On a train from Beijing to Louyang
Right now it is insane – the fifteen people from our group plus the tour guide are jammed into four compartments, Carriage number 11, on train K611 from Beijing nach – I don’t know or care. I am tired and it is 2230 in the evening.
I am the wet blanket, sitting quietly on a lower bunk, ignoring the party out in the corridor. They have alcohol. I have a killer of a headache. They seem to be having a great time. Me?
Whine mode off.
This morning was fine – we packed ourselves out of the hotel and onto the bus after an excellent breakfast.
I am knitting while we are under way on the bus – between attempting to take pictures out the window. Our tour guide does not know the meaning of quiet, so it was left George to uphold the family honor and play a couple of memory games while under way. The kids were sleeping or reading.
Our first stop on the way was “the Ming Gardens with 435 steps up to the highest pavilion. After yesterday, this was child’s play. We hiked rapidly up, I took a ton of pictures with both the regular lens and my new 55-200 mm lens. There were plants, we have pictures of those was well.
I did not succeed in getting the small birds – they were just too fast. The high point on the mountain over looked the Imperial Palace. And an amazing number of tiled roof tops are involved.
From there, we went to the Institute Medical Plant Development, which is part of their Chinese Medical Institute. They specialize in traditional medicine and botanical preparations. We saw a small part of the main of their four gardens, then experiences a foot/leg massage. The students who came and treated the group are so young. I really think that none of them were older than our Nina. A traditional doctor also did pulse diagnosis on everyone and they offered a variety of medicines based on the diagnosis. We skipped purchasing anything. Making it 1430 by the time we arrived at lunch, starving all of us.
From there, we traveled to the Summer Palace; first walking around a section of the grounds after taking a dragon boat across the Kumning Lake. The lake was built in order for the Emperor of the time to plan and practice an invasion. Nice military bit, but nothing left for war machinery, only a decorative marble Dragon Boat.
The last stop before dinner was along one of the Ring Roads – either 4 or 5 where you could see the new Olympic Stadium. Designed and executed by a Swiss firm, it is called The Bird’s Nest. The reason for the name is fairly obvious.
Dinner was at a multiple star restaurant. I can’t tell, the food is all the same to me (vegetable, another vegetable, scrambled egg with tomato and rice). This area of China does bland food. There seems to be a fair number of pork dishes on the non-edible list.
Boarding the tour bus, we headed to the train station, hauling our bags through the security point (fastest scanner in the world – I am willing to bet it would have to be pretty big and obvious before they would see it. OTOH, you could just keep your weapons on you, since they don’t check the people, just the luggage. Perhaps to make sure no one is riding for free).
Couple of other specious comments, and information points for you:
1) Toilets. They are otherwise known as the Hall of Harmony. They are rated from 1 to 7 stars. One is an outdoor hole or slit trench. Two would also be outside, but have an enclosure with doors. Three is the same, inside a fixed building. Four has stalls inside the fixed building. It is not till five that you get running water. That means flushing and handwashing. With six and seven – well – hell – six gives you your choice of western or foot pad (but ceramic) toilets and even has toiler paper (till it runs out). At seven – you have western style toilets, running water, soap, a blow dryer plus attendant who has high expectations of Yuan.
2). Censorship is alive and well in China. When we arrived in Beijing there was a printed apology stating that there was not availability of TV between midnight and 0630 (the day we arrived and for the next two nights), due to bad weather. I didn’t think much about it until George was on line reading newspapers (Frankfurt and München), spotting the front page criticism of China and human rights in regards to the Olympics. Now, how gullible are we? That convenient weather problem means that prime time in Europe can’t be seen in China, since that corresponds to the six hour time difference. Guess we won’t be watching CNN, BBC etc. At least the English language is accounted for. Can’t block everything, which is why George was reading the German papers.