Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 2: Marathon Sightseeing

Tuesday we probably came close to setting a world record for sightseeing.

Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest city center according to our guide. We entered through the South Gate and walked to the north side where Chairman Mao watches over the plaza. He has lots of help---serious-looking uniformed guards were in abundance. We were obviously a novelty; people from all over China come to see their seat of government, and from their curious stares it was obvious that they don’t see Americans very often—or maybe they were just awestruck by Brandi’s dreadlocks and Carrie’s ear and nose rings.

From there we walked north into the Forbidden City, where emperors lived from 1420 to 1923, and people like us would never have even dreamed to visit. It's huge and full of symbolism and history. A short video clip showing one of the courtyards inside the Forbidden City is embedded below.

We had lunch in as authentic a Chinese restaurant as you can get, and then wandered through Houhai, a traditional hutong area full of little shops. The first shop we saw had a Starbucks logo on the front, which looked a little out of place on a building that looked like it was a couple of hundred years old.

From there we went to the Lama Temple, built in 1694, where there were several Buddhas, the largest of which holds the world’s record for the largest Buddha made from a single sandlewood tree. People were bowing in front of the idols and burning incense, with tourists like us wandering through and watching them and the Tibetan monks curiously.

From there we went to the Pearl Market where vendors in several floors of booths sell everything imaginable and you have to bargain for a decent price. For those of us who don’t like to haggle over prices, it was uncomfortable to be stalked by aggressive vendors, but I soon got good at saying buyae xie xie or “boo shay-shay” (no, thank you) forcefully.

We had Peking Duck with all the trimmings for our evening meal, in a small restaurant in an old part of the city. Our guide showed us the proper way to eat Peking duck---wrapping small slices in a thin tortilla-like pancake along with some dark sauce and thin strips of onion and cucumber.

Our evening’s entertainment was the Chinese Opera, an interesting mix of mime, acting, acrobatics, and strange falsetto singing. It’s one of those events where I’m glad I experienced it---but once was enough.

1 comment:

  1. Deb,
    Love "seeing" China through your eyes and ears! How did the Peking duck compare to Iowa pork? Take care. Thinking of you.