February 23, 2013

Beijing: Day 2

Today proved to be another busy and exhausting day. Although, I think this is a good thing, because I'm pretty sure if left to my own devices I would sit in the room and think about every possible thing that could go wrong in the next few days. At least keeping busy prevents that.


We started the day with breakfast in the hotel again. There is so much there that I realized I didn't even SEE about half of it yesterday. So today I tried the other half! One of the new items today was a pumpkin dumpling which also looked like a pumpkin. Seemed a bit odd, but it tasted good.


First stop this morning was Tianamen square the Forbidden City. To me, this seemed to be to China what Washington DC is to us. There were LOTS of people there, but nearly all of them were Chinese people from other parts of the country. Once again, our group got many stares.





One thing I didn't realize was how HUGE the Forbidden City is. In pictures, you usually see the gate with Mao's picture in the middle. But that is just the first gate of about 7 (or something like that...I have no idea). And each time you go through a gate, it seems like you see the exact same thing on the other side. It was interesting, but I imagine if you were from China and understood the cultural significance of it all, it would probably be more interesting.


Next we took a rickshaw to visit a hutong village. The rickshaw was an experience...some of the drivers were fighting about who was going to get to drive around the blonde-haired people in our group. Our guide is very knowledgeable about Beijing and China in general and has shared many interesting facts about life in modern Beijing, as well as historical Beijing, with us. Hutong villages are traditional homes where four different homes are connected by a courtyard. If you're lucky, your family will own all four homes. If you're not lucky, someone else will own one or more of them and you have to live in extremely close proximity to your neighbors. Less than 20% of people live this way now...most live in apartment buildings.



Our guide led us back through a narrow walkway and knocked on the door. This door has two posts (they call them buttons) above it, signifying the social status of the owner.





The courtyard inside is roughly 30'x30'.




The oldest generation gets the south-facing house. The son gets east or west (I can't remember which) and the daughter gets the other. Servants live in the north-facing one. Each one is basically two rooms which aren't connected; a living room and a bedroom. (this picture is a living room)




A kitchen is sort of tucked in the corner and there is NO BATHROOM!



Yes, that is the kitchen. Makes me very grateful for my kitchen. And here's the crazy part: because of the location of this "house" and the size of the courtyard, if this family were to sell it now, it would sell for about 4.5 million yuan. This is roughly $725,800.


I know. I couldn't believe it either. For the life of me I can't understand why anyone would want to live here! For that price, I would have NO trouble selling and moving just about ANYWHERE else. It was very interesting to see...but I just don't understand I guess.


Next on the agenda was lunch. Our guide led us into a restaurant not far from the hutong village. And the first thing we see when we come in is:




Ummm....yes....that would be snake juice. Actually snake liquor. It was so disgusting I could barely stand to look at it.


On the way back to the hotel we drove through a business district with many interesting buildings.





We had just enough time to grab a coffee at a Starbucks (which is even MORE expensive here than at home) near our hotel before a meeting with our agency's China representative. After that, we went straight back to the bus to go to a Chinese acrobatic show.


It was no Cirque du Soleil, but I think many of the performers were equally talented. There was just much less "show" than something we'd see at home.




This woman was quite impressive. She could bend herself in ways I cannot even imagine!




How many chinese acrobats can fit on one bike...??





Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Nanjing where we will receive Meili the next day. I'm told the smog in Nanjing is worse than Beijing, so I am NOT looking forward to that!! Although our time in Beijing has been great, I can't say I will be sorry to leave. I will be happy to move on to the next step in this journey, and to somewhere just a little warmer.



  1. Such great photos and commentary!! Really enjoying following along. Thank you!!

  2. Great pictures and blogs Virginia and Jon.... I look forward to reading them every day. I particularly look forward to pictures of you with Meili and meeting her in person! Safe travels!

  3. Hopefully your air pollution should be less...Bob just looked up air quality index, Beijing is 432 (bad) and Nanjing is 204 and the last month has been an average 100-150 there. Beijing has been averaging 200, with the worse being 450 last 30 days. Beijing is always the worst. It was actually 700+ the 3rd week in January! Good luck, so close to the day! --Pat