Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 3 - Off to Xian

We awoke on our final day in Beijing to yet another rainy day.  Spirits were not dampened though, as today we were going to the Beijing Zoo followed by a lunch at hosted by a family in a hutong, and then a flight to Xian, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors.

First up though were pictures of our hotel rooms...

Gravity was optional and we didn't feel like it was worth the extra Yuan.

The first stop was a "Silk Factory" where we got a fifteen minute class in how silk comes into the world, from the Mulberry leaf eating worms

to weaving the finished rugs.
Then we were given some time to shop for rugs.  As we were not in the market for silk rugs, we browsed for a few minutes then sat down and had some tea.  This lasted another hour and fifteen minutes.  It was a little tedious, but the real frustration came later on.

Our next stop was the Beijing Zoo and seeing the Pandas!  Frustratingly though, we were told that to make it to the hutong for lunch we would only have about 30 minutes to see the zoo.  This gave us time to walk through the two panda areas, but not see any of the rest of the zoo.  I was a bit disappointed that we had been sitting in the silk shop for two hours and then only had 30 minutes at the zoo.  As an armchair ethologist zoo's are one of my favorite places.  I can spend hours watching one paddock to note how the animals behave.  But it was just not to be in Beijing.  So we trudged off to see the pandas.  They were very cool bears.

And we had obviously arrived during Nap Time.

I got a couple of little cute stuffed pandas for the kiddos and then it was time to load up and head for the hutongs.

As we disembarked the bus at near the Lingdang hutong into the waiting crowd of street vendors, we noted a long line of bike taxis or cycle rickshaws, waiting for us to board.  We wandered down into the alley and were overwhelmed with the stench of rotting human waste.

Now, as a paramedic I've been subjected to some truly nauseating odors.  I am usually pretty good about tolerating such smells.  But this was unlike anything I had smelled before.  Worse than any GI bleed, rotting fish, four day old vomit smell.  It was decades worth of nasty with little air movement.  We could not load the rickshaws and go fast enough.  Of course, once I saw the big bell tower, we had to get a quick photo.  But then we loaded and were off.

The cycle rickshaws were very interesting.  Mao era to be sure, the guys pedaling them had a unique braking system.  They were the traditional cable brakes found on most bikes, but without the squeeze handle.  To stop, the driver put his foot on the cable and pressed down, causing a slow, squeeky stop in most cases.

We were very happy to get out of the alley of the deathly poo cloud, and by the time we reached the home of the folks who were hosting us, the smell had disappated.  We were led through a series of narrow walkways into the home of our host.  It had two large rooms.  A living room and a bedroom.  Both rooms were cleared and large tables were set up like a little restaurant.  We ate in the bedroom and a couple of the tourist sat on the bed, which had not been removed.

The lunch was excellent!  In many ways simpler than other meals, but also with more flavor.

Our host answered questions after the meal.  Topics ranged from life in China to recipies for the dishes we had just eaten.  This is her and Jimmy.

After a cycle rickshaw ride back past the Drum Tower (there's always a Bell Tower and a Drum Tower) to Smelly Alley, we boarded the buses and headed for the airport.

I've only boarded planes this way in the Marines. 

 But the plane had lots of space, friendly and pretty flight attendants, and interesting in flight snacks consisting of some sort of pickled meat.

When we landed in Xian, we headed first for a quick supper.  This was our first taste of lotus root cooked in a citrus sauce.  It was Very tasty!  The lotus are the little orange wagon wheels.

Then to the Xian Sheraton hotel, which was very posh, and also had a swimming pool!  Sleep came easily and I was looking forward to seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors the next day.

More Later

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