China Day 1 – Ricksaw tour, lunch in the neighborhood, and Temple of Heaven
Team Lewis finally made it to China at about 1030 am local time. After getting off the plane, we went through customs which had honest to goodness face recognition software! We each had to stand on the foot prints while the machine took our photo and compared it to the passport. Pretty cool actually. Then we gathered our bags and followed the crowd out to the main terminal. Our tour guide, English name David, was waiting for us with a sign. We may have traveled for almost 12 hours to get there, but with only 4 full days in country, we couldn’t waste a single moment. We hit the ground running.
After a quick introduction and grabbing some RMB from the ATM we were headed out to meet our driver with the van. (side note, the iphone app which converts currency was a lift saver while in China. Though the rate was not updated daily because we didn’t have service in Guam, it was close enough to give us an idea how much something really cost!) We had a 12 passenger van and driver for our entire trip. It was nice to have the same van, as we took the car seats for the kids. Though it wasn’t law there, we are just more comfortable with our kids strapped in, they wouldn’t know how to act other wise! Seat belts aren’t even required, they seem to have very few accidents even with the amount of traffic these days. They have more cars on the road then the images I had in my head of the bicycles, but still more bicylces then you would see in any other major city. The Chinese government puts a limit on how many people can buy cars each month, and 20% each day have to take a day off from driving. From what I understand its pretty systematic.
First things first, check into the hotel right? Nope, we were off straight to our first sightseeing adventure, the ricksaw tour. Now this was pretty neat, we divided up into pairs and got in a cart on the back of a bicycle. Michael and I had Emma, Sarah took Aedan, and Pat and Helen got in the 3rd one. This little ride took us around a local neighborhood, the old part of the city. We went around the side streets where cars would barely fit, but they did. Lots of people were riding bikes and walking. It felt like reality being there, without looking at the people, it felt like the other side of the world.
We stopped at a local family’s house for lunch. Wow, what an eye opener. We were actually set in a room with a dinner table and a bed. David explained that their houses are so small that they have to use the rooms for a little bit of everything. We sat down and food started coming with in a few minuets, which with small kids is really nice to not have a long wait. Aedan tried a few things, but Emma wasn’t really interested. This was pretty much the norm the entire trip. Thankfully a friend sugessted to pack lots of snacks for the kids. The food was soooo good! I was pleasantly surprised. I also got to take a picture of the area which they cook from. Amazing how tasty the food was and they had nothing fancy in the kitchen to cook with. Just fresh food and a wok.
This was also ourfirst try at the “squat” type potty with Emma. Thankfully she wasn’t afraid of it. It was a little ackward at first, but we got the hang of it. Be prepared for some of them to be dirty, but most of them weren’t too bad. In the more public places they even had the “sit” and “squat” ones. But here in the neighborhood, they don’t have private bathrooms in all the homes. David said about 15-20 families share a bathroom with a few stalls (no doors). I have 2 tips to share with you here. First, take your own toliet paper. Alot of the “toliets” were out, but if they do have some, look for it by the sinks. They use it to dry their hands as well. The other tip is to use a good smelling chap stick to put on the kids lips before they go in, this helps if they have a hard time with the smell. We used alot of chap stick as we weren’t use to the dry weather.
We got back in the rickshaw and rode to a pottery place for a quick walk through, then back to the van and headed to the Temple of Heaven. This was our first taste of the masterpiece of architecture and history of China. The Temple of Heaven is in the southeastern part of central Beijing and was first built-in 1420 of pine and cypress trees and painted in beautiful bright colors. The Temple of Heaven was were the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties and would pray for good harvest. Twice a year the Emperor would move here from the Forbidden City. As David pointed out, the entire structure was built without a single nail, an amazing site to see.
On the way to and from the Temple, there is a nice park area which the Chinese people gather on a daily basis. Here you could find people scattered all around playing cards mostly, but also some were singing and playing instruments. David explained that they may not even know each other, but they just meet there and join in a friendly game of poker! It was really fun to just watch the Chinese people there, and watch them watch us. As I’ll talk more about in the next few blogs, our family with two small blonde kids were quite the superstars in Guam!
Next we got checked into the hotel and freshened up for dinner. We went to the “Grule Store” right across the street. Again the food was coming out right away, and so much food! We did eat so much our entire trip, lots of different things. David was really good about listening to what we liked and ordered new stuff based on that. Porage is the main dish for dinners there, like a really thick soup. There were alot ofveggies and mushrooms cooked in with the chicken and pork, not too much beef. We ordered rice with pretty much every meal for the kids. Emma ate more rice than anything else the entire trip.
Then it was off to the acrabatic show. My pictures of this didn’t turn out well at all, as it was dark and they were moving very quickly. But it was a great show. The kids were asleep within the first 15 minuets tho, they didn’t nap at all the whole day. Even Pat, Sarah and I were nodding off from time to time, but only from sheer exhaustion. It was an awesoe show.
Now it was time to get back to the hotel and to bed. Aedan and Emma didn’t even wake up on the walk back, so it was really good that it was only a block or so. The kids went right to sleep and slept through the night. So thankful, as we all needed a good nights sleep!
The hotel, it was pretty nice, clean and modern. We had free internet but some sites were restricted, such as facebook. But the bed and pillow were horrible!! Aedan got a roll away cot, Michael and I had seperate beds, and Emma slept on an air mattress we brought for her. But the good news was we were soooo tired, I could have slept on a rock. We all slept very well that night, with a 630 am wake up to get ready and have breakfast at the hotel before we were off for our next adventure!