Monday 21 April 2014
After an exciting first day in China complete with a 12 hour flight, losing a full day, and kicking the first day off with some sightseeing, I was worried we were going to have an issue waking early due to jet lag. Good news, we adjusted just fine! By thinking of it as 8 hours behind Anchorage instead of 16 hour ahead of Anchorage, we woke up bright and early (like, 4 am) and ready to take on the day!
One nice thing about traveling in a tour group and staying at fancy hotels is that breakfast was included at the hotel every day. The hotel restaurant had an interesting mix of ‘western’ food and what we assumed was the typical Chinese breakfast. Never before have we had noodles and baked beans for breakfast, but it became a favorite on the trip and I’m still craving some baked beans as a breakfast item now!
Since it was still really early, we went back up to our room to (attempt to) watch some TV before it was time to meet our group in the lobby. We ended up getting captivated by watching the window washers out our 13th story room.
They literally anchored huge ropes to the roof, and then climbed over and sat on boards tied to the other end of the rope. No harness. No helmets. Not even the fancy motorized platform you see in America. I felt like that’s what America must have been like pre-OSHA.
After watching people risk their life, we headed to meet our group and we all piled on the bus to go to a pearl factory.
I’m a big pearl fan, so it was cool to have the girl at the factory show us how to distinguish between a real pearl and a fake. [Rub the pearl on your tooth. Real ones will be gritty.] We also got to see some freshwater oysters filled with pearls, and all the range of colors that the pearls come in.
While we were there, the prices were super affordable so Matt bought me a few pair of earrings and two rings as anniversary gifts!
After the morning shopping excursion we headed to the Summer Palace, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It has the LARGEST imperial garden in the world!
While at the palace, we were told the story of the Dragon Lady, an Empress who had previously been a concubine, who had lived at the palace in the Hall of Happiness and Longevity and who used pearls and jade to keep her skin young.
The thing I found amazing about the Summer Palace is that it features a man-made lake AND a man-made mountain. The Emperor really loved visiting other places in China and having their best features replicated in Beijing. Personally, I wouldn’t let the Emperor travel anymore. “Man, he went to X’ian and now he wants a damn mountain. We’ve got to stop letting him see other parts of China!”
While at the palace we got to take a Dragon Boat across the lake and enjoy the cool breeze and appreciate how much hard work really went into building the place.
Later that day, we headed over to the Olympic Village to see the Bird’s Nest and the swimming Cube. Our tour guide was telling us how proud China is to have hosted the Olympics and I was impressed at how well the site was maintained. I feel like a lot of the time, Olympic Villages just get abandoned after all that money and construction, so it was nice to see the city taking pride in it.
When we got back to the hotel, we decided to call it an early night and ended up sleeping through dinner completely (whoops!). At least we were still full from the 5 entrees we had at lunch earlier in the day!