It was our first day and we were up and ready quite early in the morning. The shower pressure was good, but they had posted not to drink water from the tap. Bottles of water were offered instead.
We headed downstairs for breakfast (We are staying at King Wing Hot Spring Hotel) and saw that they had some Western style food options for breakfast. Ms. A had some fun exploring and tasting from many of the Chinese dishes. Her beverage of choice was peach juice. I stuck with some toast, fried eggs, and a plate of watermelon. The labeled “orange juice” resemble our version of Sunny Delight and Hubby said the coffee was very strong, almost French press like. I grabbed a few extra pieces of bread to take back to the room to make PButter sandwiches… Just in case.
Dion meet us in the lobby promptly at 9:30 and into the minibus we went. The traffic is INSANE! I tried not to look, but there were several occasions I thought we would hit a pedestrian or a cyclist.
First stop was Tiananmen Square. We went through a security station and then entered the square. At one end was Chairman Mao Memorial Hall were his body laid for viewing. It is only open on certain days and the line can be unbelievable long. In the center was the Monument to the People’s Heroes and at the other end, across a fourteen lane road was the entrance to the Forbidden City. This is the road we see on television when they broadcast military parades. What I found interesting were the fire extinguisher placed strategical in certain areas. I guess they had some episodes of protesters setting themselves on fire…
We went underground to cross the road and went through another checkpoint to enter the Forbidden City. The buildings were breathtaking. Each courtyard flowed into another. There was such deeper meaning behind the placement of the roads, doors, statues. At one point it seemed endless. We also saw some winter traces of beautiful gardens.
After walking an hour in the frigid cold. (Our guide told us this has been the coldest it has been in the last 30 years… Lovely!) We were brought to a “local restaurant” for lunch. Lots of veggies, fried rice, cashew chicken, beef in a tomato sauce, and duck that you add toppings to make like a mini fajita. It wasn’t bad. A bit greasy, but I survived.
The bus driver, who ate lunch with us, severed us what to eat, and spoke no English, wanted us to meet his buddy who sold silk. I really don’t think we had a choice, so off to the silk factory we went. They gave a wonderful presentation on the silk worm, harvesting the silk, and then the making of their products. Then the sales pitch began. Our tour guide saved us by telling them we would look around and directed us to the store. He then whispered to me that this was a state run store, so the prices were high. We managed to get out without anything being bought.
Next, we went to the Pearl Market. It reminded me of a huge flea market several stories high. Each floor was organized by product. This is the place were you barter and this is were you would find all the knock offs. Dion took us to his friend who sold jewelry and I selected a few things. Only after my purchases were made, he told me that I needed to do a better job bartering and then gave me some tips. Great.. I just got ripped off. I tried again for a little dragon for Mr. D and was told that I did better. Finally I got it, when I bought matching silk dresses for both Ms. A and Little Dragon for a total of 20 dollars. They started at 60 dollars each. I even walked away from the vendor and they called me back. Dion gave me an OK sign, so I know I did good.
I was not prepared for all the calling out to me and Ms.A. Vendors yelling at me to give them a price. At one point several women had hold of my arms and would not let me go. Hubby and Dion were walking behind watching us, so I knew not to worry, but that pissed me off. I gave an elbow jab and grabbed Ms. A and moved on.
We ended our shopping trip at McDonalds. Coffee for the guys, soda for me, and milk shake for Ms.A.
The driver took us back to our hotel and off to bed we went.
Tomorrow is the Great Wall and we were advised to dress warmly.