Published: August 28th 2009August 25th 2009
The Summer Palace
Not so summery today!!!
Day 5, Wednesday, August 19
Today it is raining and Lucy and Mr. Ran meet me at the normal time. However, I have to check out of the hotel and we don’t get on the road till around 10.15am. I’m a little put out as I will not be able to shower again before catching the train to Xi'an.
Even with the rain, the summer palace is still bustling with tourists and umbrellas are everywhere. Work started on this site in the 1600’s, but the buildings were destroyed by foreign powers twice in the mid 1800’s and again in 1900. Lucy explains that the Empress Dowager Cixi imprisoned the Emperor (her nephew) at the Summer Palace when he wanted to make reforms within China. Many years later, she offers him tea as a “let’s be friends again” and he is dead the next day. How true this is, I don’t know. Anyway, it is a place of great beauty and situated beside a lake. I think that it would be stunning on a sunny day.
I haven’t seen blue skies since arriving and constantly joke with Lucy about Beijing and the grey/brown sky. She defends Beijing and tells
Paintings in Long Corridor at Summer Palace
Supposedly the longest corridor in the world is at the Summer Palace. Paintings adorn the beams and ceilings.
me that there are days when the sky is blue. “It is just the Western media that tell of constant smog.” After the rain, I see touches of blue, but with a city of 16 million people I think that it is very unlikely that the blue will stay around for long.
Lucy suggests that we go to Olympic Park and off we go. Supposedly around 50,000 Chinese visit the park on a daily basis and this is a year after the games. It is truly impressive as is the 50RMB (US 7.50 or NZ 11.00) entrance fee to look at an empty stadium. I wonder when they will have it paid off….. This is followed by a foot massage at the local Natural Medicines Center and well earned I may add.
Now it is time for my personal favorite of the day, a visit to the silk road, "fakes mall" and a chance to hone up on my bargaining skills. This is an experience not for the faint-hearted and I enter the plaza in anticipation. Immediately, I am accosted with “you want Polo”, I respond, “no just looking”. After walking up and down the aisles it is time
to try for a Tommy Bahama shirt, “How much?” the response is “580 Rmb” , I respond with “too much”, the seller responds with “how much you want to pay”. I offer around 50rmb and raise to around 75, but no sale. This gives me a baseline and it’s off to the next seller, eventually I bag fake Tommy Bahama shirts for between 100-120 Rmb about US $15.00. I leave the “fakes” mall with my purchases and join Lucy and Mr. Ran for one final meal. Then it’s off to Beijing West Railway Station for the overnight train to Xi'an (pronounced She-han as far as I can make out).
The sleeping car is shared with a Spanish couple that arrived in Beijing on the train from Moscow. Pedro is a self-proclaimed train nut and recommends the journey as long as you have plenty of time to stop along the way. However, his opinion of the Russian people leaves much to be desired. The other occupant of the sleeping car is a Chinese man who leaves us as soon as we get a little loud and break out the beer. I finally dig around in my bag for “Kevvies Little
Helper” , pop a pill and get some sleep. By the time I wake up we are about 1 hour from Xi'an.
Day 6, Thursday, August 20
I’m met by my new guide, Jessica and whisked into town to my hotel. An hour for breakfast and a shower and then we are on the road to the Terracotta Warriors which is an archeological site around 40km outside of Xi'an. This is the reason for my trip to Xi'an and I must say it is well worth the effort. Again the hordes of Chinese tourists; this is almost as bad as a trip to the Rugby World Cup. They have excavated three pits of life size 1.8 meter warriors who were meant to protect the dead emperor. A local farmer digging a well first discovered a clay head in 1974 and now has a life-long job signing museum books. I think that this new job is far more lucrative than farming. As far as the dead emperor is concerned, supposedly, the Chinese Govt. has not excavated the burial mound for fear of disturbing his feng shui. The covered pits contain different types of warriors as well as chariots, horses, officials,
Somewhere to sit!!!
acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Each warrior has a different face and they contain features from the seven provinces unified by the first emperor in the Qin "Chin" dynasty. My photo’s don’t do justice to the size of the army.
After lunch, we visit the emperor’s bath house (Tang Dynasty). The bath house has been rebuilt after being burnt down some time in the past. There is very little original here except for the bath used by the emperor and the bath used by his favorite concubine who later hanged herself for the benefit of China (poor girl). This is another story and should be looked up on the Internet. My favorite pool is the chef’s pool where overworked chef’s got to bathe in discarded water from the emperor’s pool. I wonder whether there was any payback when fixing his food.
Then it is back to the hotel for a freshen-up, followed by dinner at a tourist restaurant (I’m getting a little tired
Myself and Lucy later cruise the lake on one of these.
of tourist Chinese food). Later in the evening I take a walk through the night time Muslim market where the smells of kebabs assault my senses. I may be back tomorrow for dinner and some hard bargaining.…
Day 7, Friday August 21
The next day is slow, Jessica and driver pick me up for a trip to the Xi'an museum. Shaanxi Province is the birthplace of the ancient Chinese civilization. Xi'an City was the capital city in thirteen dynasties which in total lasted over 1100 years. Consequently, the ancient history of Shaanxi is pretty much the ancient history of China. Xian is the start of the Silk Road that opened up Chin to trade with countries such as Persia, Afghanistan, India and others. The exhibits at the museum lead you from prehistoric man through to the various dynasties, Qin (Chin), Tang, Han and Ming. Bronze relics, pottery, porcelain, glassware, and Buddha’s abound. There is also a collection of terracotta soldiers that you can get pretty close too. Over 2000 years of civilization in 3 exhibition halls. As with most museums it all becomes a blur on a whirlwind tour, still, I’m lucky to have picked up a little
The Birds Nest
knowledge . Unlike Lucy’s easy way, Jessica is more intense and always seems to be working to schedule with no deviation from the master plan.
It’s 11.50 and we race to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda for the 12.00 water show set to music. It’s an outdoor venue and the place is packed, fountains shoot water 20ft in the air and Chinese try and get their pictures taken without getting wet.
Our last stop of the day is the City Walls. Xi'an has had a city wall for many hundreds of years and the present wall was started in 1370 and is the only complete city wall in China. The wall runs for 13 km and you can hire a bicycle to ride around it, now this sounded good and I was ready for the experience, but the clouds opened up and it began to rain. There are four main towers, North, South, East and West with a number of archery towers every few hundred meters. The main tower that I was in housed a wonderful antique shop, mainly furniture and the prices were pretty reasonable, but alas my luggage allowance could not accommodate.
I skipped the
More Family Photo's
tourist menu for evening meal and headed back to the Muslim Quarter and world famous in China, Fa Dong Dumpling Restaurant. Good fun, cheap beer and a very nice Chinese lady who didn’t speak a word of English showed me how to eat the dumplings. The place was packed.
A little shopping in the Muslim Market and then it's back to the hotel for a final night's sleep before heading to Shanghai and on to London.
Day 7, Saturday, August 22
Today, I am heading to Shanghai. I am picked up at the hotel at 11.30 am and taken for a Chinese Hot-Pot lunch. This is a cook-it your-self affair with vegetables and meat that you cook in a pot of boiling water; the final broth is then eaten as a soup. After this I am whisked off to the airport and put on the plane for Shanghai. The flight is with East China Airlines and takes about 2 hours.
After picking up my luggage I get a taxi to the Shanghai Airlines Travel hotel which is situated on the airport boundary. The taxi driver races out of the airport and it becomes immediately transparent that he
is lost ( this happened the last time in Shanghai as well), anyway what was supposed to be an eight minute ride turned into a twenty minute wild-mouse experience. Again, the hotel is nice and I actually get to eat in the restaurant and pick my own choices from the menu. Such joy!!!!!
As an observation, the majority of cars on the road in China are all foreign, certainly VW and Audi are very well represented. It was a very rare thing to see a Chinese car.
China - The End
Things I liked about the China Trip
My guide, Lucy, a wonderful girl, enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable.
The hotel rooms
More than 2000 years of history and everything I saw that represented over 2000 years
The friendliness of the people
The feeling of being safe when walking around in the evening
The cheapness of everything from clothes to beer
Having my feet massaged
Things I dislike
Crossing the road
The car horns
Silk worm on a stick
My fat gut
The smog and low cloud
The hordes of people
The tourist menu’s
Pushing & Shoving
There are more photos below