Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Alcazar.  One of the most beautiful places we visited in Asia.  The gardens were just so calming.  I still wish I had my own pictures but grateful to have some pictures regardless!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 10 - Beijing

Our first stop this day was at the zoo.  What is a trip to China without seeing China's famed pandas!

We saw 5 or 6 of them include one neurotic one pacing his cage.


While at the zoo, Darren and I wandered for a bit and saw this huge pelican on the pond.  I went in to get a picture right when he went to take off and fly.  I think I screamed and jumped!  When he landed he was very close to us.  He was so big!  About 2/3 my height!

Our big tour this day was of the Summer Palace where the emperor spent the summer months.  But we started off with lunch where the waitresses were dressed like the Emperor's Concubine's.  You can't see their shoes but they are these odd platforms with no platform under the toes or the heels.

The palace by the lake was much cooler than the super hot and humid temperatures we had grown accustomed to.   This boat was made to look like the paddle boat's of the Mississippi during a renovation in the 1800's. 

We took a dragon boat across the the man made lake but we didn't actually get to go into the palace.

The views from the other side of the lake.


In the afternoon we visited the Hutong area in Beijing.  The streets are super narrow that many cars wouldn't fit.

But before our our, we climbed the drum tower just missing the drum show.  Here is Darren posing with some of the men on our tour Harry, Bill, Sean and Grant.

No drums were actually hit in the making of this picture!


Then we met up with our riskshaw drivers who took us through the neighborhood.

A Hutong resident opened up her home and told us the story of her family.  Most houses in the area are made up with four houses that surround a central courtyard.  The four homes were occupied by an adult child, the child's parents, and both the child's maternal and paternal grandparents.  Everyone under one roof basically.

Since this was our next to last night on the tour and our Peking Duck dinner.  The food was awesome, the drinks flowed plentifully and we had a great time with our new found friends!  Did I mention there was a lot of fire water??


Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 9 - Beijing

After a very early start out of Xi'an we arrived at Beijing.  Our main attraction this day was the Forbidden City.  God was said to have a palace of 10,000 rooms so the Forbidden City, the Emperor's palace, had 9,999.  The palace had different rooms for the Emperor, Empresses and Concubines.  Concubines did not have the connotation they had today.  They were considered wives but their marriage was due to political reasons.  The Forbidden City was used by the Last Emperor up through 1924.


The building's were ordered by importance by the number of these animals on the peaks of the buildings.  Ten was the maximum and denoted that the building had to do with the Emperor. 

Everything was so ornate.

The Forbidden city is over 800 acres and it took just 14 years to build.  Over 1.2 million people worked on its construction and in 2020 it will celebrate its 600th birthday!

Outside of the Forbidden City is Tien' namen Square.  It is the largerst city square in the world.  Mao's tomb is located in a building within the square as well as many local museums.

 The city's bell tower.

After a bit of rest, Darren and I adventured out on our own towards the night market.  We braved the metro that cost us each 35 cents to ride.  When people compare Southwest Airlines to hearding cattle, they have never been on an Asian metro for sure!  The guy who got on after Darren kept getting his backside slammed in the door as it repeatedly tried to close on him.

The night market was full of street food vendors.  We were not brave and did not eat any of the following items which included scorpions, beetles, sea horses and even friend baby chicks.  Gross!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 8 - Xi'an

Our first stop of the morning was Xinging park to see how adults, especially those of the older generations, get their exercise and socialize.  Some people do Tai Chi but many people dance. The dance is called the "Younger" dance and it is done with fans and umbrellas. I got to participate.  My lady was so nice trying to teach me even with the language barrier we shared.  She and the other women congratulated me after so I must have done a passable job.

From there we went and learned about furniture lacquering and how the Chinese use the Lacquer Tree's natural lacquer which is heat, water and acid proof.  They had a lot of expensive items but this was the priciest of any I saw at $100,000 US dollars.

After lunch we traveled to the Terracotta Warriors, one of the stops I was most looking forward to on our trip!  It is the archeological site of the tomb of China's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi.  It took 38 years and over 720,000 people to build this tomb.


Each soldier was based off a living man who was then later killed.

So far soldiers have been found in three separate pits.  But they weren't all put together link in the pictures.  They were found in a crumpled mess and put together like giant jigsaw puzzle.

It was truely remarkable to see what they were able to do over 2000 years ago.


Posing with one of the replicas in the gift shop.  If I remember correctly they started at $30,000.

This one is a High Ranking Officer.  You can tell by the number of bows he has on his uniform.

To end our day, we took a walk through Xi'an's Muslim neighborhood.  It has some great shopping!

At the far end of the neighborhood was the city's drum tower.