China: Day Two in Beijing

(Typed all day on my iPad)

March 15th

I slept like a baby last night. Thank goodness! Sleep is always a good way to help acclimate to a new time zone (or in our case – zones!). After a very quick breakfast in the restaurant, we took the bus to a nearby pearl factory. I was never fond of pearls until my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful pair of diamond and pearl earrings as a gift when John proposed. Now, I love them. Go figure! The market had a wide variety of colors and jewelry settings. I picked up a few items as gifts and enjoyed watching my friends and tour companions bargain and shop.

Afterwards, we made a quick drive over to the Summer Palace. The Palace is a World Heritage Site and is considered a masterpiece of landscape design.  The property features a giant lake, hills, pagodas, temples, bridges and pavilions to explore. Although it was very cold outside, I found the walk to be very beautiful and peaceful.

After our walk, we drove to the Hutong district of Beijing. The Hutong area is the “old” part of Beijing and is home to the traditional way of living in China. We ended up taking brief rickshaw tours of the area and having lunch in the home of a local family. We ended up at the Wong residence and had our food prepared by Mr. Wong, a former chef. He prepared the most amazing meal of the trip. Dumplings, cabbage, pork, vegetables and chicken were just a few of the dishes he served. He also prepared an amazing carrot dish that wowed everyone. We aren’t exactly sure what was in the carrots, but I would guess it included ginger, garlic and turmeric. Either way, it was delicious and the meal was a highlight of the trip.

After the meal, we rode over to Tiannamen Square and did a bit of exploring on foot. This was another surreal experience. In addition to being in a spot of such historical significance, the area also surprised many of us by its level of surveillance. In addition to various military personnel on foot, there also a tremendous presence of video/camera surveillance. While some of this was due to ongoing government meetings, much of it is due to the culture there.

After the Square, we continued walking and ended up in the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty and features elaborate and expansive spaces and buildings.The scale of this site is almost too large to describe. Everything is ornate and perfect – pristine, even in the presence of thousands of tourists and groups.

After our long walk, we headed over to a famous Chinese Pharmacy.  While at the Pharmacy, we were able to meet one-on-one with doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I was really looking forward to this part of the trip caused because I am very open to alternative forms of a medicine. With a goal of living a healthy and balanced life, I realize that there are multiple roads to wellness and happiness and would include TCM alternatives in my options.  After a brief consultation, my doctor identified several areas of concern and suggested several remedies, including Chinese herbs. With an open wallet mind, I purchased a few of the recommendations.  For those of you who are concerned, I plan on running these by my doctor before taking them.  Regardless of what my doctor says, I think this was a great experience.

A food market was located just outside of the Pharmacy and we were able to peruse it after our Pharmacy visit. What we found shocked most of us. In addition to traditional dumplings and fruit, many vendors had more exotic offerings.  Scorpions, dog meat, starfish and various penises were on the menus, along with snakes and exotic eels.  If you are wondering, I did not partake in any of the items there.  I am not usually a fan of buying food off the street unless I am in NYC and the item I am buying is a hot dog or pretzel!

After the food market, we made our way to a traditional Peking Duck dinner. However, after looking at everything offered at the market I wasn’t hungry. Go figure. I tasted the duck (it was tasty), but skipped almost everything else.

Travel Confessions

  • I love duck and was sad that my appetite was suppressed by the food market.
  • I miss John!
  • Almost everyone who has been on this trip has lost weight. I can see why!

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