As some of you are aware, I was in China last week. My sister and I decided that our husbands could manage for a week without us and we took our first "sister's vacation." After many recommendations, tips, and suggestions (I can't believe how many of you have been to Beijing), I was going to email some of you about my trip, but decided to post an entry instead.
I LOVED China so much and our trip exceeded any expectations that we had. My sister Kate and I went with a group of twenty-two. Eighteen of our group were women, and we had our tour more or less "custom made." More than half of our group had been to Beijing before, and therefore, we knew the places to shop for pearls, clothing, and accessories without having to barter. We did do a little shopping in other markets just so we could partake in the Olympic sport of "bartering" - otherwise known as "because you my friend... special price... just for today!"
In the above picture, which I'm sure many of you could come up with a "caption...." We did our pearl shopping at the Pearl Market and this is a picture of Karen (who was just beautiful), working on some of the things we had made. I did take Ginger Foust's advice and purchased quite a few silk cushion covers at silk market for our Staging business. They are just beautiful - Thanks Ginger!
I found Beijing just amazing!! It was so different from what I had imagined it would be like. I can say that it is the cleanest city that I have ever seen!! I'm sure this is due in large to the Olympics being held there next year. I did not see so much as a candy wrapper in the streets. The others on our tour that had been to Beijing previously told us that the changes were staggering. The little lanes and alleys near the markets have all been paved, and many shrubs and flowers have been planted and the major roads are beautiful to drive on and the architecture was amazing.....
*note: if I had to pick one word to describe travelling on the major city roads, it would be "terrifying!" - yikes!! The drivers are unbelievably aggressive - the taxi's cost next to nothing!
You can probably tell from our photos that we were fortunate enough to have fantastic weather! The great wall was both what I expected and also not what I expected. The stairs were enormous! As our group started up the steps with the other visitors - I quickly decided after about a 30 yard vertical climb, that I was not going to cave into peer pressure to go higher and higher. Living in Arizona and often going weeks without encountering a step, I knew I would pay dearly if I continued. So I told my sister to take lots of pictures, and I waited with the other wimps for the heartier to return. The next day I just smiled a sympathetic smile as they complained about their aching legs and thought "thank God!"
I had a business suit and a couple of blouses custom made as did many others in our tour. I would most definitely recommend having this done. I also had three pairs of prescription glasses made, - they just took the prescription from my glasses that I was wearing. I had my doubts - but my new glasses are all fantastic!! We had great fun shopping and just seeing the city. We drove past many Olympic sites and wondered how the athletes would deal with the quality of air. The city is going to shut down the factories for a whole month before the Olympics take place!
The day I enjoyed most, was last Saturday when we went to the Temple of Heaven. There is a very large park there and we saw all the people in the park enjoying music, dancing, games, and doing their Tai Chi - which is much harder than it looks! I was quickly approached by a lady selling her "hacky sack-like feather thingies" for next to nothing, so I bought a few..... thanked her and moved on. Approximately 10 minutes later, I was approached by the same lady again........I showed her my "hacky-sack like things in my purse and pointed to her to indicate that I had already purchased some from her and she smiled, bowed and moved on. No less than another 10 minutes later, I was approached by her a third time........ my sister and I laughed and I told our tour guide about this. She discreetly put her hand to her mouth and said very quietly - "you must undastand, in our culture, you people all look very similah!" HAHA that was SO funny!
When we went to the Forbidden City, there were many many tour groups made up of Chinese people. I'm certain that many of these groups were from rural areas and that many of these people had never encountered Caucasian people. We were astounded at the way many of these people stared blatantly at my blond haired, blue-eyed sister. She was quite uncomfortable at first almost a little upset, but then she got used to it, and we would sometimes laugh at their lack of tact. They would stare and stare...and as they were walking past, their heads would keep turning as they continued to stare with puzzled looks on their faces..... if she smiled at them, they would not smile back........it was most odd.
But I have to say that we were treated very kindly and respectfully by the Chinese people. They are a hard-working people take great pleasure from the simple things in life. We learned quite a few phrases that we practiced often. I'm sure that many of you will agree that if you make an attempt to communicate in the native language, you will be met tenfold with helpfulness! Likewise, the girls in the market (who I must admit we just fell in love with..... they have nothing....and yet are so so happy and take delight in the most simple things)....anyway, they just love being told how well they speak english. They learn english by working in the market 7 days a week.
In short........I would just like to say that if you EVER get the opportunity to go to China......you MUST go!! I loved every minute!!! (okay........that's a lie.......I didn't love it when our Taxi driver mistakenly took us to the Summer Palace instead of the Silk Market......but still...)