Monday, September 24, 2007
Beijing, China

On our arrival at Beijing, we were taken to dinner at a very famous hotel and had Peking Duck. It was great. In fact, most all of the food in China was good. The desserts had no sugar in them, so that was different. The multicourse meal was at a round table and we spun the plates. We got a thin crepe-like flour circle they called a pancake. You put sliced scallions, a wonderful brown sauce and the duck, fold it, and then eat it. Great. The service was fast. Outside we saw the first of many hawkers, postcards, “silks” and many other items. Then to our hotel. I was roomed with our bus leader, Kathy Soule. She is our librarian. Nice person…it’s nice when you have a compatible person. We were at the Jianguo Qianmen Hotel. It was noisy with constant traffic, but a nice room with amenities…slippers to go, bathrobes, toiletries, and more.

The next morning we drove through the traffic to the Great Wall. The recent rain and cooler temps made for nice weather and less than severe air pollution, which got worse every day. But today it was stellar. We went to the Ju Rong section and arrived amidst a bit of a crowd. We took a group photo that came out nice. Then we were released to do our thing. I climbed the steep area to the second parapet. It was tough, with steps of uneven height and very steep at times, but fun. Lots of photos and took lots for the students. Then up into the parapet. It was just amazing to think I was there. I looked across and down at the gate and the wall as it snaked its way across the countryside. Then I noodled around the buildings and shops and took photos of bugs and videos of cicadas and birds.

That night we went to the Kung Fu theater and saw an acrobat troop. They were awesome…Velcro and rubber. I got a DVD for 50 Yuan (6 bucks), don’t know if it works. Some went out to dinner. I walked a few blocks. On my way back, 6 older ladies were literally kicking to boom box music. Later, about 30 of them, men and women, danced up and down the street with drums and fans and cymbals…it was their night exercise! I taped some of it from my hotel room.

The next day we went first to the Temple of Heaven. Newly restored, this round structure was beautiful. Then we went to Tiananmen Square. We saw queues for Chairman Mao’s mausoleum visit and Olympic preparations. Then under the painting of Mao on top of the Forbidden City. There we stood in the sun while our guidesfor Bus A and B, got our audio guides. Part of the city was closed, but others were newly restored. I joined ranks with Alec and 2 other of my students, Kirk and Seth. We saw amour, weapons, thrones and more. It really brought it all to life…made me realize this all really did happen; it was not just a story.

After a breakfast the next day, where milk (pasteurized?) water, vegetables and other sources of pathology were avoided (even brushed my teeth with bottled water), we went to visit the Wild Goose pagoda. Much was in anticipation of the Terra Cotta Warriors and I found myself impatient to see them. The pagoda was 5 stories originally, then an earthquake toppled it, but it was rebuilt to 7 stories. The people 600 years ago reasoned a dragon under the earth moved = the earthquake. We then went to the Shanxii (Province) Provincial Museum. It was in 4 sections and I got to see 1.5 mya Peking Man skulls, pottery and more. It is such an old culture…3000 years. The museum was of interest, but not up to US standards. We then had lunch, then to a drive to the village where the warriors were discovered. In the distance, the hill that was made to be the Emperor Qin’s (pronounced “Chin” = China), who was the first emperor who united all of the feudal areas into China…for a while anyway. There is a very modern car park and museum set up. We walked to stairs and got a nice review of the story. I went to Pit 1. My heart was pounding as I saw with my own eyes the thousands of life-sized terra cotta warriors and horses. What a site. I was told it was an underground army made to go ahead of the emperor in his grave to protect him in the next world. To me it must truly rival the pyramids in scope and concept. Each warrior was different, made with a different face and hair style. They were all given the worker’s names, and then the 740 workers were buried alive! Yikes. There were even some with paint on the statues still. The farmer, who discovered the first warrior while digging a well, was signing the state’s book and I got a copy of that along with a photo of him and him and me together.

All too soon we left for dinner and a show. We went to the Tang Dynasty show and dinner. It was a look back I time with great costumes and ancient music.

The next morning was check out again and some of us went to the Forest of Stele (Stone Tablets) museum. We saw rubbings being done of the ancient calligraphy then we went to the university and had a calligraphy lesson from a master calligrapher. She was great and we all had a great time.

Then to the airport for the flight to Hong King. The Xian airport is very modern, a far cry from the hutong alleys and poverty seen. It’s a real mix, this country. We flew to Hong Kong and arrived with an air temperature of 84 degrees and rain. It is the remnant of typhoon/tropical storm Francisco that hit Vietnam on the 23rd. The Airport is on Lantau (along with A Disneyland!), and our ship was at the pier at Kowloon, across from the island of Hong Kong. It was warm and muggy and so nice to get home. We walked through a 700 store shopping Center to get to our destination. I got to sleep at 1:00 a.m. as we did not get home until after midnight.

On the 24th in Hong Kong, it was raining hard. I walked to the Star Ferry and paid 1.7 HK dollars to cross to Hong Kong Island. I was thinking of Taipan, Shogun, King Rat and Noble House, all of James Clavell’s novels that brought this alive for me. I then walked through scores of corridors through very high end stores, Gucci, Bugari, Vuton, you name it. I walked and walked, finally past the USA consulate and to the tram station. I paid to take the steep sky tram over 2000 feet to the top of Victoria Peak. I then paid to go to the viewing platform. On a clear day you are supposed to see around the island. Not so good today…but I did see my ship in the harbor and part of the backside of the island. Above the hundreds of skyscrapers is a lush tropical forest of waxy evergreens and palms. There were lots and lots of stores…that is all this place is…one big mall. Then back down in a true deluge. I walked back to the ship, a drowned rat. That night we listened to C.H. Tung who was the head of the transitional government of Hong Kong when it reverted to China in 1997. Off to Vietnam!

Posted by Nancy @ 09:52 PM pst