Days 127 to 138 593 days to go. Post for Thursday 5/4/2012 to Monday 16/4/2012.
I apologize for the blog neglect but it has been such a special time with the folks and I’ve savored the days. We have squeezed 12 weeks of quality time out of the 12 days together.
Day 1 (5/4) – Mum and Dad arrived 9.00pm. During the day I had planned to get my Mongolian visa but the embassy was closed when I found it (9am to 11am). I want that job!!! At least I knew the opening hours and where to go next time. Rube and I had a cool cycle over that side of town past the CBD, Tian Anmen Square and super flash hotels before the diplomatic area. Did you know the 5 star Beijing hotel was the only place a foreigner could stay 20 years ago. Back at the hotel I was muddling about when Helena invited me to dinner….’Yes please!!!’ We went to a local cafe and shared plates of vego tastes and the best conversation. I adore this woman. Helena was going to a night market on the same metro line as the airport. She introduced me to underground train system which is easy, very convenient and cheap. One way travel to any city destination is 2 yuen (30c). Each station has multiple exits and this makes it a bit tricky.
We’ve had our share of lost moments but the folks have been great sports rolling with my trial and error method of learning our way around 😉 I got myself out to the airport and spotted the transfer driver waiting at arrivals with a ‘Kevin Stephenson’ sign. I introduced myself and he thought at first I was my Dad – ver y funny!!! It was awesome seeing the folks come through arrivals and every second since has been a total treat. We toasted and snacked on local tastes then passed out in bliss. Day 2 (6/4) – It was really fun for me to take the folks on a wonder tour of the local alleys and markets all the while catching up on the last 4 months. Helena joined us for the evening and we went to the lakes area to enjoy the sunset and cafes. This crazy cold wind blew in, so we caught a cab to a local cafe for a hotpot dinner yum!! Ma and Pa got to taste their first (and last) rice wine. It’s apparently a bit eeeeeek but good for cleaning machinery 🙂
Day 3 (7/4) – We did a walkingtour through the imperial stretch where I had cycled with Rube. The day was warm and blue. We were pinching ourselves to be finally walking the old town hutong and taking in the imperial sights together!!!! We bought some eat treats and had a picnic on the rooftop terrance back at the hotel that night under a full moon, very hard to take!!!!! Helena joined us which was beautiful. She was leaving the next morning so it gave us a chance to squeeze in some last quality time with her. We exchanged contact details and goodbye hugs but I know I have found a very special friend x. Day 4 (8/4) – We indulged in a huge sleep in and morning laze about the hotel. Then we headed via the local market and picnicked in a park opposite our metro. It was low key relaxing and simply special. We didn’t leave until 5pm and caught the metro into town to check out some sights. We couldn’t find either of the places we were looking for but it was good fun getting lostand found. We took turns asking for help to get about. I really enjoyed this time with the folks. We basically spent the evening getting nowhere but finding cool somewheres along the way. Yay us!!!
Day 5 (9/4) – I spent the day doing some have-to’s while the folks enjoyed some local sightseeing on what was their 52nd wedding anniversary. I arranged my Mongolian visa to be collected on the 16/4. My other to-do was have Rubes weather bag handles re-sewn. The stitching on the handles broke a week outside Beijing. It did well to last that long with the load so we’re pretty lucky. Not as lucky as finding the cobbler man to do the job. I spotted his street stall when we walked with Helena through the hutong alleys to the lakes. He had an old hand-turned sewing machine perfect for what we wanted. It took a bit of retracing, guesswork and good luck, but I eventually found him again. I wished I had taken my camera while sitting on his customers squat chair waiting for our turn. Hutong is the name given to the old town where folk enjoyed a communal life in grey slate housing and narrow alleyways. Old Peking is encircled by modern Beijing. Our accommodation is in hutong over 600 years old. Back to the day…. At 5pm I had a hot Skype date with my partner. We then went out to dinner for the folks anniversary and dined on peking duck at a local restaurent for $6 each yum.
Day 6 (10/4) – We had decided to do a formal tour of Beijing’s top ham, cheese and tomato sights being: The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. What a fabulous way to see the most famous places in one day. There was quality information and time spent at each site and we could enjoy it without the work of getting ourselves around. Great idea Moppy!!!! The forbidden city was home to the ruling emperor up to early 1900s and so named as it was forbidden to folk outside the imperial family and guests. The movie
‘The Last Emperor’ was actually filmed on location. The city had a thousand rooms and even more concubines and uniques. Only the right hand unique would know which room the emperor slept so as not to be assassinated in his sleep by throne hungry family. The summer palace was built on a lake outside of Beijing and therefore the imperial residence during the hot months. It was destroyed in the early 1800s by the Anglo-French. The palace was rebuilt for Empress Sushi using military money. In years to come Japan defeated China in war because they ran out of ammo. Oppsy not a highlight in Chinese history. The temple of heaven was where the emperor prayed to the gods for good harvest. The cylindrical pagoda has no nails and built from a rare wood from Yunan province reserved only for the emperor. Its color scheme reflects the traditional rank of heavenly blue, imperial yellow, administration green, and commoner grey. The tour driver dropped us off at the ‘Donghuamen’ night food market which we couldn’t find the other day so great opportunity!! This place is crazy crowded with roasted scorpian skewers and stinky blue veined tofu on the menu. It was extreme night marketting!!! The three of us were releived to pop out eyes intact from the rogue skewers being welded through the crowds. Sadly we arrived home to the news that Mum’s Mum had passed away. It’s a significant and unexpected loss. Our Nana is a backbone for family and friends across the world. She has given us her strength in character to lean on and strive towards.
Day 7 (11/4) – We went to the Lama Temple which is a cluster of assorted Buddhist temples. The inside halls are decorated with Buddhist shrines and the scent and smoke of incense clouds the air. It’s truly beautiful.
Day 8 (12/4) – The folks and I metro’d in to town to see the drum and bell towers directly north of the forbidden city. The towers were used to announce the time in
old Peking. The 360 views were magnificent. We timed our visit for the drum show which was awesome. Time was kept by a water clock and systematically announced by the 25 drums and 42 ton bell. Every day is special but the timing of this day was particularly so. We all enjoyed spotting landmarks and getting a better feel for the old and new city layout.
Day 9 (13/4) – The Great Wall of China is a great thing to see and truly a wonder of the world. There are different locations to take in its magnificence and mountainous vista. We decided on an area about 90km north of Beijing called Mutianyu. It has a cable car that takes you up and onto the wall to enjoy without wasting your walking legs on the hike up. 3km of the wall and towers has been well restored. The wall ruins continue across the mountains as far as the eye can see. The sight is a spectacle of awe. I shared the first section of wall with the folks. It was a beautiful blue day and relativelyquiet. I will never forget watching the folks walk arm in arm across their own section of wall with no one in sight. It was wonderful to savor and made an awesome photo. I went for a run for a few hours to check out the unrestored and remote sections further on. It was a very awesome thing to do and I had a great time with no one around and taking photos to capture the cool factor!! We were exhausted but buzzing the way back to the hotel where we had a rooftop picnic and passed out for another blissful sleep.
Day 10 (14/4) – I sorted gear in the morning while the folks checked out some local temples. We then walked to Jingshan Park which is the city highpoint shaped from the earth escavated to create the palace moat. The hill is adorned with temples and parklands and has priceless views out over the Forbidden City golden rooftops and expanse. The park protected the palace from the prevailing sand storms from the north. We stayed for hours over sunset
and into the evening where the city lights created an entirely different perspective equally beautiful. We fuelled up on fresh noodles at a cafe on the walk home. There was open air dancing in a park where Ma and Pa had a dance with the locals. Once home we pretty much passed out all fairly pooped.
Day 11 (15/4) – Mum and I headed out for an outing just the girls. We walked this time to Beihai Park neighboring Jingshan but on a larger and more grand scale. It’s about a lake and is the emperial gardens that run parellel to the palace. The natural lake was enlarged and the earth mounded into an island with a looming white budhist pagoda ontop. It’s a real landmark in Beijing and beautifuly adorned with tiled shrines and carvings. Around the lake are pavillions where locals were again dancing and having singing performances. Mum and I sat for ages enjoying the dancing in particular. We picked up some dinner on the way home and shared our stories with Poppy over a rooftop picnic.
Day 12 (16/4) – It’s time to say ‘thank you’ to China and to Mum and Dad for 12 days of delish time spent together.
for all you’ve shared and given
You’ve opened up your folk to me
with kindness not forgotten.
I’ve tasted but a slice of life
and understand so little
but all the little things are big
with memories to treasure.
We’ve been shown the road ahead
and had fun conversations.
We’ve shared tea and family meals
all given with such preasure.
You must be proud of your fine folk
who represent your country.
They are your wealth and character.
A good return investment.
I sit each night
in your rooftop realm
watching your regime. This is your world
Above the hutong
I’ll miss the time
and starry nights with
prowling Peking Tom.