Monday, June 2, 2008

The Olympics, The Wall, The Tomb, Jade and Acrobats (incomplete--check back tomorrow)

So, I am sorry to admit this in writing and all but I didn't know the Olympics would be happening here in Bejing. I mean, I remember traveling a couple of years ago and seeing cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Hong Kong all advertising to be selected as the sites for these up coming Olympic games. But I never really paid attention to who "scored" the Summer 08 Olympic games. I just don't keep track of these things in the village.

But now, with events a mere 45 days away, Bejing is definitely gearing up for the Olympics. I snapped three photos of official Oylmpic buildings. The first on the left here is the building where all swimming and events will take place. The second picture here to the right is the Cycling building.

The last pictures I snapped is of the building they call the Bird's Nest. Kind of cool looking, huh? This is the building where the opening and closing ceremonies will take place.

The tour guides explained that next month they have cancelled all tours of this area and instead are planning to visit the United States. It is sure to be chaotically-crazy. At one point I guess the Chinese government put a cap on how high hotel can charge for their rooms. There was an official edict to prevent the gouging. The new policy is that hotels can NOT charge more than SIX TIMES their normal rate. Way to stick to their guns, huh? Whew!

Another interesting thing I learned in regards to the Olympic Games here in Bejing is that the core of the Gold, Silver, and Bronze metals will have Jade. White, green, and yellow jade will be incased in the gold, silver, and bronze. We went to a jade factory today but I didn't snap any pictures. I did, however, purchase a jade bangle for myself. It was costly, I am not going to lie. But I scored a pretty good deal, I think. I paid about 170 USD less than what it was marked at. I was willing to pay about 80 USD less than what is was marked but my mom is a bargaining champ.

It's a lavender jade with a little splash of green in it. I've had it on since I purchased it and I don't anticipate taking it off. As someone who doesn't wear jewelry my only real issue so far is that I now have my watch on my right wrist. And that's really foreign. Typing is wired. But I suppose with time, I'll get used to it.

So as I said I didn't take a picture of the jade factory but I did snap some shops of another shop we went into. We also went to a cloisonne factory. The workers take tiny strips of metal and manipulate them into swirls and other decorative designs and then attach them to a vase or plate or whatnot. They said a medium sized vase will take about a month to cover with the metal.

It's so precise. So interesting and intricate. I really was impressed with this stage of the art. After the wire work is complete paint is added. It takes 8 to 9 coats of paint. It is then pounded and fired and polished and all shined up to make the completed cloisonne piece. In all honesty, I'm not a big fan. I mean I like the piece with the bronze wire but once it's all painted and glazed, it looks kind of cheesy.

I mean I can appreciate the work but it's just not my thing.

I did buy some other things there in the cloisonne factory. Specifically, I purchased a present for Michelle and her fiance Marc. I hope they like them. If they don't I am SOL because they're specifically made for them.

Today we went to two factories. We watched one stage performance and we visited two tourist attractions. The first was an Emperor's Tomb. The second was the Great Wall.

The tomb we visited was built for the third to the last emperor in the Ming Dynasty. He ruled for 47 years. The two who followed ruled for only a handful of months each. This is said to be the second largest Ming tomb in China. The largest is having problems getting funded. That tomb is said to hold 1/4 of the countries riches and yet they can't find the funding to excavate. Hmm...

This photo to the right here is of our whole tour group. There are 30 of us from all over the United States. All but two of us speak English but most of the travelers are bilingual it seems.

The tomb we visited is surrounded by a garden. The garden had all sort of snap-worthy artifacts like these marble elephant table and chairs. The trees were clearly well cared for. And like in the Forbidden City Garden they trees here had the red and green plates indicating the tree's age.

There were several shops set up to sell good as well. One in particular caught my eye by opening up a variety of umbrellas and placing them around the stand. I was only one of several who found these worthy of a photograph.

With the garden being so immaculately decorated I was really looking forward to seeing the inside of this tomb. We went down about a dozen staircases (about 150 steps) to get to the base of the tomb. We circled around for a while until we got to the main attraction. The main tomb where the famous Emperor was laid to rest.

So there it is on the left there. The tallest red thing is where the emperor was buried. The slightly smaller one is where the Empress is. And those little red boxes were jewelry boxes. The concubines were buried in a different room within the tomb.

Generally speaking it was pretty lackluster down there. I walked back up and out of the tomb more interested in the gardens outside than the actual coffins. Sabrina ran up behind me and asked if I saw the ceiling. She said the staircase we took back up had a decorated ceiling. She asked for my camera and then ran back and snapped this picture on the right. So there it is... frills.

After dinner we went to an acrobatics show. They allowed pictures to be taken and unlike the previous show there wasn't a story to fallow. Just a bunch of "oooo" and "ahhhhh" moments. I didn't like it as much. I mean sure it was nice. Impressive. Picturesque. But... you know... how much of that can one sit through?

Perhaps it's like the difference between Nicole and I with music. I prefer the lyrics. She prefers the melody. I like the artistry but I prefer a storyline in my stage productions.

Regardless, it was pretty so I snapped a ton of pictures. We were in the front row so I found some of it a little too personal. The dragons came right to the edge of the stage at one point and one even barked at me. Eek!

For the most part my dad thought the woman did much more than the men. He was impressed with their components. They did a whole 10 minutes or so with tricks on bikes. A couple of times they did poses with eight woman all balanced on one bike as you can see from the photo on the right. "no hands" was clearly just the very beginning of their act.

There was another group that caught my eye though. Two men in only their boxer shorts came out and flexed their muscles for us for a while. Then they did all sorts of strange isometrics. It was so homoerotic I caught myself wanting to turn away at times to give them their own private time.

Rather than leave though I snapped a bunch of pictures. I mean come on... I pay for this stuff on Showtime back in the states. *sigh* I miss QAF.

Sidebar: Dee-- okay I saw it, David A was sort of QAF's Michaelesque. But I SO preferred Syesha. And when it came down to it I think I liked David Cook better too. He ranked about third for me I think. I thought he sang through his nose. I wanted to reach through the TV and open his mouth open more.

So... that leaves just our visit to the Great Wall. From the entrance there are two ways to travel. Off to the left is said to be the harder journey. There are 7 towers but a more stringent grade. Off to the right there are 8 towers. Kiana, Marissa, and Sabrina ll took the harder, less crowded option. My parents and I went off to the right.

Now here's where I might totally confuse you. Behind the picture of the girls is the trail that they DIDN'T take. The picture of me off to the left actually shows the harder (left) trail that the girls took.

Technically speaking, the picture of me was taken (by myself) half way up the trail on the right. So it's not that they hiked that whole thing pictured. Instead they hiked from the lowest point in the picture to way over past the highest part pictured. The trail apparently wraps down around the far side of that mountain. I wouldn't know first hand, because as I said, I wussed out with the right side.

Not that the right side was a breeze. In fact, I only made it half way. My parents when up to tower seven and barely made it back to the bus in time. I decided getting to tower four (the top of the mountain that is pictured behind the girls) was good enough for me. The views were beautiful. Ands after all, the hike was plenty strenuous up to that point. There were a few in our group that gave up long before tower #4.

So I will probably regret not having gone further. After all, it's not like I have another chance anytime soon. And also, I wasn't exactly smoked at the top of tower four. In fact, I went back from tower four to the main gate without even stopping once. Which means, I had plenty of strength and control left in me. We had about 80 minutes at the Great Wall. Getting to Tower Four took me about 30 minutes. Could I have kept it going? Sure. I probably would have made it to Tower Seven as my parents did. But I don't think I would have made it to the end (Tower Eight) in that time limit.

That is really the drawback in a tour like this, I think. There are some places I just want to spend more time in. And, in all honesty, there are some places I don't want to go to at all.

It's 10:50pm right now. The day AFTER the events I have written about here actually took place. Today we started at 7:00am and we didn't check into our new hotel room until 10:30pm. That sucked. I'm smoked. 

We watched a show again. This one was strictly music and dance. There wore bright colored outfits. Shiny things everywhere. But... I'm tired. Our whole tour group is. The guy in the table next to our was yawning ridiculously loud.

I don't want to be disrespectful. Not at all. But... a few more days like this and I think I will struggle with keeping my attitude in check, you know?


Auntie Kiki said...

Nice update! I love the picture of the artsy-fartsy. You could totally enlarge that and hang it on your wall. Seriously! :-)

So, how many days will you be there? I guess I will have to check your itinerary post... I can understand the frustration of being stuck with the time constraints that accompany tours. That is the reason why I only got to experience the Vatican when in Coliseum, no Spanish Steps, no Trevi fountain. Sigh. I'll bet it would've been amazing to have some "me time" on the Great Wall. It appears to be a pretty amazing wonder.

Ay'atang'aq said...

I think you've been in the Vill too long. There was that whole big news thing on the Olympics being in China.

Wait, where is the pic of your new jewelry? We want to SEE!

Terena said...
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