Today was our first full day in China. Instead of heading straight home we decided to stopover in China for a few days to break up our trip. After arriving early in the morning at our hotel we crashed for the night. It was rather difficult to get up early but we had to eat before the dining room closed breakfast at 9:30am. For that reason alone we decided that we would start our day at that time.
Our tour Guide Sandy met us at our hotel at 9:30 but as usual, our family of 9 was a bit hard to get going. I don’t think we actually left the hotel until at least 10am. Everyone was dragging their feet and feeling a little sluggish after a long the night before.
Our first stop was to visit the world’s largest square, the 43 hectare Tienanmen Square. There were metal detectors and security personnel at every entrance to the square making sure to ensure the safety of everyone that went there. Due to a few incidents in the past and one very recently it appeared that security was being taken very seriously. All of the locals were getting looked over very carefully but our tour guide simply had us bypass the security stand and walk right in.
It was a long walk through the square and there was not much to see other than lots of street vendors trying to sell us everything from warm hats to Chinese flags and trinkets.
We walked through the square and directly across a busy street to the entrance of the Summer Palace. By this time Teyauna was already getting a bit tired and so I pulled her up on my shoulders. This was kind of too bad considering we still had a one hour walk through the Summer Palace ahead of us. As we walked into the front gate we were sure to rub the gold knobs on the front doors for good luck. The higher the knob and the more you rub, the better luck we would have.
It was interesting to listen to the history of China through our guide Sandy over the next few hours. She helped us understand the culture and history of the Emperors and now Chairman who have ruled China over the years. We were able to look at the old Emperor thrones, intricately carved buildings and hear about the meaning of the various animal carvings on the pointed roofs.
It seemed like we quickly became celebrities as we walked around the various attractions with our family. Girls and sometimes guys asked to take photos with Alyssa and her beautiful curly blond hair. Others wanted a photo with Teyauna’s blond locks or most popular of all was our little Zakary. People could not resist him. It was rather amusing to see people walking in front of us so that their family or friend could take a photo of them with us in the background. They were trying to be rather sneaky and at first I thought it a coincidence but after it continued to happen over and over and over again, I realized that these people were wanting a photo with our family in the background. It must have happened no less than 20 to 30 times throughout the day and we told our Guide that it was OK as we did find it rather flattering. For a country who had lived in a one child policy philosophy for thirty years, seeing a family of nine seemed to really blow people away. Only a week or two however a new law came into effect allowing people in China to have two children if either the mother or father were an only child.
After descending the back steps to the Summer Palace we walked along the mote by the back door. Our next stop was to take a rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of an area of old city streets with one storey buildings. Only two people could fit on a rickshaw and so we needed five (one for our guide) to wind us around the narrow streets. The rickshaw drivers pedalled us around until we arrived at our lunch location. Lunch was to be served at someone’s home in the old part of the city. Our guide had called ahead and so the food was already being prepared and was ready with fresh food that even Eli (our 10 year old with food allergies) could enjoy. We had 6 or 7 traditional dishes that we all helped ourselves to in a small little room of nicely decorated cement walls. The houses in this small town area of the city are now protected as much of the old city homes have been destroyed in the name of development. Old homes have been bulldozed down for the Olympic stadium and water cube clearing out the history of may old buildings. Fortunately parts of the city are now protected from further development but the homes in these areas are worth a great deal of money due to the cost of land in the city.
Following our meal, our hostess showed us her living room and antiques that her husband has collected. There was an cabinet and some calligraphy writing that were one to two hundred years old. We even listened to a traditional Chinese harp as she strummed on the instrument for us.
It was an incredible way to spend our lunch and we said goodbye with full stomachs and smiles on our faces. Our rickshaw drivers were still waiting for us outside and we piled back in and bundled up under blankets for the ride through the streets and back to our bus.
We arrived back at our hotel around 3pm with enough time to have a short two hour break. Although it would have been great to have a longer rest it did the trick. Enough time to get online and catch up on some emails with a slow internet connection. Unfortunately many things are blocked in China much to my kids’ disappointment (including facebook and youtube).
After a rest we headed off for a show in the evening. The plan was for a Kung Fu show at the Red Theatre. We grabbed a few groceries while we waited and then sat down and waited for it to begin. This show was the most incredible thing ever. It was a story about a boy and how he left his mother in search of enlightenment and understanding. It explained how he studied Kung Fu and meditated not to fight, but to learn how to protect and strengthen his character. It mixed incredible acrobatics and one of the highlights were when various objects were broken such as metal plates over foreheads, kicking bamboo in half and sledgehammering concrete while a man laid on another man with only a bed of nails in between them. It was an incredible sight to see and the contortions, moves and strength of the performers left us in awe. It was an unforgettable experience for the entire family.
Late in the evening we finally pulled into our hotel room. Exhausted, we dropped in our beds and were quickly off to sleep.