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Published: September 24th 2005
In the Hutong
Our parade of rickshaws!
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 Weather: another fine day. Temperature: still hot.
Today we complete our tour of the Capital of China, Beijing, and fly to our next city, the former Capital of China, Xi'an.
After another spectacular breakfast at the Beijing Hotel we began our day at a slightly later hour. We boarded our bus at about 9:30 a.m. for a short ride to one of the older sections of town. As we left the bus we were assigned by couples to a pedicab and cautioned to remember the number. As previously mentioned, a pedicab is what used to be called a "rickshaw" when it was pulled by a man on foot but in this modern age they now have a bicycle front and are called a pedicab by those who are politically correct. At a later time when we sought to hire a pedicab to transport us in Tibet the operators competing for our business referred to themselves as "rickshaw!"
When everyone was seated our convoy of 12 pedicabs proceeded in a line into the back streets of the Hutong. It was quite interesting to watch what was going on in the everyday life in the city.
Along the way we stopped for a pre-arranged home visit with Mrs. Mu who offered us tea and some small snacks and candies. Her home is part of a quadrangle where several families live. Her living room where we were received was spotless and numerous small stools were provided for our comfort. In one corner of the room was a modern TV set! The people living in the Hutong are not as crowded as they used to be as many of the younger generation have moved to the high rise apartments in the city or suburbs. It is now mostly the older generation who prefer to remain with their friends. The Hutongs are owned by the State, as is all other real estate, so when the State determines that the site of the Hutong would make a nice place to build a high rise office building or apartment the current residents are relocated, usually to more modern apartments of a size similar to their residence in the Hutong or if they wish a larger place they may pay an additional fee to the State for the better accommodations. This additional fee is well below market value and, in addition, they are given monetary compensation. The way it was described sounds fair but it is difficult to know if it actually works out that way. It was made clear that there is no negotiating with the State. Some Hutongs are being preserved as part of the history of the country.
Following the home visit we returned to our pedicab and were taken to the commercial center to window shop some stores and to shop with the street peddlers before returning to the bus. Then we made the obligatory visit to a silk rug manufacturing plant where we received a demonstration of the art of rug making. It appeared to us to be no different than the similar obligatory stops that we have been subjected to in Turkey, India and Thailand. Some of our group actually purchased some silk carpets.
Upon returning to the bus we were taken to a restaurant for yet another Chinese lunch of numerous dishes spinning around on a lazy susan. These lunches and dinners have begun to run together in the memory because they are so much alike. We then proceed to Beijing Capital Airport for our flight to Xi'an on China Eastern Airlines. The flight was on an Airbus 319 that left on time for the 90 minute trip. I was not previously aware that so many seats could be crowded into the coach section of an airplane! Thank heavens the flight was so short and was uneventful.
Upon arrival in Xi'an we were met by a local guide who worked with our tour escort, Ping, to secure our luggage and see to it that it was all accounted for and loaded onto a truck to be taken to our hotel, the Shangri-la. Our rooms had already been assigned and we were provided with room keys and baggage tags at the airport. As we identified our luggage we attached our tags showing our room number to expedite the delivery of the bags to our rooms once they reached the hotel. This was a super idea that we had not seen done previously on any of our many tours over the years. By the time that we reached the hotel it was about 5 p.m. and we were scheduled to leave the hotel for our dinner and Tang Dynasty Show at 6:30 p.m. The bags came promptly providing us with time to freshen up and rest for a few minutes before returning to the bus for yet another Chinese dinner.
All of our fellow group members remained punctual and promptly at 6:30 p.m. we headed by bus to the Tang Dynasty Theater and dinner show. This is clearly a tourist attraction where we sat at long tables perpendicular to the stage to both dine and watch the show. All that I can report about the dinner was that it was more of the same. Many groups filled the house and all were pleased by the show that began about 8:00 p.m. and lasted a little over one hour.
This may be a good point to mention something the appears to be common among all of the places where we have dined both for lunch and dinner. As part of the meal each guest is offered one, and only one, choice of beverage. You may select a Coke, Sprite, sometimes beer or bottle of water. If you finish it and want more that is not possible. If you wish to purchase a glass or bottle of wine you may do so and I am sure that they will sell you as many as you wish to purchase. Just don't ask for a second bottle of water as they are not programmed to deal with that!
We were back to the hotel before 10 p.m. Most of the group were tired from the days activities and retired to their elegant and comfortable rooms in this five star hotel to prepare for the next day.
Next: The Terra Cotta Warriors and the trip to Chengdu.
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