Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 2: Beijing Tours: Rickshaw/Hutong, Silk Factory, Tiennamen Square/Summer Palace, Snack Street

We are really enjoying China. The people are so friendly and even though there are so many people in general (I am usually a phobic against crowds), the trip has been really enjoyable. I am loving this time to experience Lee's culture and country of birth. I hope we can bring him back when he is older so he can make memories of it all for himself. Today we went on a rickshaw tour of the Hutong area of Beijing. In ancient times, this is where the emperor’s officials would live. There is no plumbing in this area, so the younger generation does not desire to live here. Most of the original Hutong homes were demolished, and apartments were placed there instead. The government left a few homes to remind the younger generations of where the older generations came from. We were able to visit one of the homes. There are 4 sides to the home, or 4 buildings with a center courtyard. The owner of the courtyard sat down and chatted with us about his home. The courtyard was really peaceful. After visiting the traditional courtyard, we continued the rickshaw ride to the river and throughout Hutong. Once we were done with the rickshaw ride, we visited a government ran silk factory. It was neat to see the life cycle of the silk worm. The worm hatches and grows for, I believe it was 25 days. The worm gets really big, and then begins to spit out a long silk strand, making a silk cocoon around it’s body. When it emerges from the cocoon, it is a moth with wings. The bigger moths are the females and the smaller ones are the males. An interesting tidbit, as the worm spits out the silk thread, it begins to shrink. The moths bite their way out of the cocoon, which destroys the silk thread, so the factory boils the cocoons after they are made, killing the worm inside. Then they soak the cocoon in water to loosen the strand. When they find the end of the thread, they hook it up to a machine that unwinds it from the cocoon and wraps it on a spool. Any silk object can be made from this thread. Now sometimes, two silk worms will join together and make a single cocoon. When this happens, it is difficult to find both ends of the silk threads, so the cocoon is stretched open over a loop, and then again over a bigger loop, and then they stretch the silk out over the area of a quilt. The silk from a double cocoon is used for batting for quilts, etc… After the silk factory tour, we went to lunch at a local restaurant. I had my first experience with a squatty potty. It was gross. The squatting isn’t the bad part, but the floor is covered in urine. Definitely a sobering experience. Once lunch was over, we continued on foot to Tianneman Square. While taking a picture in front of the General Mao photo, we were hijacked by a little girl. It was quite funny. I have seen people post about Americans being celebrities around here because they have never seen a caucasian person before. So they will ask to take a picture with you. Only we weren’t asked but volunteered . Haha! We continued our tour into the Summer Palace and Forbidden City. These areas used to be only for the emperor and common people would be killed if they would attempt to enter. I am not sure when they decided to open it for the public to view. The palace has 9999 and ½ rooms. The emperor believed himself to be the son of God and therefor could not have more rooms or equal rooms to God, so that is why there is ½ of a room less than 10,000. There are huge red doors with golden knobs when entering. People like to rub the gold knobs as they enter/leave for good fortune. There are ornate carvings throughout the palace. The palace is divided into 2 areas. The back area was reserved for the emperor’s private life. He had over 300 concubines, and did not even know all of them. They were selected every year from the villages. Within the emperor’s private area, there is a large garden with ornate carvings on the roofs of the structures. It really was a lot to take in, but very beautiful. We once again walked through the streets of Beijing at night. This time we walked in the opposite direction and found Snack Street. Snack Street is a street with a line of food vendors who featured different foods which ranged from fried ice cream and other sweets, different meats on sticks, sugar covered fruit on sticks to the odd and bizarre foods such as scorpions on sticks, silk worm on sticks, ostrich, and I will let the photos do the rest of the talking. ;) Tomorrow, we will tour a jade factory, the Great Wall, and see an acrobatic show. Only 3 more days until we get Lee in our arms. We are so close! Blessings from China, Tasha

1 comment:

Tony and Sue said...

Sounds like you're having fun! Sounds like you are seeing just what we saw back in 2009! Before I even read what that picture of you and the Chinese gal was, I knew what it was all about! We also saw the acrobat show. I wouldn't need to see it again. Enjoy climbing the Great Wall!