Published: March 5th 2011March 5th 2011
Today is our second day in China and already we have plans to travel to the Summer Palace, Eat local foods and check out what Beijing shopping has to offer. Before I get started, I wanted to add a quick note to the readers. My last blog drew towards a pessimistic side to China without giving it a second though. After a few days to reflect and think about the China trip as a whole my final conclusion is that I had one of the best times in Asia. There is always some good and some bad that comes with traveling, but the important thing to look at it in a positive and optimistic light and take each day with new stride.
Although I have only been in Asia for the past two months I have to say public transportation and subways systems are the best! I have also noticed it may take some practice to get used to the public transportation but it becomes easier and easier to use when you gain some experience. Also, it’s nice not having to worry about traffic or crashes in the streets. China’s subway is very efficient and yes it is very nice
to use. Personally, out of the three counties I have been to Korea, China, and Japan, I would have to say Korea’s subway system is the best because of the friendly international environment, translated signage, and the ease of “t-card” system. Anyways, I managed to get Kaori and I lost after exiting the subway and not knowing which direction to walk to get the Summer Palace. I asked two other girls where to go and as it turns out they were headed to the same place, funny how things work out. We arrived at the Palace entrance which resembled a strikingly similar architecture and colors to Korean Temples. We purchased the “all encompassing ticket” which was 50 Yuan and began our trek around the palace. The first section covered was called Hall of Benevolent Longevity; this was located at the east gate entrance. I was more interested in the rocks with small figures and statues surrounding the hall rather than the structure. Again it was nothing noteworthy; there were much larger sections to the palace so this was just a familiarization. We passed into the Court of Virtuous Harmony and I noticed some girls dressed in Chinese dresses so Kaori
and I followed them into the main theater arena. Sure enough a performance was about to take place so I grabbed the best spot and fired up the camcorder. The dancing was tranquil and very precise, I was impressed with the dresses and how each dancer moved with the dress in sort of a water like formation. After the performance ended several men walked out with a large set of bells. Of course I was puzzled but then the performance began and the vibrations from the bells swept through the palace. The percussionists were very well coordinated, and the range of sounds felt very calming and peaceful. Only seconds after the bells musical, two young men walked out, one dressed in black and the other dresses in white. I’m not sure what the dancing and sword fights were about but it seemed to be an interpretation of a person and their shadow. Kind of like Peter pan and his shadow fighting one another. This one seemed more intense and had a few close calls with one actor almost slicing the other in half with the sword, very entertaining and fun to see the choreograph. The shows ended and Kaori and
I walked around for a quick view, both of us noticed the significant tole that each building has taken over the years. I was surprised that no one really seemed to care about preserving them. However, Kaori and figured it was because this was the most viewed location due to cheap tourists.
Upon our way to the next location we came across a young student who looked rather puzzled at the palace map. Tourists are able to purchase a map at the front entrance for 2 Yuan, but Kaori and I passed. Turns out the map were indeed bogus and it didn’t give accurate info on the whereabouts of sites. After a quick introduction I learned that Luke was just visiting for 5 days as well. He was a student from Britain and was interested in Chinese culture like me. We decided to group together and walk around the palace. The next point of interest was called Xiequ Garden. This was something I had never seen before in a Palace or Temple or anywhere. The lake area is surrounded by some of the most beautiful architecture and colors schemes I had seen in a Temple. While walking around Luke,
Kaori and I talked up a storm about our adventures, where we were from, and some of our future plans after school. Xiequ Garden was a huge bonus to the walk and gave a very comfortable and scenic feeling to the Palace. I was starting to feel why this Palace was so special, even though there are some similarities; this place had a wide range of scenic locations and terrains.
Our group continued to walk through Longevity Hill while discussing our like and dislikes about cultures. Luke was keen to point out specific details in Asian culture he has picked up, and Kaori was very welcoming and explained some of the differences and similarities about Japan and other Asian cultures. I spoke of my history lessons with the Edo period and Samurai ending in 1868, which changed Japan’s capital to Tokyo. Personally I think that when meeting other people, one should take advantage of their experiences and their stories from abroad. Luke seemed to be very knowledgeable about his studies and was a great travel buddy.
We passed onto the Xiangyanzongyin Pavilion that housed a Buddha statue for locals and visitors to worship and pray to. No one
was allowed to take pictures inside but we managed to grab some of the architecture. I thought it was funny that inside the structure, there is a vendor selling cheap knockoff items and playing cards representing Kobe, Shaq, Bruce Lee, or Pokémon. Our group forced past the vendors onto the Temple of Gathering Clouds. It was harder to get to but Kaori and I managed to get a spot and take a picture of us and the background. Luke was a little more hesitant to climb but I love adventure and this had my name all over it!
We passed through the Cloud Gathering Court to the Court of Travelling in Picture. The architecture blended well with the chaos of the mountains and landscape. Interestingly enough the building and small pavilions were built into the mountain and even had some caves to enter parts of the courts. I loved this part and it seemed like Luke was enjoying the mountain climb as well. Kaori wanted to take the stairs and believe me she was right to do so, some place are very sketchy. We all were able to snap a panoramic of the view to the lower landscape and
get some shots of all of us below the large Pavilion centered in the middle of the rocks. I was very fascinated with the terrain and how the architecture of the building sprouts up with the mountains, unfortunately, it was something you had to be there to experience. The overall essence of this place was extraordinary. I never felt such a drastic yet calming and movable change in atmosphere and terrain at a visitor site. This was something very special, and for what its worth this was one of the best historical architecture sites I had been to.
The walk through the long corridor was exactly how the map said it would be. I was more fascinated with the hand painted pictures and with the specific architecture of all the beams. Traveling allows a person to gain so much experience from such little time; so I felt very gifted that I was able to share my stories with others. After the never ending corridor we arrived at the Cloud Dispelling Hall. The gateway called Cloud Dispelling Gate looked exactly like the entrance gate and even some other around Korea, strange to see the same thing over and over again
but, never the less it was beautiful. The Hall section opened up into a large gathering square that stationed brass/bronze pottery and figurines. Another throne was stationed at the center of the grounds inside the main building. I should note that this building and others like it have the small figures in top like Korea and give the significant of the building, this building had nine so this was a very important place. Luke was keen to point out a long stare way leading up to the Hall of Virtuous Splendor, so it was another climb to the top. Inside, there were some models and artifacts of different deities and other artifacts that were too precious to leave outside. Our walk took us further up the mountain leading onto the Tower of Buddhist Incense. This was the location of the Thousand-Hand Guanyin Buddha. There were several people praying and giving thanks to the deity with incense and other affection. It is amazing to see that people come all this way and walk up the hundreds of steps to worship and give praise. I think there is a culture that China keeps deeply rooted thought the land, but it’s tough to
see with Chinas modernization and with younger people turning to the government for their needs. The Thousand-Hand Guanyin Buddha was indeed very special and had some of the most unique bits, pieces, and features of any deity I have seen. At some points while walking around, small shimmers of gold and silver crept through with the beams of sun rays shining though the worn roof.
Our legs were tired but our minds wondered around and found our way across the mountain to the Bronze Pavilion. Just walking through the gates gave the location a very special and unique feel. The red blazed through the marble archway and the green tile roof gave way to the vast forest landscape. It felt almost like a structure forest was built here. The pavilion on the other hand was defiantly one of a kind. Although you might not be able to tell from the photos, it was all bronze, even the small bells hanging from the arches. I’m not sure how it was built but all I can say is that the craftsmanship is superb. I guess it was like all the other pavilions except instead of wood you got bronze. Again the
green roof tiles made this one of the most environmentally feeling location besides the forest of course.
We all walked down and past the lake through the long corridor to our last stop. The plan was to walk through the museum for one last hooray but we detoured towards a man writing kanji characters in the ground. It might not seem special at first, but this was done with a 4 foot pole, a brush at one end, and a water bottle duct tapped to the other. He was exceptionally skilled and when people approached him he would only yell and make strange “whoosh” sounds. The Perceiving the Spring Pavilion was not as nice as when it would be summer but I if I had to guess this was the best place to get away from all your trouble and worries. The tranquil atmosphere and calming waters were perfect for an evening stroll. The last stop was the museum and it was very short and very closed. It was closing in around 17:00, closing time, so it was a quick walk through and out the door. Luke, and I exchanged number and emails to keep in contact after our
travels. Luke was indeed a great addition and it was again fun to get another opinion on the Palace visit. Thank you for the memories Luke, good luck with your adventures abroad.
Kaori and I hoofed back to our hotel for a quick recharge then headed out to get some “real” Chinese food. We found a place in the apm mall on Wangfujing Street and had a go. Both of us ordered the chicken and duck with rice and both of us were satisfied at the end. I was a little disappointed that the duck had more bone than meat but at least I knew it was real duck rather than taking my chances with street food. Speaking of street food; Kaori and I stumbles through the Wangfujing food street. This is where you can find a whole assortment of different “foods”. For example, its possible to eat, Scorpion on a stick, Ostrich, Shark (I think), sugar boiled fruit, or crickets. Sounds appetizing but I passed on the delicacies. After dinner, Kaori mentioned that we should hit the vendor street for some souvenirs and trinkets shopping. We walked to the stereotypical China street and sure enough it was the
spot for all you souvenir troubles. They had almost everything from toys, lighters, dolls, figurines, watches, purses and more. Kaori was having a lot of fun bartering with the locals since we got such great advice from Tohru and Atsuko Ozaki at the airport. As a rule of thumb, don’t expect to barter at any large stores, corporate chains, or department stores the employees have neither the authority nor incentive to haggle with you. Also, don’t bother trying in a restaurant it doesn’t work except with some street vendors. I would suggest bargaining when shopping for any goods like clothes, gifts, art, jade, but only if it looks like an independently owned business. Sometimes these shops will have a sign proclaiming, “All prices are final”…but it’s not always true. Sometime vendors are going to stick with their price and all you can do is walk away to find it somewhere else. With the help of China Mike and others, here are some basics to get you on the right path to inexpensive gifts. First, don’t feel embarrassed or guilty for haggling. It’s part of the culture and they expect both Chinese and foreign customers to drive a hard bargain. Second,
merchants are professional sellers and they haggle with tons of customers every day. Don’t get too worked up if you still end up paying more than the Chinese price but if you follow these tips, you’ll at least avoid being a total chump. Third, don’t let them “anchor” you with their first price. Sellers love to use a grossly inflated price in order to fool you the customer into thinking that they’re getting a deal after some haggling. It’s especially handy if they say “Ill give you best price”, remember your one of a million daily customers to them. For example, if the lowest price is 30 Yuan, and the starting price is 200 Yuan or more, the best thing to do is barter or just walk away; believe me you will most likely find it somewhere else. Fourth, don’t shop impulsively unless you’re pressed for time. Also take mental notes of other prices you might have seen or heard. Fifth, have a mental max price you are willing to pay for the item before engaging in any bargaining tactics. Sixth, adopt a casual “I could take it or leave” attitude. This makes you a much better and smarter bargain
hunter since you have no real motive to pay too much for any item you wish to have. Finally, keep it all in perspective. How much time, money and energy are you willing to spend on a few items and save a few Yuan? How much do you normally spend in your home country for the same item? Also, remember that these are whole sellers and they get extreme bargain prices from their distributors so again just walk away. To add a personal flavor to this, I can give one example while shopping for a family member. I was approached by the seller and asking “what looks good to you?” I pointed to a flask and asked price. They responded 125 Yuan. I would highly suggest investing in a calculator, it makes bartering so much easier and there is no need for language with numbers. I turned the 125 price down and started with 10 Yuan. You might think that low but keep in mind, the only direction you price is going after your first bid is up. They countered with 60 Yuan, so I knew I had a great chance to get this at any price I wanted. I
stated 20 was the max and they said “no” so I walked away. After walking two steps away, the vendor ran to me grabbing my shirt yelling “OK OK OK 20!” I felt bad when handing the Yuan over but I knew at the same time this is what they are used to and this is the price “they” were willing to accept for the item. Kaori had a similar experience and we both walked away from our shopping happy and more knowledgeable. Arriving back at the hotel we finished up some coffee and talked about our adventures for the next day.
There are more photos below