Monday, June 26, 2006

Day 2 (19th June 2006)

7.00am – Breakfast at the hotel. It was a disaster. Good thing I brought the ‘4 in 1’. Went on the bus for our tour.

8.10am – The bus had an accident. Actually, to me it was hardly an accident. A van from the left lane scratched the bus when it (the van) changed lane. By the way, vehicle in China are left-hand-drive. Both drivers stopped their vehicle in the middle of the road thus causing jams during the morning rush. They argued while waiting for the police to come (which was surprisingly quick). They argued some more in front of the policeman.

Perhaps after hearing the stories from both sides, the policeman took out his book (presumably the summon book). He was about the write the ticket when both drivers decided to settle. The van driver paid RMB200 to our driver for the damage.

8.45am – We reached Tiannenmen Square. I can’t remember the dimension of the Square but it was huge. If I’m not mistaken, it can fit around 4 million people at one time. There square was surrounded by some administrative buildings as well as memorials. There was the warrior memorial to commemorate those who died for China.

There was also the Mao Mausoleum, which I think no one from the tour group noticed. Even Dzul had no idea of its existence when I asked about it. The mausoleum housed the body of Chairman Mao (info courtesy of Discovery Travel & Living). After around half an hour, we crossed over to Forbidden City. Actually, we used a tunnel to cross the road that separates the city and the square.

The Forbidden City is huge with gates after gates letting visitors into the centre of it. Most of the walls were painted red – Chinese colour for prosperity. According to Fariz, the complex has the best Feng Shui – water flowing around it, the front faces a vast open space and a hill at its back.

Most of the complex was being restored. Later I found out other Beijing historical sites are also being restored, perhaps in preparation of the upcoming Olympic.

11.20am – After what seems to be an endless walk, which I thoroughly enjoyed, we reached the ‘back door’ – the one that faces the hill. We left the Forbidden City.

12.00pm – We reached the silk factory. First lesson in Beijing. There are mainly two type of silk cocoon. A cocoon that have two silk worms in it and a cocoon with one worm. The first type of cocoon is used to make comforter (a type of blanket). For Malaysian climate, it was recommended the 1kg-silk-comforter. The second type is used to make fabric. Roughly, a piece of cloth needs around 24 000 cocoons. This particular factory made the silk suit for APEC that was held in China not long ago. They have among others picture of Bush (US), and Dr. M (Malaysia), wearing the silk suit.

Among the things we learned at the factory was how to differentiate a real silk from the fake one. When a real silk is burned, it let out white smoke and a smell similar to burnt human hair. According to the translator, silk have the same chemical composition as our hair. Hence, the care needed for silk cloth is the same with the care for our hair (translation: wash it using a hair shampoo).

By the way, they even make use of the silk worms dejecta (translation: the poop). The poop is used as pillow stuffing. It is believed that ‘poop pillow’ is good for neck pain.

1.30pm – Lunch. After lunch the bus headed to Niu Jie Mosque. Niu Jie Mosque is the oldest mosque in Beijing. Like Forbidden City, the mosque is also undergoing restoration. The mosque was made mainly of wood. It reminded me of wooden mosque in Melaka (which I have to visit when I return get to Malaysia).

3.00pm – The bus left for panda zoo. It was sort of a sad sight. Panda looks dirty and tired. The cages looked small. Other than the panda, I also had another first encounter of another kind. There was this cute little Chinese toddler. She was trotting along with her family in front of me. Suddenly she stopped and squatted. She peed right in the middle of the walkway! So that’s the use of the weird looking pants! (Earlier while on the bus, I noticed a couple or two toddlers walking in pants with a hole showing their 'backside-crack'). Unfortunately my camera was not fast enough to capture it. From then on, I vowed not step on any water puddle in China. We left the zoo after spending half an hour there.

4.00pm – We reach the pearl factory. Unlike Sabah pearls, Beijing pearls are fresh water pearls. They came from fresh water oyster. Ocean oyster produce one pearl per oyster whereas one fresh water oyster produce as much as 20 pearls. The oyster matured when they reach 7 years old (i.e. pearls could be used for jewellery). Pearls from younger oyster can be used for cosmetics products.

While the translator was explaining these, all shop assistants looked and smiled politely to us. As if on cue, when the translator ended the explanation, all shop assistants took out the pearl cream and put it on to our hands. Then they took out the pearls jewellery and coaxed us to buy.

Coaxed is not the right word. It was more like trying to force us to buy them. They chased after us even when we went out of the front door. Gang was ‘forced’ to buy two pendants.

5.00pm – After the scene at the pearl factory, we made it safely to Summer Palace. This palace was used by the ancient royals to escape the heat during the summer in Beijing. Three quarter of the palace ground is covered by water (lake). Coincidently, we visited the palace in summer. It does have the cooling effect to us, the weary travellers (who wouldn’t be after the extensive walking in the Forbidden City).

6.00pm – We left the palace and headed to a government owned teahouse. On our way to the teahouse, we passed the 'Bird nest' stadium. The stadium was constructed for the Olympic 2008 based on the design of a bird nest. The stadium was design to withstand major earthquake (info courtesy of Discovery Channel).

At the teahouse, we got the chance to sample three type of tea. The first tea was white tea. It has a distinctively sour taste. The second tea is Oo’long Tea. All Chinese tea is brewed without adding any sugar. However, when drink in certain way, we could taste the sweetness of the Oo’long Tea. We are supposed to slurp the tea. The last tea is the flower tea. I like the sweet smell of the flower tea. Unfortunately, I could not remember the nutritional values of the tea served.

7.00pm – We had our dinner before heading back to our hotel. We were back in the hotel by 8.30pm.

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