Sunday, December 31, 2006

Beijing - Dec. 30, 5:05 am

For the last 13 hours in Beijing, I got to do something I rarely get to do back home ... SLEEP!

We got some time off between our afternoon activities and dinner and I came back to the hotel with the chills, utterly exhausted from head to toe, curled up in my (extraordinarily hard) bed, and except for a few interruptions, slept straight through. I missed the “Peking Duck Dinner,” but I’m not too worried. I really needed the sleep. Although after my last post I eventually did, umm, make a few more visits to the toilet and return my foul lunch to where it belonged, I still felt pretty crappy yesterday.

Anyway, enough about my illness! Through it all, I managed to walk about the Summer Palace. It’s about 20 miles from downtown Beijing. It’s where the Empress Dowager Ci Xi, the Dragon Lady (again, gotta see The Last Emperor), summered. Well, she wasn't the only one, but she was the one who put the country into serious financial debt to rebuild it in 1902. She died in 1908. Oh, and why did she have to rebuild it? B/c Anglo-French forces burnt it down! It’s true of most of the sites we’ve seen. Although sometimes, before the Anglo-French got their torches to these sites, they burned down of their own accord. Because it is as cold as a witch’s fucking teat here and there was a lot of coal used to keep people warm. Coal and wood equals fire, natch!

The Summer Palace sits on the edge of Kunming Lake, which is half man-made, as in, there was a lake there, but then the Emperor ordered workers to make it bigger. Dig, dig, dig. The lake makes the temperature about 4 or 5 degrees colder than downtown, where the Forbidden City is. The lake was frozen and tourists were merrily strolling about on it. The American sensibility in me said, LAWSUIT! I suppose this is a communist country, after all, and there would hardly be anyone to sue. It’s also so damn cold here, I’m sure the lake was frozen pretty solidly. It’s been a bit shocking, this cold, since in Boston it’s only gotten below freezing maybe once or twice so far this winter.

After the Summer Palace, we had lunch at this fancy Chinese Restaurant. Actually, as this is China, it was just a restaurant. (God, I will never tire of that joke.) Two things to note. First, there is no such thing as diet soda. Second, they’re still allowed to smoke indoors in China. According to our guide, 70% of men smoke. Amazingly, unlike in America, I do not see that many cigarette butts on the streets, but I will have to look again because most of the tourist sites do not allow smoking on the premises.

After lunch, we went to the Temple of Heaven, where the Emperor would travel three times a year to offer sacrifices for such things as the crops. And by travel I mean 16 very strong men would carry his “sidan” measuring over three meters wide and 12 meters long. The Temple of Heaven is very well restored. There’s a lot of restoration work going on all over the city in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. If you can get a sense in the pictures, there is a lot of intricate artwork on the structures, so restoration takes a lot more effort than giving these buildings a good power-wash.

Just outside the Temple of Heaven is a teahouse. We stopped there for a tea demonstration, some lessons on different types of tea and, of course, an opportunity to purchase some tea.

And then back to the hotel, where this post started.

On a personal note, I should probably get cracking on that paper and other crap I have to do.

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