A Travellerspoint blog

China

The Wangs Get Brave

Wandering a city of 20 million on our own.

sunny 75 °F

After everyone had his or her fill of The Wall we made one last stop back in Beijing at a silk factory.
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The women at the factory demonstrated how they unwind the silk and what they do with a cocoon if it has two worms instead of one in it. The one-worm cocoons are for clothing and such. If a cocoon has two worms inside of it, they use it for the stuffing of blankets and pillows.
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The ladies at the factory demonstrated the process and then we were led into the gift shop. (“Of course,” said Dan.) I talked Dan into purchasing a King sized silk comforter. He grumbled a bit but I think he will be happy about it once he sees how comfortable it will be to sleep under.
Our guided tour was over after the silk factory and we were dropped back at The New Otani and left to our own devices. We decided to venture out and try some Malaysian food at a restaurant about 10km from the hotel. In Beijing, the taxi drivers look at the address of your desired destination and then tell you if they are able to find the destination. If they do not know where it is, you have to find another taxi driver and hope that he knows where to go. We found that our success rate was much higher if the hotel bellhop flagged the taxi and communicated the destination. When we tried on our own, our success rate was about 50/50.

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The restaurant was a Malaysian style eatery called Samala Café. The taxi driver stopped when we were in the general vicinity and asked a local person for help in locating the business. He dropped us off at the mouth of a very narrow alleyway. When we reached the front door of the restaurant, it had a note on it saying that it was undergoing renovations and the kitchen was relocated at another restaurant around the block. At this point, I could tell that Dan was frustrated and very hungry. It took forever to convince the taxi driver to take us, we had to get clarifying directions along the way, and now the restaurant was not even where it was supposed to be! And in the back of our minds we were wondering if this place was going to be worth the potential upset stomach that could come from eating food in a local restaurant. We finally found the restaurant and ordered our meals. The décor was really quaint. It looked like an opium den/teahouse and French pop music played softly over speakers. The crowd was comprised of young Chinese professionals around our age. The meal was delicious (and sanitary!). I was glad that we stuck it out and found the new location because it was down a narrow little alley with other restaurants and one-room apartments. The occupants had the front door open and I got a little peek of how some people live in Beijing.

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Posted by SusanConradWang 05:11 Archived in China Tagged malaysian_food_in_beijing taxis_in_beijing narrow_alleys_in_beijing Comments (0)

The Great Wall at Badaling

You've got to see this to believe it.

sunny 75 °F

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The bus ride to Badaling took about an hour and we took the time to take a short nap. I woke up after about 20 minutes and watched the scenery passing by the window. At places along the way we could see old parts of the wall that were crumbling away into the mountainside. There was one spot with a restored wall but we did not stop as the wall was just a small portion of the original wall rebuilt in just the last decade. We wanted the authentic experience of walking a distance on the wall.
When we finally reached the wall, we decided to take the gondola to the top of the mountain so that we could begin our walk pretty close to the highest point. Dan and I really wanted the high vantage point so that our pictures could capture the stretch of wall snaking over the mountains. The gondola was a little frightening. I’m so used to having someone to help me on and off of rides such as this. In China, no one is there to help you. You just jump in as the gondola slows down along the ramp area. We jumped in and held on as the gondola made its way up the mountainside. I was beginning to worry about the maintenance schedule for the transport when I saw a huge birds nest built in one of the ladder chutes used for workers to check the cables. It was huge and looked like it had been there awhile. I wonder when they last checked that particular supporting tower?
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At the top we popped out of the gondola (without any assistance) and walked down a twisty ramp located within the mountain. When we reached the outside, the area was mobbed with people. Mobbed by US standards does not compare with the Chinese equivalent. I don’t think you can truly understand the amount of people unless you actually experience it for yourself. I was watching the people as much as I was experiencing being on the wall. And apparently, people were watching me, too. As I made my way up The Wall with Dan several people stopped me and asked if t hey could take a picture with me. I obliged even though it felt a bit strange. By the time I reached the top, I felt like a celebrity. The Australian in our group was asked to pose in a bunch of photos, too. He was both tall and blond.
The Wall itself is not a bit as I imagined it. I knew that it was twisty, but I did not imagine that the steps and inclines of the wall would be so steep. Some of the steps were as high as my knee. In parts it felt like I was doing lunges as I walked up. There was a rail provided for those who needed it and there were quite a few octogenarians walking with one hand on the rail and the other hand using their cane. I was shocked by how many elderly were making this very vigorous climb. According to our guide, if you were able to reach the top you were considered a “hero”. There were a lot of “heroes” on the wall that day.
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After we stood and took in the view for a bit we descended and took the gondola back down. At the base of the mountain was a little shopping village with knick-knacks and food. I bartered with a woman for some postcards (Vero- I will send one soon!) and just took in all of the people. There was a man with a camel charging for pictures of you riding the camel. While the camel was cute, there was no way I was jumping on that thing. They can be ornery. Another man dressed as a warrior and balanced on top of a ball. At first we thought he was a statue. He was a well-balanced individual indeed.

Posted by SusanConradWang 05:08 Archived in China Tagged beijing great_wall gondola badaling climbing_the_great_wall Comments (0)

Jade Factory

How to spot a fake.

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As a part of each tour day, the government arranged for tours of different factories so that the visitors could see how different products were made by artisans Translation: Go see our factory and buy our goods! We were a “captive” audience. I didn’t mind the stops to see the factories. Dan was very annoyed as he does not like to buy souvenirs.
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At the Jade Factory they taught us how to determine if Jade is real or fake, a piece of information I found to be useful. After they taught us how to determine real from faux, we were set loose in the gift shop and mobbed by salesgirls. I tried on a jade bangle, which was very pretty and very expensive. I finally decided to purchase a pendant with my zodiac animal, the goat.
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After making our purchases, the group went upstairs for lunch at a government restaurant. The food was pretty simple and the dishes were just ok. The highlights of the meal were the eggplant and the conversation with our fellow tourists.

Posted by SusanConradWang 05:06 Archived in China Tagged china beijing jade Comments (0)

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