Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beijing, part 2

We spent the first few days of our spring break trip to China checking out things in and around Beijing. When I saw the Chinese acrobat show on our itinerary, I wasn't particularly interested, even though it was just 50 minutes. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the show and was so entertained that the time passed very quickly. Plus they were selling popcorn and soda before the show started, so what's not to love.

The tour company we used was typical in that it hustled us through some "museums" where we learned about silk, jade, lacquered furniture and statuary so we could spend our American money in the showroom at the end of the tour. Kickbacks, no doubt, but I did learn a lot about the process of obtaining silk.

They had this really old, but really cool machine in the silk museum that was in good working order and busy creating silk thread from cocoons.  

The cocoons are submerged in water until soft and pliable, then attached to the machine that spins the thread and slowly unravels it down to the pupa. Below you see the collected critters that didn't make it out alive - ick.

In the pic below, the family was asked to stretch the dried, lesser quality double pupa silk threads into the makings of a silk duvet. We didn't opt to purchase one, but the 6th grader did get a pillow while both girls got some silk pajamas.

That evening, we ate at a famous Peking duck restaurant. I wasn't a big fan of the duck and I was kinda disgusted by the plate seen below... bony, gristly duck parts that have been salted and seasoned and are all ready for consumption. If we moved to China, I'm afraid I'd have to become a card carrying vegetarian.

The next morning, we headed out for a tour of the Mutianyu section of the great wall, about a 1.5 hr drive from the city center.

We arrived at the base of the hill that was covered in tourist shops seen above. Our trip up to a tower of the wall to begin our viewing involved us riding a ski lift, one that looked like a relic from the communist era. The 6th grader and I aren't fans of heights, while the senior and husband aren't bothered by it. Therefore, we put one chicken on each lift. 

About halfway to the top, the 6th grader decided she wasn't going to plunge to her death and turned around to give us a big smile.

As you can see, the views were stunning. Windy and cold, it was a rather stark landscape since spring hasn't really arrived yet. 

And steep - talk about a rigorous tour. The girls trekked over a few watch towers, but the husband and I stayed put. I'm not a very sure-footed creature and was suffering from that time of the month cramps. TMI, right? But seriously - who wants to hike up and down when you feel like your lady parts are gonna fall out on the historic stoneworks.

In the pics below, you can see how we got back down to the souvenir clogged staging area for this part of the wall - a realllllly long toboggan. I didn't get to take any pics while we were descending since you have to hang onto the brake handle the entire time, but I did get one before the husband and girls took off down the hill.

After the wall, we went to check out the Ming Tombs and Underground Palace. There are thirteen emperors buried in this area and a 7 km road lined with sacred statuary leads into the burial complex of one of the emperors. The rest of the tombs located in this area have never been excavated.

We saw very little in the underground palace other than a few rooms and the area where the remains were found. They were removed and are now housed in archives. 

A couple of the pics I took on this day of touring aren't historically relevant, but rather just interesting to me. One was the labeling on the Coke Zero I bought. The other was some decoration on a building leading up to the underground palace. I had seen these same sort of stone elephant heads at the Forbidden City.

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