Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beijing Day 1

We arrived in Beijing around 12:15 am on May 3 after a long 13-hour flight. We left Chicago at 10:15 pm on May 1, so along with the 13-hour time difference, we completely "lost" May 2. After standing in a long line in immigration, taking the crowded train from the terminal to baggage claim, and waiting for all of our luggage, we found our guide pretty quickly and made it to our hotel around 2 am. We talked to Mom on Facetime and then crashed for 4-5 hours. When we got up we walked around near our hotel. A couple of artists started speaking to us in English. We first thought they just wanted to practice their English on us, but they of course wanted to show us their studio and of course wanted to sell us some of their paintings. Billy ended up buying one. He didn't get a great deal but I'd much rather have an original piece of art for a souvenir over t-shirts and Buddha statues!

Our guide met us in the hotel lobby at 11:30 am and took us to lunch. It was O.K., sort of a mixture of Chinese and American food. The chicken dish was really good. It was in a sweet and spicy sauce. We also had a side of french fries and ketchup! We then headed to the Temple of Heaven, which is a large area that the emperor used to worship and offer animal sacrifices to the God of Heaven (not our God though) to ensure a good harvest. From there we went to a silk factory and learned a little about how silk is extracted from the cocoon of a silkworm. The double cocoons (with 2 worms inside) make fibers that are intertwined and are very soft. They are layered to make pillows and quilts. The single cocoons make fibers that are woven together to make thread for fabric. Next we toured one of many hutongs (historic alleyways in Beijing) by rickshaw. We stopped to visit a family home and courtyard. The man there had a studio where he did beautiful and intricate paper cutting designs and pictures. Along the tour we also visit the mansion of Madame Soong Ching-ling, the wife of Sun Yat-sen. The gardens there were beautiful.

 Billy and our guide, Risa, near the mansion of Madame Soong
 -Hutong tour
Temple of Heaven

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