A Travellerspoint blog

Pearl Factory

Dan sighs as another opportunity to spend money presents itself.

sunny 87 °F

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As a part of our tour, the government arranged certain factory tours that were opportunities to buy goods disguised as semi-educational experiences. The pearl factory that we visited used to be owned by a family before China became Communist. The government took over the oyster farm that is located inside the grounds at the Summer Palace and now cultivates and produces pearls. The guide at the factory/shop showed us how to tell real pearl from fake pearl before she set us loose to purchase trinkets. Real pearls create a powder when rubbed together. When rubbed together they have a unique sound and maintain their glossy appearance. Plastic or glass pearls do not have the powder when rubbed, lose their sheen when rubbed, and sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. Once again, useful information but these required stops are getting a bit tiresome. For Dan, that is!

Posted by SusanConradWang 07:44 Archived in China Tagged pearl_factory Comments (0)

Forbidden City

The Wangs storm the Forbidden City.

sunny 81 °F

We woke bright and early and started the day with breakfast and a walk in the Japanese style garden at the hotel. A group of six older people practiced Tai Chi in the garden and it was very soothing to watch their movements. On the agenda for the day’s tour was a trip to the Forbidden City, a visit to a pearl factory, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven and a teahouse. We were anxious to get going and were pleased that we had the same guide as the day before, Sally.
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The Forbidden City is so named because for 500 years, no one other than the emperor and his family or officials were allowed inside the gates. Any uninvited guests were executed. The only males allowed in the city other than the emperor and his offspring were eunuchs. The emperor housed 16,000 concubines in the Eastern and Western palaces as well as his empress and all of their children. Each gate had a specific function. The South gate was for the emperor only. The only exception was when he married his empress. For that one time only, she was allowed and expected to enter through the South gate. The North gate was for the empress and concubines. The West gate was for officials and the royal family and the East gate was only used for the removal of the dead body of the emperor when the time came to dispose of his body. Inside the city there are no trees except for in a central imperial garden. The emperors were too worried about assassins and if there were tall trees in the city a person might be able to enter that way and kill the emperor.
Another worry in the city was fire. A thunderstorm could easily spark a fire. For that reason, 305 huge gold-coated copper vats were located all around the city. They were placed on top of a stone ring that had an opening to build a fire in the wintertime. The fire kept any ice from forming in the vats.
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The city held 9,999 buildings. Why that number? Because the God of Heaven had 10,000 rooms and the emperor dare not compare himself to the God of Heaven (9,999 is pretty close, though). Only a handful of the buildings are open to the public today. The city is over 600 years old and portions were recently renovated in preparations for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
We were able to peek inside of about 10 palaces. All of the buildings were called palaces or halls. The interiors were in need of TLC, but the exteriors were vibrant and colorful. While the buildings themselves were beautiful and historic, the main impression of the Forbidden City was the sheer size of it all. It is huge. The main courtyard area in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony can hold upwards of 100,000 people. That’s all of the fans in Beaver Stadium, folks.
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Posted by SusanConradWang 05:13 Tagged beijing forbidden_city hall_of_supreme_harmony Comments (0)

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)

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