijing is quite straightforward. There are subway maps near the entrance showing the whole network and then there is a map of the line you are using on the platform. Above the platform gates there is the name of the station and the previous and next station. All the signage is in Chinese and English. We had no issue working out where we needed to be and once we were on the train, it could not have been easier. On the walls of every station was a sign that again showed the name of the station together with the name of the previous and next station. On the train itself, there was sign with all the stations on this line. Stations that had already been passed were illuminated in red. The next station was flashing. There were announcements in both Chinese and English. We had to switch lines to get to our first destination and that was really easy, too. The quickest way to the connecting line was very clearly marked. Each subway station we came across had 4 exits and each exit was labelled with the landmarks closest to it. When we got to our destination, we did not need any signposting. We just had to follow the masses.

    Our first stop that day was Tiananmen Square. As soon as we exited the station, there were permanent lines set up that led to a security check point. They checked ID for Chinese people, but they were not interested in our passports. I just had to put my bag through the x-ray machine and we both had to walk through a metal detector and then we were on our way again. Next we got to an underpass that led to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. This is where we saw the first soldiers. They were standing guard at strategic spots around the underpass. When we exited onto Tiananmen Square, I got my first glimpse of the Forbidden City or more accurately of Tiananmen, which is translated into Gate of Heavenly Peace and is the entrance to the Imperial City of which the Forbidden City is a part. The Forbidden City was on the to do list for later, but I could not quite believe I was actually standing there and looking at the Forbidden City. Strangely enough, this was not what left the biggest impression though. Once we both had taken some photos, we turned around and headed deeper into Tiananmen Square. I must have seen hundreds of photos and plenty of news footage from Tiananmen Square over the years and I knew that it would be impressive. However, nothing could have prepared me for actually being there. Tiananmen Square covers an area of 109 acres. On one side is the National Museum of China, which is a seriously impressive building with a length of 313 meters and a width of 149 meters and on the other The Great Hall of the People, which is the seat of the government. This is even more impressive with a length of 356 meters and a width of 206.5 meters. If you were to put the buildings end to end, they would be pretty much the same length as my commute to work. The Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong complete the landmarks. Tiananmen Square can fit 600000 people and although there were hundreds if not thousands of people milling around, for the most part, it felt pretty empty. There were some crowds near the Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, but we just gave them a wide berth. I realized very quickly that China has the ability in the best possible way to make you feel very small. The sheer scale of everything is mind-blowing.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Considering that Tiananmen Square is a major tourist destination, there is actually precious little there. Near the exit from the underpass there were some photographers milling around. The approached the Chinese visitors, but were not interested in us at all. There were some vans selling drinks and snacks. There were also a couple of mobile police stations. Soldiers were patrolling the perimeter of Tiananmen Square and this was pretty much it. Opposite the far end, we found a tourist information centre of sorts and we hoped that they would have a cafe. Unfortunately the place consisted of a cloakroom, an information desk, a small shop selling the same kinds of drinks and snacks that the vans on Tiananmen Square sold and there was a stall selling souvenirs. We still have not had breakfast. I consulted with my friend Google. China does not only have the Great Wall of China, but also the Great Firewall of China. Many websites that we routinely visit like Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned in China. I don’t do Twitter and I can quite happily cope without Facebook, but my email account is Gmail and I rather heavily rely on Google Maps and Google in general. So I invested in a pre-paid Hong Kong data SIM card before the holiday. Although Hong Kong is now part of China, it still has a special status and the Great Firewall of China does not extend to Hong Kong. Google Maps for the most part proved very useful, but on this occasion it let me down. All the street names in Beijing are bilingual in English and Mandarin. Unfortunately Google Maps only showed the Mandarin version together with directions. I have no sense of direction at the best of times. Graham normally has an inbuilt compass, but for some reason that day, it was out of order. So we knew that there was a teahouse less than half a mile away, but we had no clue in which direction. We never did find it.

    Graham did however manage to find the main shopping area of Beijing and that turned out a blessing in more ways than one. Initially we thought that this would not help with our breakfast problem. There were plenty of shopping centres around, but they were still closed. We did find a tea shop, but they were just selling tea leaves and a few kinds of take away teas. As tempted as I was by the rose oolong tea, finding food was more pressing. In the end we stumbled upon something that looked like China Town outside China. There were traditional Chinese arches and traditional Chinese architecture. As soon as we walked into the alley, I spotted something that made my heart beat quicker. There was a restaurant serving hot steamed buns. One of my all-time favourite foods are Chinese steamed pork buns and I had planned on sampling plenty of those while in China. I pointed this restaurant out to Graham and he looked at me rather bewildered. He asked me since when I could read Mandarin. All the restaurants in this alley had signs made up of giant Chinese characters, but at right angles to the first character was the English translation. Graham had not spotted this. The place where we ended up was probably the Chinese equivalent of McDonald’s. It was essentially a fast-food place that was cheap and cheerful. Still, I was sold when I saw that indeed they had steamed pork buns. I ordered some of those and a pot of Jasmine tea. Graham ordered the same. I was in heaven when a steamer full of pork buns was putted in front of me. I had expected 3 or 4, but I ended up with 10. We probably could have shared, but we both ate every morsel. They were absolutely delicious. We also were brought a bowl with something that I thought was soup, but that I later during the trip learned was congee. Congee is a traditional rice porridge that is eaten for breakfast. My first encounter with congee was not a success. I found it very bland and tasteless. I developed a taste for it later during the trip when I learned how to eat it properly.

    [​IMG]

    When we came out of the restaurant and headed back to the main shopping street, something caught my eye. I have a Pandora bracelet that only has charms on it that have a special meaning. Most of them are related to places I have travelled to. I had researched if there are any Pandora stores in Beijing and had come to the conclusion that they were too far off the beaten track. I wanted a charm to represent our trip to China, but I knew that there is a Pandora store at Disneytown at Shanghai Disneyland so I was not too worried. However, there was a new shopping centre pretty much right opposite the alley where we had eaten and one of the few shops that had already opened was a Pandora store. I got a cute little panda charm for my bracelet. We then had a wander around in the area and took some photos of some of the buildings. We also spotted some cloisonné cow sculptures. At that stage, we both needed the bathroom and went inside a department store. The department store sold pretty much only Western designer goods, but the toilets were definitely all Chinese meaning squat toilets. I was not brave enough to try one of those.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Coming out of the department store, we somehow got turned around. I had expected we would just retrace our steps to Tiananmen Square and cross over to the Forbidden City. This is not how it worked out. When I realized that we had ended up somewhere completely different, I consulted with my friend Google again and this time round, this proved more helpful. The only slight hiccup was that Google Maps decided to lead us on the most direct route and this was not via streets. We ended up in the middle of a Hutong. Hutongs are traditional residential alleyways that are narrow and crammed full of small traditional buildings. Unfortunately a lot of Hutongs were knocked down and were replaced by wide boulevards and high-rise buildings. However, a few of them are still tucked away in various parts of Beijing and are now protected. We got a few curious looks. I don’t think they ever see foreigners in this particular Hutong. I was glad that we did stumble across this as this was a part of authentic China that not many tourists get to see.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  18. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    Once we came out the other end of the Hutong, we pretty much spotted the wall around the Forbidden City straightaway. I had no idea just how big this is. We had quite a walk to get to the entrance. We saw the moat on our wanders and soon we saw some familiar looking architecture. There seemed to be an entrance not too far away, but we were advised that this was only for ticket holders. Near there, we were accosted by a tour guide who tried to offer us his services. We kept telling him that we were not interested, but he followed us for a while. In the end, he gave up and shortly afterwards, we came to the main entrance plaza. I have no clear idea how far this area is from Tiananmen, but I think we would probably have walked the same distance if we had come from that direction. There were some bathrooms there, but again, they were just squat toilets so I passed. We then went to the ticket office. The lines looked pretty impressive, but they moved very quickly. I knew that The Forbidden City is the one place that you have to show your passport to get tickets. So I had our passports at the ready. The tickets were amazingly cheap. We paid the princely sum of 40 Yuan each, which is about £4.50. To put this into perspective, visiting one of the royal palaces in UK will set you back about 5 times this amount. Once we had our tickets, we proceeded through security.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Forbidden City or the The Palace Museum as it is officially called is one of the busiest tourist attractions in China. To protect it, they now restrict admission to 80000 people per day. This sounds like an enormous amount, but I am pretty sure that during peak season, all the tickets would be gone by about midmorning. As we were there during low season, we had no issues getting tickets in the early afternoon. We walked through the Meridian Gate and got a first impression of the scale of what was in front of us. According to legend, The Forbidden City has 9999 rooms, but this is just an urban myth as the number 9 represents longevity in Chinese culture. However, the reality is still pretty staggering. The Forbidden City covers 178 acres and is surrounded by a 52-foot-wide, two-meter-deep moat and a 30-foot-high red wall. Its 800 buildings contain 8707 rooms. We pretty much stuck to the central axis, which leads from the Meridian Gate to the Gate of Divine Prowess and on the way passes through most significant halls. Our route took us through the Gate of Supreme Harmony to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, the Gate of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility before ending in the Imperial Garden. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty that surrounded me. The building in the Forbidden City are entirely built from wood and has burned down and been rebuilt frequently. I have to say they did a great job with this.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    We wandered around the central axis and just absorbed the beauty around us. I realized very quickly that politely waiting my turn would not get me anywhere. I observed the locals and came to the conclusion that I had been blessed with a nice pair of shoulders and I should not be afraid to use them. So I lowered my head and one of my shoulders and went straight to where I wanted to go. Graham was not quite so adventurous and stayed back, but by playing the Chinese people at their own game, I was able to get all the photos I wanted. Almost all the tourists at the Forbidden City when we were there where from China. I got a few surprised and even admiring looks when people realized that I was a foreigner, but that I just got stuck in. I am normally very particular about my personal space, but in a strange way, I found this experience very liberating.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    About halfway through, we came to a tea house. I was ready for something to drink, but realized with dismay and a certain amount of disgust that the tea that is served in the Forbidden City is instant tea. I could have coped with a tea bag, but instant tea in a country that does really amazing teas was just one step too far. I managed to take care of another need though. In the Imperial Garden I found a bathroom that had some “thrones”. With this taken care of, we wandered around the Imperial Garden for a while and then we left the Forbidden City through the Gate of Divine Prowess. I had not realized that the Forbidden City is essentially one-way street. I was also so absorbed in what I was seeing that I had not realized just how far we had walked.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Shortly after we exited, there were signpost for the closest subway stations. Tiananmen East, where we had arrived in the morning was about 2.5 miles away and the closest subway station was called Dongdang and was 1.6 miles away. Both of us had sore feet and did not really fancy the extra mile. So we decided that we would have faith that the signposting would continue. Unfortunately my mobile phone had run out of power by then and although I had brought a power bank to charge it on the go, I had forgotten to pack a charging cable that morning. In the end, it all worked out. When we got to the end of the road, there was a tuk tuk driver offering his services. He offered to take us to the subway for 20 Yuan. Let’s just say that this was probably the best £2.50 I ever spent. It was another of those quintessential Chinese experiences and it was lovely to take the weight of our feet. When we got to Dongdang station, something dawned on me. For some reason, the name seemed oddly familiar, but I was not sure why. I then realized that this was the interchange station that we would have needed to get from Tiananmen Square to the last place on my to do list: The Temple of Heaven. Sure enough, I spotted a station called Tiantandongmen on the subway map. I knew that Mandarin for Temple of Heaven is Tiāntán and the area where we were headed is called Tiāntán Park. So I made use of the ticket counter again and we went down the subway platform.
     
  20. dolphingirl47

    dolphingirl47 In Search of the Tag Fairy

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2007
    Messages:
    30,993
    When we got there, we had no issue finding the right exit. Next to the exit was a handy map. It turned out it was not quite as handy as we had hoped. We turned left out of the station and walked along the wall of Tiāntán Park. Unfortunately a gate was conspicuous by its absence. We decided to give up and head back to the station as at that point, our feet were killing us. As we approached the station, Graham spotted the gate just ahead of us to the right of the station. According to the map, the whole of Tiāntán Park was to the left of the station. Oh well, I was glad we found it. There was one reason why I really wanted to go to Tiāntán Park. There is one very familiar building in Tiāntán Park. One of my favourite buildings at the World Showcase at Epcot is a scale model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, which is one of the main buildings in the complex. There were two types of tickets on offer: one allowed access to the park and was 10 Yuan, which is just over a Pound and then there was a combo ticket, which was 28 Yuan (about £3) and allowed access to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Circular Mound Altar and the Echo Wall. We decided that the basic ticket would be just fine. I just wanted to see the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

    [​IMG]

    The park itself is stunningly beautiful. There were all kinds of interesting trees and birds. I definitely want to come back when I have more time, my feet are not quite as sore and preferably during the spring or summer. We made our way to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests only to find that someone has rather inconsiderately built a massive wall around it. So it was very difficult to see it properly, never mind getting a decent photo of it. To enter the courtyard, where you could get a clear view, you needed a combo ticket. Oh well. I did manage to get a decent enough photo from the top of the staircase leading up to the courtyard. I wanted to see one other building, the Imperial Vault of Heaven. This is smaller than the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, but still very beautiful. In the process we came across a rather beautiful bridge and we managed to get some nice photos of both the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. While we were walking across the bridge, we were stopped by a Chinese family who asked to have their photo taken with us. Again, this left us ever so slightly bewildered. On our way out, we came across a group of people practicing Tai Chi. I know that Tiāntán Park is a popular spot for people to practise Tai Chi, but from everything I had read, this only happened early in the morning. So it was a nice surprise and a real treat to see this in the afternoon.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once we had seen everything we had come for, we walked back to the subway station. I went to the ticket counter again and this was the only time I had some communication issues. The person at the counter could not understand where we were trying to get to. She handed me a subway map, but it was tiny and had the names on in both Mandarin and English making in completely illegible. In the end, I got my other mobile phone out and typed the name of the station in English on the note pad. Fortunately she was able to read English and I got my tickets. This will be all together easier on our next visit. I may struggle with Mandarin, but even after the first two classes, I had enough of a grasp of the basic rules of pronunciation that I could make myself understood.

    We learned on that trip back to the hotel that there seems to be such a thing as rush hour on a Sunday afternoon in Beijing. I could not believe how busy the subway was. We also must have found the longest interchange. It felt like we were walking for miles. Fortunately once we were on the platform for the circle line, we did not have to wait long for a train and after a couple of stations, we even got seats. I think we both must have dropped off at some stage, but fortunately I woke up just as we were pulling into the station before ours.

    It was still a little early for dinner, but we knew that if we went back to the hotel, we would not leave again. There was a shopping centre right opposite the station and that had all manner of different restaurants. I had started the day with two cravings: steamed pork buns and noodles. I had managed to take care of one of them and I was hoping I would be able to take care of the other at dinner, but unfortunately it was not to be. We ended up in a lovely little restaurant called Elements. They were offering food from all around the world. Graham had a Tsingtao beer and pasta with beef ragu. I had cranberry oolong tea and decided to at least stay in the same region with my dinner choice. I had crispy chicken with teriyaki sauce and rice, which was very nice.

    [​IMG]

    I was still thirsty after dinner so I decided to check if there was somewhere that sold take away tea in the shopping centre. I did find somewhere in the food court of the shopping centre, but this turned out to be the second worst tea of the holiday. Yes, it was worse than some of the tea made from tea bags I was served. I ordered Jasmine tea and it was served iced. That in itself was not an issue, but it was very bitter. Still, it was liquid and I was thirsty.

    When we got back to the hotel, we packed anything we no longer needed. We took turns getting showered and then we settled down. Graham fell asleep straightaway, but I read for a while before setting the alarm for the next morning and settling down for the night, too.
     
  21. jedijill

    jedijill Chiefs fan living in Bronco country

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Messages:
    6,890
    Wow, I did not realize that area was so large! It's absolutely beautiful. I'm glad you figured out the subway system. The Chinese architecture is stunning.

    Jill in CO
     

Share This Page