|From Day 8 - Olympics and Summer Palace|
After breakfast, we went straight to see the Bird's Nest and the Watercube, the sites of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The entire city is very hazy. I'm guessing that it is a mixture of pollution and some element of the climate. Nonetheless, it is difficult to see anything as is evident in the pictures. We just walked around for about 30 minutes. They do offer tours, but we declined. All of us have been inside stadiums before. I'd like to know more before booking a tour.
Our next destination was the Summer Palace, "originally a royal garden and a temporary dwelling palace for emperors of Qing Dynasty." The entire lake was frozen which was pretty cool. People were walking on the lake. We did not dare actually walk on the lake, but we did find a small canal that was completely solid and we played around on it. The summer palace is beautiful and would be even more so in the summer. An interesting highlight was of a rock (the Chinese have a thing for rocks). It was said that the Emperor brought the rock into the palace and the dynasty collapsed. So, it is bad luck to your home, so no pictures were taken. Pretty neat story. The long corridor on the Summer Palace was beautiful as we stood in awe of the hand painted ceiling that stretched for a half of a mile. Amazing.
We then stopped by a Pearl market. They were pearls that are harvested (if that is the word for it) right in the Summer Palace lake. Fairly inexpensive. We went back to this market on the last day where more purchases were made by both families. I can't tell what we bought because someone reading this might receive a present. Will you be that lucky one?
After lunch, we head to Capital Museum Beijing, "a five-storey building allowing for a maximum of 13 concurrent exhibitions." The most interesting of the exhibits for us was the one on the first story which explained many of the customs of the Chinese New Year. We each had our picture taken by our zodiac sign. Eric and Kathy are both snakes, Gary is a horse, and Jamie is a rooster. It was a great museum, but we were tired and probably didn't get out of it what we could have. Certainly something to skip, but it was a decent side trip.
We had dinner at a dumpling place before heading to the Laoshe Teahouse. Built in 1988, it has now become a rather popular spot for tourist and locals to enjoy Chinese shows. The shows we saw included "interpretive tea pouring, a Chinese opera (not what you think), acrobatic show, kung fu show, the long spout tea pourers (I'd just have to explain it to you if you want to learn more information), and finally the best part was the famous Sichuan Face Changing performance. Look it up if you have the time, but it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
The teahouse was an experience as the entire performance was in Chinese. The actual opera part was very different and interesting. Imagine someone coming to the U.S. and watching something the Grand Ole Opry or going to Dollywood. Hard to explain unless you just know what it is.
We were exhausted from the day as the teahouse performance ran late. Great day and rather tiring in what appeared to be a rather relaxing looking schedule.