Saturday, October 31, 2009

China, Day 2

I am a day behind. Seriously. I hate it when that happens because I am posting in the past and for some reason that really bugs me. Anyway...

Yesterday was a full day of sightseeing. I am happy to say that I know how to get from one end of Tian'anmen Square, through the Forbidden City, and through the maze of vendors and beggars on the other end without mishap. I can also tell you which toilets are where and what they are like. Yes. Too much coffee in the morning.

Susan the Guide was funny. On the way there, she told us about all the street vendors and how they cheat you, pick pockets, and counterfeit change that they give you if you are not careful. She finished off with, "better to save your money and wait until a later stop." LOL. Hmmm. Needless to say, we became experts at saying "Don't want" in Chinese!

Tian'anmen Square is huge. HUGE. And crowded. But it seemed highly organized. We saw a lot of groups, each of them led by a guide. The guides were identifiable because they carried long thin poles with colored flags and the groups they led had the same-colored baseball caps that everyone wears. I don't know where they were from but lots of people dressed in black with red, yellow, green-capped heads bobbing along from a distance. And people wore a lot of black. A. LOT. A New Yorker would be comfortable.

And I discovered that a Korean Woman can be universally identified. If you see a tallish, thin, stylishly dressed woman with a Burberry scarf, a Coach pocketbook, a cell phone plastered to her ear, she's Korean. I thought, "good grief, she looks Korean." And sure enough, as I passed her, she was blabbing away on the phone in Korean. Hmmm. I have a perfect record going.

The Forbidden City is HUGE. There are 9000 rooms. 200 acres. And only the emperor and his family lived there. An emperor could have up to 3000 concubines. Hmmm. The Last Emperor was the only movie to ever be made in The Forbidden City. If a baby was placed in one room at birth and taken to every room to spent a day, he would be 26 years old before he made it through all 9000 rooms. I was disappointed we spent so little time there. I would have loved spending time roaming through all the exhibits.

From there we went to The Great Wall. It was about an hour drive. The approach was amazing. A thin line shining bright snaking through the mountains. It became less menacing as we got closer. Let me say that the Wall is steep. With LOTS O' STEPS. LOTS!!! And it's STEEP!!! As in NOSE-BLEED STEEP!!! With lots of steps that are crooked , uneven, and differing heights. OSHA would have a field day. In America, the place would be condemned to save the public, after thousands of families sued the national park system for broken ankles, vertigo, and the occasional idiot falling off the mountain. Of course, the Chinese people put us to shame. I never saw so many senior citizens (and I mean OLD senior citizens) wending their way up and down, laughing, talking, and having a ball. Not a single twisted ankle among them! And yes, they put ME to shame. I didn't make it up too high due to fear of heights. The signs posted were pretty funny. "If you have heart or brain condition....". LOL! Translation is a funny thing.

We had lunch halfway to The Great Wall at a government run tourist stop complete with restaurant and a huge shopping floor. We managed to make it out with full tummies and without going bankrupt.

We got back to the hotel and with no plans for dinner, we decided to venture out. Hmmm... After a U-turn, we entered the first restaurant. No one spoke English. None of us spoke Chinese. Ok. So, maybe we knew enough. I managed to tell them that we didn't speak Chinese. And when one woman asked if I was Chinese, I managed to say that I was Korean. And they said they had a menu board, and I managed to say Photographs! Thank you to our Chinese teacher, Li Laoshi!!!

We ended up at some pseudo questionable Japanese place but ended up ordering Chinese with the help of the only person there that spoke any English! I got soup. Phew!

So today starts a new day in China. And it might be The Day.

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